Keystone XL is at odds with millions of clean energy jobs

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The President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness released a report yesterday that presents a compelling case why the clean energy sector is critical to the United States’ economic recovery and future job growth.  TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not only inconsistent with our country’s energy goals, it would strengthen ongoing efforts to derail the growth of clean energy in the United States. As the Council notes, the nation currently risks falling behind its international competitors in the clean energy industry and losing its leadership position in one of the largest growth industries of the 21st century – an industry that now employs over 2.7 million Americans. The growth of these clean energy jobs is being imperiled by the Canadian tar sands lobby, which is actively working to undermine the emerging clean energy industry in the United States. While building Keystone XL would result in a few short term construction jobs, so would dismantling our nation’s clean energy manufacturing plants. Either would threaten a rapidly growing clean energy industry which could put millions of Americans back to work.

According to Brookings, more than 2.7 million people are working in the U.S. clean energy economy right now – more than the entire fossil fuel industry put together. Clean car manufacturers have created over 151,000 quality long term jobs in the United States – while saving consumers billions of dollars at the pump. The President’s Job Council was right to note that clean energy will be one of the largest growth industries of the 21st century. Between 2003 and 2010, the clean energy sector grew nearly twice as fast as the overall economy. Moreover, a recent study found the U.S. can gain as many as 1.9 million more jobs with a comprehensive energy policy.

All of these gains are being put in peril by the energetic efforts of the Canadian tar sands lobby in the United States. According to the Council, uncertainty in tax policy, pollution restrictions and performance standards are putting future clean energy jobs at risk.  Tar sands interests in Alberta and Canada are actively promoting this uncertainty in Washington DC, state governments and municipalities. The tar sands industry sees the emerging U.S. clean energy industry as a threat to its biggest market and is doing everything in its power to undermine it. Building Keystone XL will entrench interests that oppose policies that would create millions of jobs for Americans in the clean energy sector. 

And for what? According to the data TransCanada supplied the State Department, Keystone XL will create only 2,500 to 4,650 temporary construction jobs. The Cornell Global Labor Institute recently assessed the pipeline’s potential to generate manufacturing jobs in the United States and discovered half of the pipeline components for Keystone XL have already been manufactured outside of the U.S. Moreover, it is likely that the other half will also go to the same foreign contractors.

In the end, once Keystone XL’s impact on US oil markets are factored in, the pipeline may actually destroy more jobs than it creates. TransCanada itself has admitted that Keystone XL would increase the amount refiners in the United States pay for their crude by up to $4 billion a year. That’s $4 billion a year that is currently being used by U.S. industry and consumers to create economic growth.

The President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness presents some important solutions to create jobs and foster economic development in the United States. But Keystone XL would not be included in an intelligent U.S. energy infrastructure development program. It is an ill-conceived project that puts the communities, water and environmental resources of the United States at unnecessary risk while threatening the very industries that are vital to our long term economic development.

About the Authors

Anthony Swift

Director, Canada Project, International program

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