New Cornell Global Labor Institute report shows that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not the path to economic security

This evening, President Obama spoke to the nation about jobs and confirmed that he will not let the economic crisis be used to roll back environmental protections. Hopefully that commitment can translate into increased incentives for clean energy jobs and push back against dirty energy claims that we need to sacrifice our health and environment for jobs. Today, a new report by the Cornell Global Labor Institute made it clear that the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would not provide the job and economic security that its proponents have been claiming. Clean energy jobs are the real long-term, secure jobs choice, not dirty energy such as tar sands.

Since he first took office, President Obama has brought jobs and environment together in a way that will lead towards economic prosperity: by putting American ingenuity to work to build a clean energy economy. However,  in the wake of the President’s decision to back off of ozone standards and the State Department incorrectly claiming that the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would have “no significant impact,” we can only wonder why the President is not pushing even harder to have clean energy replace dirty energy so that America can become a world energy leader.

One reason might be the numerous false claims about jobs that the dirty energy industry is spreading. Just recently when I participated in a discussion on NPR with Alex Pourbaix from TransCanada, he claimed that “within days of receiving our presidential permit we will begin to put 20,000 Americans to work building this pipeline. In addition, there’s going to be in excess of 100,000 spin off jobs created by this project.” These numbers are wildly exaggerated in a way that is cruel to people in America’s heartland who need jobs. Today, the Cornell Global Labor Institute issued a report that challenged TransCanada’s claims.

The Cornell report points out that TransCanada does not provide a source for the 20,000 jobs number. The “excess of 100,000 spin off jobs” likely comes from the Perryman Group which actually spoke of “person-years of employment” which is not the same thing as individual jobs. The Cornell Global Labor Institute notes the Perryman Group does not document where its data and analysis come from and uses a 100 year time frame to inflate its numbers. The State Department’s own analysis finds that at the most 6,000 jobs will exist from the pipeline – and that not all of these would be new, most would be temporary and only 10-15% would be local.

In fact the Cornell report notes that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project might kill more jobs than it creates. The loss of jobs is not something considered in TransCanada’s jobs estimates. But TransCanada itself had said that this pipeline project by diverting oil from the US Midwest to the Gulf Coast would cause oil prices to rise in the Midwest – and rising oil prices can be a job killer. In addition, the Keystone XL pipeline is slated to cross the freshwater supplies of valuable agricultural lands – leaks such as we have seen in TransCanada’s first Keystone pipeline could have a devastating effect on agricultural jobs which is the staple for most of America’s heartland.

NRDC’s President Frances Beinecke blogged recently that jobs in the clean economy and clean energy sectors are growing – in fact this is one of the few parts of the economy experiencing growth right now and the jobs tend to be long-term, secure jobs. These green jobs are real, the put food on the table and give families the longer-term certainty they need. And the clean economy jobs total more than the jobs from the fossil fuel industry according to a new report by the Brookings Institution.

The Obama Administration should not be side-tracked from its focus on clean, long-term, secure jobs creation by wildly inflated claims of the proponent of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The oil companies that stand to profit from this pipeline do not have the American public interest as their interest. The President should focus on the many risks of this pipeline project to our land, waters, health and climate and not let tar sands undermine the growth of our clean energy economy.