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Keystone XL will hurt not help job creation in America

Danielle Droitsch

Posted December 15, 2011

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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.

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Jason MichaelsDec 15 2011 12:15 PM

I'm one of those "temporary" workers, who has spent the last 4 years constructing the orginal Keystone Pipeline. I can tell that you have absolutely NO knowledge on the topic of which you speak, instead, you obviously rely on whatever figures and statistics the Sierra club spoon feeds you. Why don't you try "being there", when a pipeline kickoff takes place? To see not just the excitement of the workers, but of the local communities that will benefit from the construction as well. You can fantasize about fart powered cars, and wind turbines all you want to. I too, am in favor of the eventual phasing out of the majority of fossil fuels. In the meantime, until the technology that would make this a reality catches up, I will continue to build pipelines, just like my 50,000 brothers and sisters that do this for a living. And by the way, the actual figure for created jobs from this project is around twenty thousand. That is apprx half of the pipeline workers in this country. Get your figures correct and double checked BEFORE you blog.

Paul PeckDec 15 2011 12:50 PM

Put in a new refinery in the Dakotas to process this crude and it is "problem solved". Why pipe this stuff to the refineries on the Gulf Coast anyway? We're short on refining capacity, and we don't like having to rely on Gulf Coast refineries, because they're very apt to be taken down by hurricanes. I believe there was maybe one application for a new refinery since the early 70's. Do everyone a favor and reinvest some of those record oil profits on improving our capacity--and do it without pumping the stuff across the entire country. But hey.....who has common sense these days anyway?

John FreemanDec 15 2011 01:26 PM

How can anyone think that goverment stimulus jobs are real and shovel ready private sector jobs are not? All construction jobs are temporary. It still translates into thousands of man-years of direct and indirect employment that Mr. Obama has rejected. Hotels, restaurants, equipment manufactures, etc. How can anyone believe that it is better to import oil from Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela is better than getting it from the vast canadian reserves. It is obviously more risky to put oil in a boat on the water than to transport it via safer a state of the art pipeline with 24-hour monitoring and remote controlled shut-in valves? The country is literally criss crossed with energy pipelines now and this would be the safest ever. This is really a no-brainer.

Josh MogermanDec 15 2011 02:03 PM

Jason and John---

Thanks for taking the time to read the blog and comment---but read closer next time. She did not say that no jobs would be created, only that the numbers being floated by politicians looking to make this thing into a job bill instead of the Big Oil giveaway that it is are disingenuous at best. Taking advantage of a job-hungry public by dangling fake numbers is cynical and does a disservice to the businesses that are creating jobs working through the normal channels and not looking for a special handout from the folks in DC.

Jason MichaelsDec 15 2011 02:52 PM

Josh, I did take the time to read the article, thoroughly. I believe the headline, "Will Hurt not Create", best sums up the author's point fo view. My own point is, unless you've worked on a project like this, (I've worked on the REX, Ruby, Keystone, and others), you cannot comprehend the positive impact these projects have. Oil and Gas pipelines are a true "conduit of prosperity" wherever they travel. For instance, a neighboring Nebraska county school district is purchasing new laptops for every student enrolled this year. How can they do this, when many other schools in this area are consolidating and laying off staff due to budget shortfalls? The Keystone pipeline, and the local usage taxes it pays wherever it travels. So, this school system is able to hire more teachers, as well as spend 10's of thousands on modern hardware for their students. You have to understand, it's not just us "construction workers" that benefit from projects of this magnitude. It's individuals from many different businesses along the route that work in sales, distribution, service, hospitality, etc. This project is pure WIN for this country.

kyle kayserJan 5 2012 04:49 AM

I too am a pipeline worker that could use the work and understand the positive impacts as well as the negatives. What the average liberal does not understand is the level of red tape and enviro nuts that are in control of these projects nowadays. I have been a union construction worker for twenty years and let me tell you the jobs today are so over engineered it should be crime. What Danielle needs to understand is we have the alternative fuel right now its called natural gas and it burns clean and can be used in automobiles with some modification. I have a dumptruck wich runs on propane and could run on natural gas. We need to see that we are all being lied to about the need for oil we have the answer natural gas. Think of how many jobs would be created converting all diesel and gas autos to natural gas. The money spent on Obamas failed green energy companys could have been put to better use innovating new engines fueled by natural gas. The big oil companys have the government in there back pocket both dems and repubs. The people need to WAKE_UP and see whats happening we are being decieved every day by the media. The oldest trick in the book divide and concore they have us so divided left, right that we are not able to see reality. Look at the website for the american reinvestment act and look at the jobs that they spend money on remodeling a house in the middle of nowhere, putting new windows in a government building where nobody works, and the list gos on and on. If you try to bid on one of the jobs like I did you will then find out that only the politicians friends with private companys can bid on them. The whole system is a scam to make politicians millionaires and help their friends. Look at the chash for clunkers you could have bought every legal driver in the usa a new car with the money they spent. Sorry I seem to have drifted of topic. Back to the pipeline after further research I have concluded that most of the oil from the pipeline will go to south america and not to the USA. It will create jobs for me and my brothers and sisters but will not help America become energy independant. One thing to consider is that if we dont build the pipeline the chinese will build it to the west coast of canada to export oil to china. I say lets instead of build the pipeline build refineries and pump our own oil from the bakkens sd, wyoming,colorado, alaska. This would create 100 million jobs and we would put the middle east into poverty at the same time. The world reserve currency is and will be for the rest of your life OIL. Danielle did you no that the real reason for the longest war in the US history Afganistan is so we could build a pipeline. Do your research and you will see that we are building a pipeline around Iran. And heres the best part we spent trillions of dollars killed millions of people including our own young men and women to build a pipeline. It gets better did you know that after all this investment in Iraq and Afganistan we gave all the exploration of oil and minerals to the chinese. If you think this Xl pipeline is bad for America please Wake-UP The US Government is bad for America Dem and Repubs. We need to return to our true calling on this earth to serve our Lord JESUS CHRIST. Pray for his return and him to set up his government and then we will have peace.

William Joseph RobertsonJan 20 2012 12:08 PM

This remark is directed to the posted comment of Dec 15, 2011 12:15pm who states that "you obviously rely on whatever figures and statistics the Sierra club spoon feeds you."

Perhaps if he had actually read the blog and followed the link to download the 40 page report of the Cornell University report and analysis (Cornell is hardly the bastion of "left-wing environmentalists" although it does have an excellent School of Forestry), he might have toned down his response.

However, as the late Christopher Lasch reminds us in an essay entitled "The Lost Art of Argumentation," the notion of debate in the United States always devolves to shouting the opponent down.


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