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Keystone XL and jobs: just more pipe dreams

Photo credit: EcoWatch

This week the GOP leadership, once again, has sided with Big Oil against the will of the American people. They are trying to circumvent President Obama’s decision to further investigate the impacts of the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. GOP leadership is instead advocating for granting the permit now, or else they will hold up important legislation meant to benefit real people’s real lives.

They want you to believe it’s about jobs, but that’s not what the facts bear out. Just take a look.

Unemployment has finally drifted below 9 percent, but it’s still way too high, making it tough for working families to put food on the table and for a new generation of Americans to start their careers.

Is there anything more cynical, then, than Big Oil and its Washington allies playing on heartland hardship by pretending a dangerous tar sands pipeline can put folks back to work?

That’s precisely what continues to happen over the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. It would carry the dirtiest oil on the planet from the Canadian tar sands across our country to ports and refineries along the Texas Gulf coast. From there it could be exported anywhere in the world.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) became the latest source of misinformation on this. He said Thursday that the Keystone XL “will put tens of thousands of Americans to work immediately.”

That’s just not true.

The project would provide, at most, 6,000 temporary construction jobs, very few of which would be local hires, according to an analysis performed by the U.S. State Department.

“The construction work force would consist of approximately 5,000 to 6,000 workers, including Keystone employees, contractor employees, and construction and environmental inspection staff,” the State Department concluded in the executive summary of the final Environmental Impact Statement it published in August. Even that may be pushing it.

Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute did its own evaluation, concluding that the project would employ between 2,500 and 4,650 construction workers. “Most jobs created will be temporary and non-local,” the institute concluded in its report, appropriately titled, “Pipe Dreams?

Local hires hover below 15 percent, the institute calculated, based on data provide by TransCanada, as much of this work requires special skills and the workers capable of performing sophisticated pipeline tasks would likely be brought in from outside the region.

“KXL will not be a major source of U.S. jobs, nor will it play any substantial role at all in putting Americans back to work,” the Cornell report states.

Even TransCanada, the Canadian pipeline company that wants to build the pipeline, has said it would create “hundreds” of permanent jobs. That’s what TransCanada’s vice president for pipelines, Robert Jones, told CNN a few weeks ago.

Overall, Cornell economists found the project would be a job killer, because it would kick down the road the investment we need to drive renewable energy and efficiency gains. That’s where the real jobs are: jobs for carpenters weatherizing homes in Ohio, steelworkers building wind turbines in Indiana, tool and die makers manufacturing parts for electric cars in Michigan, and on and on from coast to coast. And these are the careers of the future for the workers of tomorrow, in trades and professions that already employ some 2.7 million Americans.

The real jobs in the region come from the ranches and farms, more than a quarter of a million of them in the Great Plains states the pipeline would pass through.

Why would we put these fertile croplands, and the wheat, corn, and cattle they produce, at risk for the profits of the oil industry? It had, by the way, more than $100 billion in profits during just the first nine months of the year. Nothing wrong with profits, but let’s not pretend this is about anything else.