What exactly did President Obama reject when he denied a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline? He denied a Canadian company the right to pipe their oil past Midwestern refineries and ship it overseas, tax-free. He said no to the chance to transport the world's dirtiest oil--it produces three times the carbon pollution and is more corrosive than conventional crude--through a major source of drinking water for the Great Plains. He rejected an opportunity to create about 1 billion tons of global warming pollution. On top of that, he turned down a chance to create 20 permanent jobs.
That's the number we're talking about--20 jobs. According to State Department estimates, the Keystone XL pipeline would have created just 20 permanent jobs, and about 5,000 to 6,000 short-term construction jobs. Short-term jobs are critical to the construction industry and worth noting, but this estimate is nowhere near the tens or hundreds of thousands of jobs touted by pipeline proponents--and this brief uptick has to be measured against the very real risk of permanent damage the pipeline could cause. (The Keystone I pipeline, operated by TransCanada, the company behind Keystone XL, leaked 35 times in its first year of operation, despite company predictions that it would meet "world-class" safety standards and leak 1.4 times a decade.)
According to Cornell University researchers, the only independent group to study jobs creation by the pipeline, Keystone XL would actually have been a job-killer, due to the likelihood of spills and the fact that it would create higher gas prices in the Midwest.
The figures on Keystone XL jobs creation have been willfully and wildly overstated by the project's supporters. They're basing their ads and other public statements on claims made by a flawed jobs analysis that even TransCanada, the pipeline owner, has rejected. The model used in this industry-sponsored study is so far-reaching that it includes new jobs for dancers and choreographers in its tally.
Here are the numbers that count: Clean energy investments can create four times as many jobs as investments in fossil fuel energy.
In the six states along the proposed Keystone XL route, 227,000 people are already working in the clean economy, building components for wind farms, researching cleaner fuels, installing solar panels and many other well-paid jobs that help reduce our dependence on oil and conserve our natural resources. The number of clean jobs in these states has increased by 25,000 in the last three years.
All along the pipeline route, both Democrats and Republicans voiced their opposition to the project. Military experts also opposed the pipeline, saying that Keystone XL would do nothing to improve our energy security, since TransCanada planned to send most of the oil overseas.
The fact that this pipeline wouldn't actually deliver oil to America gets lost in the PR campaign for Keystone XL. Canada's existing export pipelines are running half empty. The only reason to build another one would be to give Canadian oil companies access to our Gulf Coast refineries, from where they can ship their oil overseas, duty-free. More profit to them, less income for us. In fact, Keystone XL would make the U.S. pay an additional $2 billion to nearly $4 billion a year for Canadian crude.
Keystone XL was a pipeline through America--not to America. It was rightly rejected, not for political reasons, but because the proposal failed to deliver on two key points--jobs and energy security--while carrying the additional risks of harmful pollution.
Clean energy and energy efficient technologies, on the other hand, can deliver the jobs and security that Keystone XL and other fossil fuel projects can't. Investing in clean energy and efficiency will put Americans back to work, put money back in our pockets, and move us toward a future of true energy security.