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  • XLDissentYouth unemployment stands at a miserable 16.3%, one of the highest rates since World War II; average graduating student debt has risen to a staggering $29,400; and national debt per capita has reached its highest-ever level--$52,948.

    Despite these numbers, progressive youth from across the country--collectivized into a group named XLDissent--will gather in the nation's capital tomorrow to protest the construction of Keystone XL, an extension of the oil pipeline system which runs from Alberta, Canada down to the Gulf Coast of Texas. According to XL Dissent's "Call to Action," the students plan to begin their march at Georgetown University and take it to the White House, where 300 of them are expected to risk arrest and many more are expected to participate in "a huge rally featuring speakers from communities that are at the frontlines of the fight against tar sands oil."

    The students have chosen to begin their march at Georgetown because it was there last July that President Obama opined on Americans' responsibility to fight climate change: "Someday, our children, and our children's children, will look at us in the eye and they'll ask us, did we do all that we could when we had the chance to deal with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safer, more stable world?  And I want to be able to say, yes, we did."

    Apparently, the primary impetus for this protest is that many of these students voted for the president and they have gotten little to nothing in return. Now--after five years of watching him fail to keep the myriad promises he so boldly made to them, a core constituency of his liberal base--they have decided to take action.

    It is, indeed, refreshing to see that young progressives who once supported Obama have the willingness to publicly criticize him for failing to uphold his end of the bargain.

    Yet, their actions are misguided and likely harmful to their own generation. This protest--and more critically, the president's inaction on Keystone XL--will do no good for the economic plight of youth in the country.

    Contrary to XL Dissent's criticisms, the pipeline extension would provide very real benefits to the both the U.S. economy and the environment. It would create at least 42,100 jobs, not to mention the many positions it would create in industries--such as hospitality and manufacturing--needed to support employment along the pipeline. It would even reduce the environmental impact of transporting oil across the heart of America. Canadian companies' using rail and tanker to move oil would actually increase greenhouse gas emissions by 28%. Also of interest is that many Canadian companies have indicated their intention to develop the oil sands in question with or without the construction of Keystone XL.

    There are certainly risks to operating an oil pipeline that runs from Canada to Texas. There are also risks to transporting oil by current methods. This seems to have escaped the imagination of the student activists.

    Considering the poor state of the economy--particularly for youth--what these students should do instead is pressure the White House to approve a project which will deliver much-needed jobs and more energy security for the United States.

    According to the letter of the law, Secretary of State John Kerry holds the authority to make the final decision on this project. President Obama has stated, however, that he himself will make that call in a few months, following yet another review--this one concerning what national interest the United States has in building the extension of the pipeline.

    With the country facing a steep climb back to a robust economy, the president surely does not need yet another report to inform him of what national interest there is in Keystone XL. This recognition would dictate that he approve the project. Doing so might well be one of the few decisions he takes that will mitigate the economic gloom shrouding the country. It would also help him bring about some of that change he promised to youth five years ago--change from policy after policy that has stifled the growth of both the number and quality of employment opportunities in the country.

     

    Raj Kannappan is the Program Officer for Chapter Services for Young America's Foundation. 

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