Approve Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act (U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin Commentary)

President Obama should work with Congress to approve the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act. My top priority is jobs, and this bill will help by 1) approving construction of the privately funded Keystone XL pipeline that will create shovel-ready jobs now, and 2) rebuilding and modernizing our infrastructure so we can remain competitive and spur economic growth.   

First, in his State of the Union address, President Obama talked a lot about "American energy." His words rang hollow just a week after he killed the Keystone XL pipeline. He made no mention of the opportunity to create 20,000 direct and 100,000 indirect high-paying jobs, including some right here in Little Rock.  

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would transport oil from Canada to American refineries. On jobs, energy independence and national security, the Keystone XL pipeline is a win-win-win. Even the president's own jobs council recommended he "allow more access to oil" and build pipelines. Like most Arkansans, I support the pipeline. It's the biggest no-brainer I've seen in Congress. And like other pipelines crossing the country, it absolutely should be built in an environmentally responsible location.  

President Obama says he opposes the pipeline because he needs more time to study the new route. That's nonsense. The pipeline has been studied for years, and the new route is not the real issue. If the president wanted the pipeline, he would approve it. So why would he oppose it? Campaign politics. Two groups critical to the president's re-election have weighed in on opposite sides: Labor unions support it for jobs, and extreme environmentalists oppose it despite the State Department's conclusion that the project would have "no significant impacts" on the environment. Caught between the two, the president first said he would punt a decision on the permit until after the election - politics over paychecks. So House Republicans pushed the president to make a decision on the pipeline. He did. Unfortunately, despite bipartisan support, he killed it along with thousands of new jobs.

Little Rock's own Welspun Tubular was slated to provide almost half of the pipe required. Because of the earlier delay, 60 workers were laid off. Now Welspun officials are worried that hundreds of miles of already-manufactured pipeline will flood the market, causing prices to drop dramatically and putting even more paychecks in jeopardy.

America should be developing energy sources at home, increasing trade with friends like Canada and working to reduce our dependence on oil from countries that do not like us. But the president's decision moved us in the wrong direction. He chose to kill American jobs and create them in China. When I met with senior Canadian officials in November, they were very clear: If America will not do business with them and take advantage of their resources, China will. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the president's Keystone XL rejection "a wakeup call" and warned Canadians against being "held hostage to decisions in the United States ... that may be made for very bad political reasons." I will continue to fight to reverse the president's decision and encourage job creation. Tell me what you think by visiting Griffin.House.Gov/Keystone-XL-Jobs.

Second, I support the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act, the most significant transportation reform bill since our interstate system was created in 1956. This critical bill lays the groundwork necessary for economic growth by repairing our crumbling roads and bridges. It streamlines the federal bureaucracy by eliminating 70 programs, strikes spending mandates and lets states decide where to spend their own money. It cuts project review time in half, ensuring Americans will see improvements sooner rather than later.

In the past, transportation bills were loaded down with thousands of earmarks; this bill has zero. Providing five years of certainty, it dedicates all gas tax revenue to infrastructure projects instead of raising taxes to increase funding. And it boosts Arkansas' share of funds collected at the pump. This legislation is the kind of responsible investment America needs to remain competitive.

To create jobs, we need less talk and more action. Mr. President, support the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act so we can build the Keystone XL pipeline and get America moving again. Arkansas can't wait.

(U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin represents Arkansas' 2nd Congressional District.)