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Obama fast-tracks part of Keystone XL pipeline (+video)

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RECOMMENDED: What the Keystone pipeline would mean for the US

The president joined pipeline proponents in arguing that it will relieve a bottleneck at Cushing that has stemmed the flow of important new US oil production from the Bakken shale-oil formation in North Dakota. So much oil is flowing from that region that much of it ends up sitting in tank farms in Cushing.

"Right now a company called TransCanada has applied to build a new pipeline to speed more oil from Cushing to state-of-the-art refineries down on the Gulf Coast," Obama said, flanked by rows of stacked oil-and-gas piping wrapped in green insulation. "Today I'm directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done."

As he had at a solar power plant on Wednesday, Obama said he was highlighting his "all of the above" energy policy that included both renewable energy and oil-and-gas development as a way to lessen the stranglehold of imported oil.

But building just the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline would still mean transporting a lot of heavy crude from Alberta's tar sands that reaches it via existing pipelines – a key point made in a 2010 study by the US Department of Energy. It found that Canadian tar-sands oil would still reach the US unimpeded – through smaller pipelines and rail – whether the Keystone XL pipeline is built or not.

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