Keystone XL supporters dispute Obama’s job estimates citation

Supporters of the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline disputed estimates US President Barack Obama used in a July 27 New York Times article of the number of jobs the project will produce.

“Republicans have said this would be a big jobs generator. There is no evidence that’s true,” the president said, adding that “the most realistic estimates” are that 2,000 jobs would be created initially, but that only 50-100 of the positions would be permanent.

TransCanada Corp., the project’s sponsor, said on July 29 that the US Department of State’s draft supplemental environmental statement “clearly states” that 42,100 jobs throughout the US would be supported by Keystone XL’s construction. The figure represents both direct and indirect jobs, it noted.

It said it has been clear from the outset that about 20,000 construction jobs (4,000 on the Gulf Coast Pipeline; 9,000 on Keystone XL, and 7,000 manufacturing jobs to support both) would be created. “We have been building pipelines for 60 years, and can detail how many workers it takes to build a single spread,” a spokesman said. “We don’t pull numbers out of thin air.”

Other groups questioned the figures Obama used, which apparently come from a Cornell University study frequently cited by environmental organizations and other Keystone XL opponents.

“In response to the president’s recent claims that only 2,000 jobs would be created with the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, we must respectfully disagree,” National Association of Manufacturers President Jay Timmons said on July 29.

“Facts, not political expediency, should guide decisions related to Keystone’s approval,” he continued. “Based on estimates provided by numerous experts and the State Department’s own draft [EIS], the evidence does not side with the president’s claims.”

Other estimates

David Holt, president of the Consumer Energy Alliance in Houston, said on July 29 that a study the group did in January with Creighton University economist Ernie Goss to evaluate Keystone XL’s job creation impact just in Nebraska found it would result in 5,500 direct and indirect positions immediately and 302 afterward, paying an average $38,000/year.

After referring to the DOS draft SEIS’s estimate, Holt said, “The president cannot give lip service to the economy on a Wednesday then ignore an opportunity to create jobs on a Saturday. The Keystone XL pipeline is a construction project that will put paychecks on the table for union and nonunion workers.”

In a recording posted with the Times article, when a reporter pointed out that organized labor backed Keystone XL’s construction, Obama replied: “Well, there may be 2,000 jobs initially, but that is a blip relative to the need.”

“The president seems to dismiss the corresponding economic opportunities that would benefit other laborers, manufacturers, small businesses and communities throughout Keystone’s supply chain,” Laborers’ International Union of North America Pres. Terry O’Sullivan said on July 29.

“The Washington politics behind the delay of the Keystone XL pipeline are of little concern to those seeking the dignity of a good, high-paying job,” he maintained. “We renew our call to the president to approve this important, job-creating project without delay.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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