Romney, Other 2012 Hopefuls, Back Keystone XL Pipeline That Obama Rejected

By Fred Lucas | January 19, 2012 | 5:59am EST

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, campaigns in Irmo, S.C., Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Irmo, S.C. (CNSNews.com) – After stinging criticism of President Barack Obama’s jobs record, Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney told CNSNews.com he would support the Keystone XL pipeline that President Obama has rejected.

Obama announced Wednesday that his administration is denying a permit for the extension of the TransCanada pipeline, which – if completed – would bring crude oil from Canada to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, creating an estimated 20,000 jobs in the process.

In a statement released after Obama announced his decision, the Romney campaign accused Obama of putting politics ahead of sound policy.

At a campaign rally in Irmo, S.C., CNSNews.com asked Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, to comment on the decision.

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“Yeah, I want the Keystone pipeline, absolutely,” Romney told CNSNews.com. His staff then intervened, saying Romney would not take reporters’ questions.

In a written campaign statement, Romney said, “If Americans want to understand why unemployment in the United States has been stuck above 8 percent for the longest stretch since the Great Depression, decisions like this one are the place to begin.”

Obama blamed Republicans in Congress for pushing the matter too quickly.

“This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people,” Obama said. “I’m disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision, but it does not change my Administration’s commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil.”

The State Department already has had three years to study the project, but in December, the Obama administration – under pressure from environmental activists -- said it needed still more time to consider alternative routes.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who in most polls is running second to Romney in the South Carolina primary, also criticized Obama’s decision to refuse a permit for the pipeline extension.

“President Obama’s decision to reject the XL pipeline weakens America's national security and kills thousands of well paying American jobs,” Gingrich said in a written statement.

Other Republican candidates also said they would approve the pipeline if elected president.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said Obama’s decision is a “capitulation to the radical environmental fringe -- and in turn putting our national security and economy at risk.”

“Our nation needs energy and this pipeline will provide this much needed resource. In rejecting this responsible project that will create thousands of American jobs, we are simply diverting this energy to our international competitors like China,” Santorum said in a statement. “This announcement is utterly irresponsible and one more reason why Barack Obama is not the right man to lead this country.”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Obama “decided to pander to his left-wing base and environmental radicals at the expense of American jobs and our national energy security. He chose Chinese energy security over American energy security.”

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