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Elizabeth Shope’s Blog

President Obama acknowledges Keystone XL not a job creator and that tar sands pipeline decision rests on climate impacts

Elizabeth Shope

Posted July 30, 2013

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This blog was jointly written with Danielle Droitsch, Senior Attorney and Canada Project Director at NRDC.

In an interview last week with the New York Times, President Obama outlined in remarkable detail how the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would not be a major job creator, would not contribute to America’s energy security and could even increase gas prices in the U.S.  He also reiterated that the decision he and Secretary of State John Kerry will make about Keystone XL will hinge on the pipeline’s climate impacts. As he said in his  climate address last month, “Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest.  And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” A recent NRDC report shows how the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would add 935 million to 1.2 billion metric tons of carbon pollution to our atmosphere—a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions over the 50-year life span of the project. Given that Keystone XL does not pass President Obama’s climate test, it is clear that it is not in our national interest and should be rejected.

President Obama systematically rejected pipeline proponents’ claims, and made it clear that Keystone XL is not in America’s national interest:

Keystone XL is not a major job creator. Despite claims by supporters of the pipeline, Keystone XL will be not be a major job creator and would – as the President said – create only a small “blip” in an economy with over 150 million working people. The President even went as far as to poke fun at reporters who have repeated industry’s inflated jobs claims:  

And my hope would be that any reporter who is looking at the facts would take the time to confirm that the most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline -- which might take a year or two -- and then after that we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 [chuckles] jobs in a economy of 150 million working people. —President Obama, July 24, 2013 

Keystone XL is an export pipeline which will not provide the U.S. with energy security. The purpose of Keystone XL is to enable the tar sands industry to access international markets – not provide energy to the United States.  Right now, the exploding tar sands industry has saturated markets in Canada and in the United States.  Keystone XL will enable the tar sands industry to grow even further but in order to do so they must build a pipeline across the United States.  Why is that?  Canadians are vehemently opposed to tar sands pipeline accessing the West Coast as well as on the East Coast.  The tar sands industry has chosen the U.S. as its path bringing with it all of the risks of a massive tar sands spill. As President Obama stated it:

So what we also know is, is that that oil is going to be piped down to the Gulf to be sold on the world oil markets…  —President Obama, July 24, 2013

Keystone XL will raise oil prices and potentially gas prices. Documents from proceedings before the Canadian National Energy Board show that oil prices in the Midwest will increase as a result of building Keystone XL.  Right now, Canadian oil is being sold as a discount.  There are questions about whether this rise in oil prices would inevitably lead to an increase in gas prices.  This has been the subject of concerns by Congress, and President Obama himself clearly understands there are dangers with approving the pipeline that could be borne by U.S. consumers:

…so it does not bring down gas prices here in the United States. In fact, it might actually cause some gas prices in the Midwest to go up where currently they can’t ship some of that oil to world markets. President Obama, July 24, 2013

President Obama has acknowledged that the key arguments that pipeline proponents have used to claim that Keystone XL would be beneficial for the U.S. are bogus. We have shown that Keystone XL will cause a significant increase in climate pollution as it will cause an expansion of tar sands production. And – while, as President Obama put it, “there is no doubt that Canada at the source in those tar sands could potentially be doing more to mitigate carbon release” – the reality is that current Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper has undertaken a campaign to weaken Canada’s most cherished environmental laws to enable the tar sands industry to grow unimpeded. As Danielle Droitsch indicates in her blog, “A decision by Canada to improve its climate policies is needed but does not make Keystone XL acceptable.”

There is therefore only one reasonable path forward: Secretary of State John Kerry needs to direct his State Department to revise the environmental impact statement for Keystone XL to include the climate impacts associated with the tar sands expansion that Keystone XL will cause – and then President Obama and Secretary Kerry should reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline as not in our national interest.

To take action, go to

Thumbnail image for National Geo Destruction Small.JPGSyncrude Aurora tar sands mine north of Fort McMurray, Alberta.  

Credit: Peter Essick/National Geographic. 

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Mike MarraAug 6 2013 11:18 AM

Obama grossly lowballed the job creating potential of this project, even in the face of studies by his own administration.
He even said that the long term job creation would be minimal, however that had not prevented him from touting short-term infrastructure projects as job creators when trying to sell his previous spending bills.
Let's give the President the benefit of the doubt, and that this project would only create 50 long-term jobs.
That's 50 more people than all that money we lost on Solyndra bought us.

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