Suddenly the Keystone XL pipeline is all the talk of U.S. politics - again.
A day after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Americans "de-serve" the Canadian oil that Keystone would deliver, former U.S. president Bill Clinton said it was time for the U.S. to "embrace" the long-delayed project.
Clinton, speaking at an energy conference in Maryland, said he believes the pipeline should be approved on a new route that avoids the ecologically fragile Sand Hills region of Nebraska.
He suggested Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. botched its initial application by pro-posing an original route that cut directly through the Sand Hills and the vast Ogallala aquifer.
"One of the most amazing things to me about this Keystone pipeline deal is that they ever filed that route in the first place since they could've gone around the Nebraska Sand Hills and avoided most of the dangers, no matter how imagined, to the Ogallala with a different route," Clinton said in re-marks reported by Politico and Bloomberg.
"The extra cost of running (the pipeline around the Sand Hills) is infinitesimal compared to the revenue that will be generated over a long period of time," Clinton added.
"So, I think we should embrace it and develop a stakeholder-driven system of high standards for doing the work."
Clinton's remarks are certain to cause a stir among U.S. environmentalists who remain steadfastly opposed to the pipeline, which would carry 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Hardisty to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
TransCanada said this week it will reapply in the near future for a presidential permit - after being denied one this year - with an alternative route that avoids the Nebraska Sand Hills.
The decision on whether to recommend approval or rejection of the permit falls to the U.S. Department of State, under the direction of Hillary Clinton, wife of the former president.
The Keystone XL issue has been simmering on the front burner of American politics since January, when President Barack Obama and the State Department denied TransCanada's permit application.
But the political sentiment in Washington - particularly in the White House - over Keystone XL began to shift again this week.
Obama welcomed Trans Canada's decision on Monday to proceed with building the southernmost leg of Keystone XL - from Cushing, Okla., to Port Arthur, Texas - as a stand-alone project that does not require the State Department's approval.
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