Where Are the Myth Busters? Keystone XL Job Number Wildly Inflated In Quest for Dangerous Pipeline
Posted November 10, 2011
Maddeningly, like a ton of issues that we work on, the Keystone XL pipeline debate has been boiled down to jobs vs. the environment in the media repeatedly. The pipelines proponents have told a shovel-ready story that has been picked up all over the place. And that is a shame, because if the commentators, Presidential candidates, and others bloviating about Keystone XL jobs bothered to look into the issue, they would see some very telling, ugly stuff. At best, the numbers have been overblown. And at worst, they point to an ugly, cynical effort to take advantage of our current economic state…
First off, I say numbers because the estimates have changed. It wasn’t that long ago that pipeline backers claimed 200,000 new American jobs would be created by the pipeline. The number has been scaled back to the oft-repeated 20,000 still being used in talking points now. Guess what. It is bunk.
But don’t take my word for it. Try some of these folks:
- Washington Post. Last weekend, while 10,000 Americans voiced their displeasure over the project on the President’s lawn, the Post exposed the messy math and debunked 20,000 jobs.
- Cornell University. The Cornell University Global Labor Institute put out a report highly critical of the pipeline’s potential job impact, noting that it could actually cost rather than create jobs in totality. They tab the direct impact at no more than 4,650 direct construction jobs---and lashes out at TransCanada’s Perryman report which says 119,000 jobs…
- Council on Foreign Relations' Michael Levi. We don’t see eye-to-eye with Levi on Keystone XL overall, but we certainly agree that the pipeline boosters’ original estimates (and a continued API and US Chamber of Commerce talking point) that the project will create 250,000 jobs is a myth.
- Canadian economist Andrew Leach. Leach has been active in the discussion over the Keystone XL pipeline. I respect him immensely, though we do not see eye-to-eye on this project either---or the framing of this blog post, but it eviscerates the overly inflated job estimates.
Let’s be clear, this country needs jobs. I don’t want to imply that adding 5,000 temporary jobs is not a good thing---but this has been one of the major selling points of the project. If its backers were serious about creating jobs in this country, why not push on TransCanada (the pipeline builder) to buy American steel? Orders for 1700 miles of pipe would probably be a pretty big economic impact in some of the country’s hurting steel towns and might help to assuage fears up and down the pipeline route about spills. But alas, the sourcing for this pipeline and the previous Keystone 1 line seems to have come entirely from foreign sources.
So it is clear that those job numbers are puffed up. But that hasn’t stopped folks from repeating them. It seems depressingly cynical to be playing this game with America’s job-hungry public to me. But short of getting the MYTHBUSTERS on the job, I don’t think it will stop. Adam and Jaime, your nation needs you!
Update: CNN posted this doozy interview with a TransCanada exec who admits that permanent jobs would only number "in the hundreds, certainly not in the thousands" from Montana down to Houston. Not quite the massive meal ticket that was advertised, eh? [Hat tip to Media Matters.]
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