Don't be fooled - the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not a jobs plan, but an oil export plan

You’ll hear the GOP, the American Petroleum Institute, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce make wild claims about the job creation potential of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Don’t be fooled. The pipeline company itself admits only “a few hundred permanent jobs” are created by Keystone XL.  The debate over whether Keystone XL creates jobs is a convenient diversion from something oil company backers don’t want you to know: this is an export pipeline to help them access foreign markets and bypass the United States. Oil companies will make bigger profits and oil prices for Americans will increase. That’s not a project that helps Americans. It’s a project that helps Big Oil.     

Video: CNN posted this interview with a TransCanada executive who admits that permanent jobs would only number "in the hundreds, certainly not in the thousands" from Montana down to Houston. Thanks to Media Matters for the clip.

The oil industry is pulling a bait and switch scam with Keystone XL – offering it as a path to economic and national security when the pipeline is mostly meant for export. According to the State Department, only 20 permanent jobs will be created by the pipeline.  Even the pipeline company acknowledged that only “a few hundred permanent jobs’ will be created.   Claims the pipeline will created 100,000 jobs are false.   The U.S. State Department estimates no more than 6,000 temporary construction jobs will be created over the two years. We need better from Republicans when it comes to a jobs plan than a single project with jobs that won’t last.

While the debate over job creation from Keystone XL has attracted a lot of attention, long-term real job creation on which Americans depend is occurring in the clean energy industry.  In just a six week period in September and October 2011, Environmental Entreprenuers, a national community of over 850 individual business leaders, identified the creation of 32,000 clean energy jobs by 100 companies including manufacturing plants, power generation project, renewable energy, and energy-efficiency retrofits. 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. Every month new clean energy jobs are announced that are shovel-ready and lead to long-lasting permanent job growth in America.  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. Between 2003 and 2010, the clean energy sector grew nearly twice as fast as the overall economy.

If we are going to truly debate national job creation, we should be working on measures that will create jobs on a national scale while achieving true energy independence for our country. And we’ve already made tremendous strides on that front. 

Steven M. Anderson, retired Army brigadier general, argues the Keystone XL pipeline will not help America cut its petro-addition and will detract from building a clean energy economy:

This pipeline would move dirty oil from Canada to refineries in Texas and would set back our renewable energy efforts for at least two decades, much to our enemies’ delight.  It would ensure we maintain our oil addiction and delay making the tough decisions regarding energy production, management and conservation that we need to start making today. 

The laser-focus emphasis on Keystone XL by House Republicans, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others is nothing short of politics.  They are conveniently avoiding a more important point about how the Keystone XL pipeline that provides tar sands oil companies a platform to export oil while making billions of dollars in profit.  Instead, the pipeline will take the dirtiest oil on the planet, put America’s heartland at risk, and then send that oil to the highest bidder around the world.

Building pipelines to the Gulf Coast, in addition to providing oil companies an avenue to export, also increases oil prices.  There is concrete evidence (pp. 27-28) that building Keystone XL will increase oil prices in the Gulf Coast Market and the Midwest. 

In the end, real job creation won’t come from approving a foreign pipeline.  The evidence shows the future of job creation is in global clean energy markets.  And that the real purpose of this pipeline is to give tar sands producers access to international markets.  

About the Authors

Danielle Droitsch

Senior Policy Analyst, Canada Project

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