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Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

Blocking Keystone XL pipeline 'tragic': Citadel CEO

Ken Griffin, founder and chief executive officer Citadel LLC.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Ken Griffin, founder and CEO of $17 billion investment firm Citadel, believes President Barack Obama's continued delay of approving the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline is "tragic."

"North America has the opportunity to enjoy energy independence from the rest of the world yet again. And we look at the just tragic decision, for example, around the Keystone pipeline, where we've deferred making a decision yet again,"Griffin said Monday night at the Milken Institute's Global Conference in Los Angeles.

Griffin said the pipeline would allow greater energy independence, more "thoughtful" military presence globally, and the return of domestic manufacturing jobs.

Obama has resisted backing the pipeline over concerns that the current route passes over an important water supply. Senate Republicans have sought a legislative path around the president.

The Russian nat gas pipeline to Europe
The Russian nat gas pipeline to Europe

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"We can rebuild a variety of energy intensive businesses that have been shuttering and leaving our country for the last 50 years," he added. "Those are really high paying jobs across a wide range of employment scales."

Griffin dismissed the argument that the U.S. approval of the pipeline would further climate change, a central criticism of the plan.

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"I understand the environmentalist aspirations that they're going to help reduce global warming," he said. "Let's be clear: Canada's going to produce that oil. It's just a question of where it goes and how it gets there."

Griffin's desire to see the pipeline approved puts him at odds with retired hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, who has devoted much of his time since leaving Farallon Capital Management to fighting its construction because of climate change.

—By CNBC's Lawrence Delevingne.