Ted Cruz Makes Case for Keystone XL to 'Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging' Activists

(Charles Dharapak/AP Photo)

If you love the environment, Sen. Ted Cruz says you should love the Keystone XL pipeline too.

"If you're a Birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging Greenpeace activist, you should love the Keystone pipeline," Cruz said at the Heritage Action's Conservative Policy Summit on Monday.

Cruz, R-Texas, focused his remarks on a push to deregulate the controversial practice of hydraulic fracking and expanding offshore exploration, and in the process, appealed to any environmentalists listening in on his remarks.

"The Canadians are not going to leave the tar sands unmolested," Cruz said. "They'll send it to China to be refined there and it will be refined in a much, much dirtier way.

"If your concern is the environment, the last thing you want to do is send that oil to China to be refined there, which will be far more damage to the environment than refining it in the U.S., where it would generate good, high paying jobs," he added.

Environmentalists have a host of concerns about the 1,179-mile pipeline, including fears that it could leak into the Ogallala Aquifer, which it would cross in South Dakota and Nebraska, but Cruz brushed their concerns aside.

"And as long as there are (sic) oil on tankers, there will be spills," Cruz said.

Cruz argued that unfettered by current regulatory oversight, the "energy renaissance" could spur job growth.

"Literally with the stroke of a pen," Cruz said, Obama could allow the private sector to create the kind of high-paying jobs that have surfaced in the oil-rich Eagle Ford Shale in Texas.

Cruz also suggested that by refusing to allow drilling on American Indian reservations and other untapped federal lands, the Obama administration has been crushing low-income workers.

"There are considerable natural resources on Indian lands, [yet] many Native Americans, tragically, live in crushing poverty … The resources are right there to improve their standard of living. And it is only the federal government that is keeping them in that condition of poverty," Cruz said.

The senator's comments on the pipeline come close on the heels of the State Department's environmental impact statement, which concluded that Canadian oil production is inevitable and that alternative transportation methods such as rail, truck, or barge would be more detrimental to the environment.

President Obama has yet to move forward on the pipeline, a decision former Energy Secretary Steven Chu called "political" rather than scientific.