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The Keystone XL Pipeline and Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

| Wednesday December 28th, 2011 | 6 Comments

keystone xl pipeline and job creationJust a few weeks ago it seemed that President Obama struck a fatal blow to the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, when he decided to delay a review of the project until after the November elections. That may not have been quite enough to kill the massive project outright, but another devastating blow came just before Christmas when House Republicans attached a rider to the new spending bill that all but forces the Administration to quash the project sooner rather than later. While the maneuver reeks of election year politics, it does give us a renewed opportunity to hash out exactly what the pipeline would contribute to sustainable economic growth in the US. For help, we turn to a recent article about job creation in the Detroit Free Press.

Creating New Jobs in the U.S.A.

As profiled by Free Press business writer Katherine Yung, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority has just approved a $1. 2 billion package of brownfields reclamation projects throughout Michigan that will create more than 7,600 jobs. Many of the jobs are related to new factories for renewable energy and energy efficiency products. Two highlights are a $250 million solar cell factory near Saginaw for Georgia-based Suniva, and a $237 million factory at Ford’s idled plant in Wixom for Maryland-based Townsend Energy Solutions, which will be partly dedicated to manufacturing parts for energy efficient vehicles as well as technologies for smart grid applications.

Sustainable Jobs for US Communities

In terms of sustainable growth in the US, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority projects win on multiple counts. As a group, they restore blighted properties within or close to existing communities, which can have a ripple effect on the value of other nearby properties. By making new use of pre-developed land, they help avoid new construction on virgin land, or land used by agriculture or livestock operations. Because the new factories are in or close to existing population centers, they create opportunities for local hiring, which contributes to family and community stability. Restoring growth to existing communities also helps to extend the lifespan of existing infrastructure including roads, bridges, and utility systems as well as schools, hospitals and other public buildings. On top of these community benefits, projects like the aforementioned Suniva and Townsend Energy Solutions facilities contribute to the country’s transition toward safer, more secure, less costly and more efficient ways to generate, transmit and use energy.

The Keystone XL Pipeline and Job Creation

If you’re not familiar with the Keystone XL Pipeline, it is a project of the Canadian Company TransCanada, designed to convey oil from the Alberta tar sands through the midwestern U.S., and on down to refineries on the Gulf Coast.  The pipeline is touted as a major infrastructure project that will pump $7 billion into the US economy and create 20,000 jobs, but according to a study of the Keystone XL Pipeline  by Cornell University, both figures are wildly inflated. In terms of job creation the new Michigan initiative alone easily matches the Keystone pipeline, and there are many more brownfields reclamation/alternative energy projects under way at the state and federal level, such as the U.S. EPA’s Re-Powering America’s Land program.

New Jobs for a New Energy Future

Keystone also fails to match up to some important sustainable growth markers. The jobs it creates are for the most part temporary construction jobs in remote areas that contribute nothing to long term community well being and stability. The pipeline itself would cut through non-industrialized lands rather than reclaiming derelict, pre-developed sites, and it would do nothing to advance the ability of the U.S. to compete in the global alternative energy market. In sum, the Keystone pipeline is an infrastructure project more in tune with the heyday of transnational rail construction, rather than anything useful or relevant to modern standards of economic development.

What Comes Next for the Keystone Pipeline

The Keystone rider set a two-month deadline for the Administration to approve or disapprove the project. However, the State Department has already asserted that two months is not nearly enough time to conduct the review it customarily undertakes for a cross-border project, so President Obama could start off the New Year by declaring the Keystone Pipeline d.o.a without even waiting for the deadline to come up – or he might decide to push it through, regardless of what we at TriplePundit think about it. If you have any clue what direction this thing might take, please share it with us in the comment thread.

Image: Keystone XL Pipeline. Some rights reserved by shannonpatrick17.

Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


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  • Lame Duck

    Well, the clean up of Brownsfields sounds nice but try and put that in your gas tank! I think the previous posts pretty well show what wacko’s are against it.

    America First!

  • Warren

    So Cornell has lots of experience building pipelines so they know how many jobs will be  created?  They have their own pipeline dept, right? I think I’ll stick with TransCan’s figures.

  • Bertsmail05

    Everyone wants a job ASAP! Obama, will cave in and the rich will get richer, and the poor will get tricked into thinking the jobs are for them. People that already work in this industries will be the ones getting the jobs. not the rest of us. It’s all nothing but BS!

  • Bertsmail05

    20,000 non-experience workers? Yea, Right. Some will be hired, but it will be mostly in the 100′s. And they will be from Canada.

  • http://twitter.com/PZuppo Pamela Zuppo

    No doubt, the construction process would employ labor personnel; however, it reflects a short-term scenario. This also happened with the construction of the Alaskan pipeline. The laborers worked hard under extreme conditions and often worked beyond reasonable hours per day and per week (i.e. time is money), but when a laborer’s job was done the result was dismissal – you’re on your own now. All of the various and independent investigations and reports discussing the volume of labor for this project unanimously conclude the original report – facilitated by TransCanada money – seriously inflated the employment numbers. If this report misrepresented the employment issue, we can also assume the environmental impact statements also lack integrity.

    Secondly, referring back to the Alaskan pipeline, the tar sands oil supply will diminish over time simply because this resource is finite, meaning it does not renew itself quickly as that process would take thousands of years. In terms of infrastructure planning, the project is very short-termed and the United States will eventually be left with a nonproductive and ugly pipeline running throughout seven states. Who removes the pipeline, who bears the financial costs, and who refurbishes the environmentally damaged land and environment?

    Proponents of this project are those who will substantially gain financially – another short-term problem. The individuals who will garner the most financially will be out of the picture when the project reaches its maturity and needs to be dismantled. Many will be dead. In essence, we will again be projecting insurmountable costs to future generations.

    Although this article has not discussed the devastating environmental impact of this project, I have intentionally not included any subjective information.

  • Hal

    If developing those oil sands made sense, which they do not, why not build a refinery in Montana? That would create more permanent jobs and be better for the environment than a pipeline. But the revenue-neutral 1603 tax grant program created 120,000 solar jobs in 2011 and was not extended. Meanwhile, the oil company kept their very expensive tax subsidies. It is not about jobs, it is about the transfer of wealth to the rich.