The truth about Keystone XL and the economy - who really wins? (Hint: it's not the American people)

The facts show that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will not help the American economy.  Yet, in this morning’s State of American Business speech at the US Chamber of Commerce, once again the Keystone XL pipeline project was put forward as some type of economic savior. Are you kidding me? Keystone XL is a plan for oil companies to bypass the Midwest so that they can get higher prices for their oil by exporting it from the Gulf Coast. This afternoon we can expect to hear more of the same from a Business Roundtable discussion with John Engler. What the claims about Keystone XL don’t tell us is oil companies are in the driver’s seat when it comes to Canadian tar sands oil and we should never mistake their interests for the interests of the American public or economy.

Tom Donohue, the Chamber President, is just the latest to try to claim that Keystone XL would create 20,000 jobs the day it is approved. This flies in the face of the State Department analysis that there would be 5,000-6,000 temporary construction workers and only 20 permanent employees. Even the pipeline company TransCanada only estimates a few hundred permanent jobs. More incredibly, Donohue said that the Keystone XL pipeline would create 250,000 jobs over the course of the project. The Washington Post recently gave two “Pinocchios” to exaggerated Keystone XL jobs claims and the claims of 250,000 jobs have been shown to be wrong. I’d say that at this point the 250,000 number is worth ten Pinocchios. 

Donohue also said that the Keystone XL project had “passed every environmental test” and that there is “no legitimate reason to delay.” There are farmers and landowners in Nebraska, Montana and Texas who beg to differ. This pipeline is no small thing: it would be nearly 2,000 miles long, plow through six states and be filled to bursting with as much as 900,000 barrels of unrefined, tar sands oil each and every day.  At this point, we don’t even know the path that the pipeline would take through Nebraska. Far from passing every environmental test – a critical part of the environmental review hasn’t even started yet. Oil companies and their allies say there is no reason to delay on Keystone XL because they’re afraid of the facts. Americans deserve a real examination of the serious issues posed by Keystone XL.

What this all comes down to is a startling willingness to take risks with our health and our children’s future in order to help the oil industry rather than the American people. In this case, we are being asked to take the risks of oil spills and climate change. More risks for fewer jobs. That doesn’t sound like a sound way forward for the American economy to me. And many in labor and business agree – as long as they are not in the oil industry.

We need to move rapidly to cleaner, not dirtier energy. And we need to deliver it in safer, not more dangerous ways. Keystone XL undermines clean energy, puts our farms and waters in danger, and fast-tracks climate change. Donohue was right when he said that energy is a game changer. Dirty energy can put us all at risk – a game-changing move that is bad for our economy and our health. Clean energy moves us forward towards a healthier economy and a better future for ourselves and our children.  Clean energy is how the American people really come out on top.