Demand for manufactured goods increased significantly last month.
According to the Commerce Department, orders for long-lasting durable goods increased 2.6 percent in March following a similar move in February.
The gain was driven by a 4 percent increase in demand for transportation goods. Orders for commercial aircraft soared 8.6 percent, while demand for motor vehicles and parts rose a more modest 0.4 percent.
Excluding the volatile transportation sector, orders still rose a solid 2 percent, in their best performance in more than a year.
Virtually all the demand for transportation is predicated on reliable supplies of fuel. Most of America’s imported crude these days comes from Canada. While doing business with our neighbors to the north may seem preferable to trading with countries in the Middle East, the transactions aren’t exactly worry-free. And this week Native Americans weighed in on a proposal to build a transcontinental pipeline.
The Keystone XL project may appear stalled after a decision by the Obama administration late last week to allow more time for review. But those with strong views aren't taking their foot off the gas pedal and the anti-pipeline movement is accelerating its protests.
Demonstrators set up camp this week for a six-day protest in Washington, D.C.
Jane Kleeb, Protest Organizer: "We are here for one simple reason, and that is to tell President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline in order to protect our land and water."
Many of the protesters at the National Mall are Native Americans who began their message on Earth Day. The encampment was organized by the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, a group of ranchers, farmers and indigenous leaders who want President Obama to reject the pipeline, to protect natural resources and tribal rights. They dubbed their protest "Reject and Protect."
Madonna Sitting Bear, Keystone XL Pipeline Opponent: "The importance of our water....of the Ogallala Aquifer...We live right above it on our reservation...we come from the Rosebud Reservation....located right above the above the aquifer...so that's pretty important my son...my nephews....my grandchildren...everybody to come....what if it gets polluted."
But not everyone is against the pipeline.
Former National Security Advisor to President Obama, General James Jones, took his support on a three-day speaking tour this week in Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska.
General James Jones, Former National Security Advisor: “I think this is a national security issue of the highest order. I’m trying to lend my voice that we should be paying attention to issues at large.”
The Iowa speech attracted protesters who would later ask questions about Jones’ past.
The retired Marine Corps General once served on the board of directors at the oil company Chevron. He also heads a lobbying firm that conducted a study on the Keystone Pipeline for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And he ran a group under the chamber called the Institute for 21st Century Energy.
General James Jones: “There have been half a dozen major environmental studies qualified people, all said the same thing, I’m not sure what it takes to penetrate the logic wall here.”
James says tight U.S. regulations protecting the environment should be seen as a benefit to approving the pipeline. And, the retired general adds that Canadians will find a market for their product and the 20,000 to 40,000 jobs that go with building the pipeline if the Obama Administration approves the pipeline.
General James Jones: “I wouldn’t be standing here if I thought the environment would adversely be damaged. Canada and United States are most regulated societies there are, and if our experts say it can be done safely, then we should accept that.”
Proponents say the Keystone Pipeline would carry 4 million barrels of crude a day, twice the amount the U.S. imports from the Persian Gulf.
And, the retired general underscored the need to approve the pipeline within the next decade.
General James Jones: “I think the international signal we would send with regard to how we value energy, which is going to be one the greatest natural resources of any country in the world, when you think by 2020, we’ll be producing more oil than Saudi Arabia, when did you last look in the newspaper for OPEC, the Arab ministers to meet? It used to rivet our attention.”