In an economy with more than 13 million Americans out of work, every potential new job matters, right? Wrong, according to some Keystone XL pipeline opponents.
Though the Keystone XL is the largest shovel-ready project around, the construction and permanent jobs it would create get little credit from people who oppose the pipeline or the Canadian oil sands crude it would carry – or both. This, from Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke, is pretty representative:
“Rather than bringing us energy security, it will transport dirty Canadian oil through America's heartlands – for delivery to China and other countries. Rather than bringing us prosperity, it will leave us with a legacy of poisoned lands and waters. All for, at most, 100 permanent jobs?”
Now, there’s enough misinformation in that paragraph for a week of blog posts, but let’s focus on the jobs.
First, construction jobs. Pipeline builder TransCanada says 20,000 U.S. jobs would be created in the project’s two-year construction phase. Last week the company detailed the 20,000, down to the number of welders and clerks that will be needed:
Construction of the 1,600 mile pipeline is broken down into 17 U.S. pipeline spreads or segments, with 500 workers per spread – that’s 8,500 jobs. Keystone XL also needs 30 pump stations worth tens of millions of dollars. Each station requires 100 workers – that's 3,000 jobs. Add another 600 jobs that would be needed for the six construction camps and tank construction at Cushing, Oklahoma. A project of such magnitude needs construction, management and inspection oversight – that would create 1,000 jobs, bringing the overall Keystone XL total to 13,000 direct, on-site jobs.
Add in an estimated 7,000 jobs in manufacturing the materials that will be used in the project, and you get 20,000. TransCanada President and CEO Russ Girling:
“These are new, real U.S. jobs. Thirteen thousand Americans would be put to work constructing our Keystone XL project. Seven thousand more jobs would be created in the U.S. manufacturing sector, making the materials needed to build Keystone XL.”
And this from TransCanada’s Terry Cunha, responding to critics of the company’s construction-phase job estimates:
“None of them are pipe engineers or experts. We fully understand the jobs that are needed to build a piece of infrastructure of this size. We like to think of ourselves as the experts.”
As for post-construction jobs associated with the pipeline, a study by the Canadian Energy Research Institute estimates nearly 500,000 U.S. jobs by 2035 as a result of oil sands development – of which the Keystone XL would be an integral part. That’s direct, indirect and induced jobs – using the same modeling employed in a number of job studies.
Two points: As suggested above, it’s fairly callous, given the United States’ current economic health, to look askance at any job – especially those that would come from a ready-to-go, privately funded project like the Keystone XL. Building the pipeline would help our economy as do building roads, repairing bridges and any number of other infrastructure construction projects that would be embraced anywhere in America. The pipeline’s long-term job-creating power must be acknowledged as it provides a new link between Canada’s vast oil sands resource (and new, shale-based U.S. oil in the Bakken region) and U.S. refiners, second to none in their ability to process oil sands and other heavy crudes.
The second point is that the pipeline must be seen as part of a comprehensive energy strategy, one that recognizes safe access to supply is critical to America’s future energy security. The Houston Chronicle’s Loren Steffy:
“The purpose for the pipeline, though, isn't to respond to short-term issues of demand. The pipeline is about securing access to long-term supply, not about short-term market reactions. As I've argued for years now, our energy strategy, if we ever decide to adopt one, has to focus on oil supply, not just price. As the available pool of crude in the world market gets divided among more countries with increasing demand, controlling supply is going to be vital for the United States.”
Jobs, both short- and long-term, and energy security argue compellingly for approving the Keystone XL pipeline. To help our economy and make America’s future more secure, let’s green light the Keystone XL now.