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

Danielle Droitsch

Posted January 11, 2012

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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.  

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Paul HortonJan 11 2012 10:58 PM

Yeah, the jobs are government supported. I'm sure you count every person putting in vinyl windows to "save energy" at taxpayer expense as a "clean energy " job.

A JessenJan 14 2012 12:20 AM

Good piece, but a proofread would modify "Claims the pipeline will created 100,000 jobs are false", and remove the dot from the end of the "State Department" link:

Doug WFeb 8 2012 05:43 PM

How silly can you be?? The US imports 8 million barrels a day and now yes now is in a position to export some refined product, 500K a day. A very small % of the amount imported. Yes one of the companies receiving the oil intents on exporting most of the refined product but if US consumption increased it would not be exported. This oil displaces oil that would have come by tankers. The next pipeline form Canada none will be exported.
If you want to stop the tar sands then do it honestly not pandering to anti foreigner feelings.

Doug WFeb 9 2012 10:47 AM

"There is concrete evidence (pp. 27-28) that building Keystone XL will increase oil prices in the Gulf Coast Market and the Midwest. "

Lets look at that. What does TransCanada really say. It says it will increase prices to refineries in the Midwest beacuse there is a glut. It does say that on the Gulf Coast Canadian producers will get close to world price but that does not increase the price on the gulf coast it decreases it.
Really the low price in the midwest is caused by not enough pipeline cpacity between Cushing and the gulf coast. Any other pipeline will end that artificial low price. As soon as capacity in the oil sands and in ND increases so that there is again a glut at Cushing the prices will drop again.

But green energy needs high oil prices so what could be wrong with high oil prices. The reason you are against oil sands is that it will keep oil prices low as there will be supply. Choke off supply increase price.

Barbara NovakoskiFeb 27 2012 05:27 PM

That pipe line would be a boon to us. We would do longer be able to be black mailed by the middle east. Vote that man out of the white house and let us drill here. He says he has increased drilling but he has only put up stubling block to oil drilling. He is a fraud. bringing this great country down because he thinks we are arogant and his wife has never been proud of this country except when her husband was elected. How many of you would say that. how could anyone who knows our history our fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers have given their life for liberty can have a couple in the white house that does not respect this wonderful country and the freedoms it offers is beyond my understanding. First the president runs us down in front of the world and now he wants us to vote for him. He is a fool no wonder he can not talk with out a teleprompter. Now my blood pressure is up. Oh well. JN

Flint MacKrakenJun 30 2012 03:16 AM

Not only will approval of Keystone XLP have a negligible impact on jobs, it will increase the price of gas at the pump in the Midwest. Currently, Midwesterners enjoy a reduced price, because oil stores bottleneck on the way to the refineries. That is expected to end.

BSJun 30 2012 07:56 AM

Of course it will end. Since when does the Midwest have the right to lower gas prices at everyone else's expense?

You've benefitted from the glut for years at everyone else's expense. It's time to fix that problem.

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