The House voted 252-161 to pass the bill which authorizes construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, with all but one Republican and 31 Democrats voting in favor. Now it’s on its way to the Senate, where the author of the bill, Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) said he has 57 votes — three away from enough to clear proceedings. That’s also 12 Senate Democrats that will support the bill.
Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), who frequently breaks party lines, was the only Republican that didn’t vote yes. He voted “present.” You can see the complete vote here.
Supporters of the pipeline, which will connect western Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast, claim the pipeline will be a major job creator. That sounds nice, but there’s one huge problem — it’s completely based upon a massive distortion of statistics by conservative media and an outright lie on the part of politicians with oil-funded campaigns.
For example, take Rep. Bill Cassidy, the Republican likely to beat Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) in the senate run-off race for Louisiana. He’s taken hundreds of thousands in campaign donations from the oil and gas industries, so it makes sense that he’s lying through his teeth to benefit them. From the Washington Post:
The issue has become a flashpoint in the closely-watched, hotly contested Louisiana Senate runoff election that will pit Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) on Dec. 6. Cassidy, a four-term congressman, placed second to Landrieu on Election Day in a multi-candidate primary, but recent polling shows him with a comfortable lead.
On Friday just off the House floor, Cassidy, Landrieu opponent, nearly choked up as he described his relief that Congress is on the verge of approving the project.
“If this is what it took for us to get Keystone XL voted on in the Senate, so be it,” he said. “It’s a good thing – 40,000 families will have a better job, better wages, better benefits, with a ripple effect through the economy. It’s good.”
…40,000 families? That means he’s saying that at least 40,000 jobs that pay well enough to support a family on a single income source will be created. We’ll see about that. The funny thing about oil pipelines is that there is a reason the industry loves them so much — they’re extremely easy to maintain. Which means it doesn’t require very many people to keep them going. In fact, the Keystone XL pipeline will created fewer than 40,000 permanent jobs by several orders of magnitude. From PolitiFact, which has repeatedly had to debunk this:
As far as new jobs go, the State Department estimates the operation of the pipeline will only create 35 permanent, full-time jobs and 15 temporary contractors. The full-time workers would be “required for annual operations, including routine inspections, maintenance and repair.” Some would work in a Nebraska field office.
Over the course of up to two years of construction, the State Department estimates a total of 42,100 jobs “would be supported by construction of the proposed project.” Some jobs are directly tied to the pipeline and construction. Other jobs are simply a nature of how spending $8 billion ripples out into the economy. And more than 99 percent are temporary.
The State Department figures construction would require around 10,400 seasonal workers for stretches that would last either four or eight months. This works out to 3,900 “average annual” jobs over one year of construction, or 1,950 jobs each year if the project takes two years to finish. Construction work would be spread over four states, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas, though most workers would be specialized and need to be brought in from outside those states, the report notes.
TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, estimates that around 9,000 jobs will be created, arguing that because contractors generally change projects before completion, an “overall” statistic should be used. In any case, the 40,000+ number comes from wishful thinking, as well as including indirect job creation from paychecks being spent, which isn’t actually “employment” by the project; rather, it’s simply economic laws at work. The Keystone pipeline will only create 35 permanent jobs.
It’s not going to lower gas prices or make the United States energy independent, either. Oil prices are affected by the global market, and the Keystone pipeline isn’t going to turn the United States into an oil economic juggernaut. If we’re going to spend money on massive energy projects, we should look to the future. The United States should achieve energy independence in a sustainable way, both environmentally and economically.
Plus, you know what job statistic is never mentioned by the oil industry? Spill cleanup. In 2013, there was an average of 20 spills per day. Most were small, but more than 26 million gallons of oil, gas, fracking fluids, and other harmful pollutants were released. And that’s not something that’s going to stop. That’s the price of having a massive and dirty energy industry. Harm to our air, earth, and water carries a hidden economic cost that isn’t going to be paid by oil companies. After all, we have to fight tooth and nail to get them to pay reparations for direct and obvious harm.