Without exception, all arguments in favor of the installment of the pipeline deal with economic benefit. Keystone XL has been labeled as a domestic solution that would curb our dependence on the Middle East and other oil-producing nations, bring thousands of jobs to low-income areas with high unemployment and rake in billions of dollars in revenue. Sounds like a miracle cure, right?
Before we answer that, let’s look at the facts. TransCanada is the major backing organization behind the project. They’ve made some huge claims about job creation, which if true, could have a substantially positive affect on US employment. What they’ve said:
- “The project would support more than 42,000 direct and indirect jobs nationwide.”
- “The project is expected to create over seven million hours of labor.”
Okay, so we’ve seen a few statements from them. But there are a lot of numbers floating around from a lot of different sources. To get what we hope is an objective breakdown of the facts, we turn to a study conducted by Cornell University and the Global Labor Institute. Together, the two entities looked into TransCanada and other pro-Keystone corporations and organizations’ claims about job creation. What they found:
- The jobs counted are not all new jobs. They include existing Keystone employees and contractors.
- “Only 10-15% of the workforce would be hired locally.”
- “Estimates do not consider the jobs that might be destroyed as a result of the pipeline and the expanded use of Tar Sands oil.” There have already been 14 oil spills during Phase 1 of construction. Spills threaten water sources that are vital to the livelihoods of farmers, ranchers and some tourism industries.
It never hurts to pull from multiple sources. The US State Department conducted a comprehensive investigation into the pipeline project. What they determined:
- Construction supports about 42,100 jobs for the 2-year construction period. Per their definition, “A job consists of one position that is filled for one year.” Also important, “the termsupport means jobs ranging from new jobs to the continuity of existing jobs in current or new locations” (Sec. 4.3.3) Jobs would be temporary.
- “Once the proposed Project enters service, operations would require approximately 50 total employees in the United States: 35 permanent employees and 15 temporary contractors.” (Sec. 4.3.4)Only about 50 persons would remain employed after the two-year construction period is complete.
- Building off the above finding, “This small number would result in negligible impacts on population, housing, and public services in the proposed Project area” (Sec. 4.3.4) The people who would migrate to the site to work on the pipeline would be left jobless, creating burdens for the project area after the pipeline is completed.
When you hold up TransCanada’s claims next to actual findings, the discrepancies are apparent. The numbers that do match up, like the 42,000 related jobs claim aren’t put into the context or applied to the timeline of the actual project. Bottom line is, the claims made by TransCanada and other pro-pipeline entities don’t consider a realistic application of these claims. Keystone XL’s construction, as planned, would last only 2 years. With the end of the construction would come the end of nearly all the jobs it put in place. It’s a temporary fix, a band-aid to cover a wound that really needs stitching, not to mention some serious care post-trauma.