6. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
The prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, says the pipeline must go forward. REUTERS

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper dismissed environmental concerns as he stumped for the Keystone XL pipeline at a conference in New York on Thursday, urging lawmakers to approve the project. Harper told an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations in Manhattan that an increase in Canada-supplied oil was inevitable in the United States and it was only a matter of how and when the crude was shipped.

The only “real immediate environmental issue here,” he said, according to the Globe and Mail, “is do we want to increase the flow of oil from Canada via pipeline or via rail?”

The Conservative Party leader has sent brigades of cabinet ministers to the U.S. in recent months to woo the mostly Democratic congressmen who oppose the 1,179-mile-long pipeline that would stretch from an oil sands pit in Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Neb. “This absolutely needs to go ahead,” Harper said. “All the facts are overwhelmingly on the side of approval.”

He said the TransCanada Corp. (TSE:TRP) project would create 40,000 jobs in the U.S. and offered “enormous benefit to the United States in terms of long-term energy security.”

Harper scoffed at the protesters who have vociferously opposed the construction of the pipeline, which would bridge Canada’s oil sand pits with refineries on Texas’s Gulf Coast.

“It is not just a matter of getting on a street corner and yelling and that will somehow lead a solution,” Harper said, adding that environmentalists were at odds with “economic and social development.” “Unless we realize that and take those things seriously, we’re going to keep talking around the real issue.”