With Keystone XL Pipeline Stalled, America Can Focus on Real Energy Solutions that Create Real Jobs

On Thursday the State Department and the President announced they will conduct a new review of the Keystone XL pipeline. More time is needed to examine the pipeline’s impact on water, our climate, our health and safety.  Congratulations Mr. President! As NRDC’s Frances Beinecke wrote on her blog yesterday, this is a major victory for clean energy and citizen action.

We’ll surely here shouts from the oil industry that this decision will hurt jobs.  They claim the pipeline could have created up to 20,000 temporary (that’s the key word) jobs. (The State Department says that number is more like 5,000 to 6,000 jobs.)  Let’s remember that either way, those figures pale by comparison to the number of jobs that have already been created by the clean car industry alone. More than 150,000 Americans are now working to build cleaner cars, thanks to strong new fuel economy standards.

This is not a projection, but a tally of actual jobs that didn't exist 10 years ago, making parts and infrastructure for clean vehicles. Just like the thousands of job postings included in Environmental Entrepreneurs weekly Clean Energy Jobs Newsletter are not forecasts, but actual opportunities available right now all around the country. Jobs like these will only continue to grow in number as we expand the clean energy economy and shift our focus away from oil. 

There are a multitude of options to reduce the world’s dependence on oil.  And as we shift to more stable, sustainable, and safe sources of energy, and use our energy much more efficiently, our economy, and the world’s economies, will be better off. 

Consumers will be better off too.  America's dependence on oil accounts for nearly one-third of our entire trade deficit in the latter part of the last decade. Importing fuel-efficient cars from overseas is another big part of that deficit. Between 1994 and 2009, cars and oil accounted for about two-thirds of our trade gap -- a breathtaking $4.7 trillion.

Imagine how that transfer of global wealth might have been shifted in our favor if we had learned the lessons from the oil shocks of the 1970s and gotten serious then about building more efficient cars in this country and reducing our reliance on oil.

Many leaders in Washington agree that we need to get serious, now, in order to break the stranglehold of the oil monopoly. Just last week, an influential military think tank, the CNA's Military Advisory Board, advised Congress to cut America's oil use by 30 percent in the next decade.

The board, a group of three- and four-star military officers, summarily dismissed the argument that importing oil from Canada or increasing domestic drilling would help protect Americans from oil price shocks, noting that a disruption of supplies anywhere in the world would drive up oil prices.

The unavoidable truth is that America cannot control the price of oil, no matter where it comes from.  But achieving the 30 percent reduction in oil that the military advisers call for is entirely within our reach.

President Obama’s new clean car standards—which will cut our oil use by 3.1 million barrels per day by 2030—will help close our trade deficit gap and continue to boost a resurgent Detroit. Increasing the efficiency of our trucks, a project we’ve finally started on, will also help.

We can get there by reforming our transportation system and the shape of our communities.  Shipping goods by rail or ship takes a small fraction of the oil – and emits a small fraction of the pollution – of shipping goods by truck.  With better planning, rail freight can fit well with our fast-paced economy.  And providing people with transportation options, so they don’t need to get in a car to do everything, is what people around the country are asking for.  They want to get out of traffic and have a choice to walk, bike, or take transit.  We can give them these options, and in the process further reduce our oil dependence and pollution.

We get there by bringing sustainable alternative fuels to market, such as more electric cars, and cars running on fuels other than oil.  We can revamp our transportation network to include infrastructure for plug-in vehicles and other fuels.   

The President broke a three-decade logjam and made our cars and trucks more efficient.  Thursday he showed leadership again by putting the brakes on a project that would have locked us to decades of dirty fuels. Now it is time to move ahead with the many other smart solutions that will reduce our oil dependence and put Americans to work.