Protesters cover themselves in simulated oil and stage a "die-in" outside of the Canadian consulate during a demonstration against Athabasca oil sands production and the Keystone Pipeline on May 17, 2012 in Chicago. UPI/Brian Kersey | License Photo
WASHINGTON, March 14 (UPI) -- A former White House official said the Keystone XL pipeline could be a strategic asset, though Sierra Club's director said it's not worth the climate threats.
The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard testimony Thursday over whether or not the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada is in the national interest.
Proposed more than five years ago by pipeline company TransCanada, the project has become the scapegoat for debates over U.S. energy policy.
James Jones, a retired Marine general who served as national security adviser to President Obama, told the Senate approving Keystone XL would rival "international bullies" who are using energy as a weapon.
With geopolitical tensions in Ukraine tied to Russia's influence over Eastern European energy markets, Jones said denying Keystone would help the Kremlin's position.
"There is no doubt in my mind that the outcome [of the Keystone debate] is of strategic importance to this country," he testified.
Keystone XL, which would carry a viscous form of Canadian tar sands oil to southern U.S. refineries, needs federal approval as a cross-border pipeline.
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said approving the pipeline would come at an environmental price.
"Because it would facilitate the development of one of the world's most carbon intensive sources of oil, it is important to consider the impacts that these additional greenhouse gas emissions would have on people worldwide and America's national security," he said.