Keystone XL will hurt not help job creation in America

Republican leaders in Congress have been churning out false information to the American public about job creation from the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and it is high time to set the record straight.   False job creation numbers are being used to promote an anti-environmental rider in Congress in the payroll tax-cut legislation that would short-circuit a badly needed environmental review process for the pipeline.  The debate over whether Keystone XL creates jobs is a distraction.  The truth is the pipeline would likely cost jobs from a significant oil spill that would cause widespread contamination of agricultural lands and water.

Advertisement in Politico, December 15, 2011

The Republican party, TransCanada, and the oil industry have been promoting the Keystone XL pipeline promising jobs.   The numbers they promise are all over the map ranging anywhere from between 13,000 to 100,000 jobs created.  In some cases, TransCanada has claimed a staggering 250,000 jobs permanent will be created.  These jobs benefits have been significantly exaggerated – and discredited.

Independent studies by the University of Cornell Labor Institute and the State Department further confirmed by the Washington Post report that actual job creation numbers are much much lower.

The number of temporary construction jobs created over the two year period the pipeline will be built will be no more than 6,000 jobs according to the Secretary of State.  The Cornell Labor Institute puts that temporary construction job figure to be closer to 2,500-4,650 jobs.

The number of permanent jobs created by the pipeline are as low as 20 according to the State Department.  Even the pipeline company TransCanada has admitted the pipeline will only create “hundreds” of permanent jobs.

But the Keystone XL tars sands pipeline is actually a job killer. It is likely the pipeline will experience a major oil spill causing widespread water contamination.  Oil spills cost millions of dollars in clean up costs diverting public and private funds from productive economic activity. There is a high likelihood the pipeline will experience a significant oil spill. According to the University of Nebraska, it is expected there will be 91 major spills over the 50-year lifetime of the pipeline.  The largest tar sands spill in U.S. history devastated the Kalamazoo River cost over $700 million.

A long-term answer to job creation in the United States is the creation of clean energy jobs.  Clean energy investment creates 16.7 jobs for every $1 million invested versus just 5.3 jobs for every $10 million in spending by the fossil fuel sector.  Already, the clean energy sector employs 227,000 in the six states along the proposed route for the Keystone XL pipeline (MT, SD, NE, KS, OK and Texas, an increase of over 25,000 over the last three years according to the Brookings Institution.

The current debate over job creation from the Keystone XL pipeline is a distraction.  The reality is the pipeline would further America’s addition to oil continuing to jeopardize our economy by slowing the country’s progress to develop clean energy jobs that will fuel economic recovery. And it will not play any substantial role in putting Americans back to work.  This is no time to lead the American people astray with false information.  The truth is the pipeline will cause significant risks to agricultural lands, water, and American health and that is not in America’s best interest.

About the Authors

Danielle Droitsch

Senior Policy Analyst, Canada Project

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