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On Don't Believe the Fantasy Job Claims on Keystone XL: It's Not in Our Best Interest

Thank you for these comments and the opportunity to respond.

On job creation, the important point is backers of this pipeline continue to make wildly exaggerated claims about job creation. Given the national profile of this issue, the public deserves to know that less than 100 permanent and less than 6,000 construction jobs will be created from this pipeline – a fraction of the 100,000+ jobs that the Chamber of Commerce and others claim Keystone XL will create.

Temporary and permanent jobs matter. But is Keystone XL really a major job creator? No. Does it make sense that politicians and the oil industry point to Keystone XL as the major opportunity to get America back on track? No.

We focus on clean energy jobs because that is where significant job creation is taking place. Keep in mind that more than 2.7 million people are working in the U.S. clean economy right now – more than the entire fossil fuel industry put together. In just a six week period in September and October 2011, E2 identified the creation of 32,000 clean energy jobs – construction and permanent - by 100 companies including manufacturing plants, power generation project, renewable energy, and energy-efficiency retrofits. While job creation from Keystone XL would not have a significant impact on long-term employment in the U.S., there are real opportunities to create tens of thousands of jobs by focusing on a clean energy economy.

Moreover, Keystone XL wouldn’t have brought more oil into the United States. . Right now Canada can’t fill the existing pipelines that cross the border – there isn’t any oil to put into another pipeline like Keystone XL. The final review of the project by State Department found that there would be little difference in U.S. crude supply over the next decade whether or not Keystone XL was built.

The primary purpose of this pipeline is for export. True, we don’t know precisely how much of Keystone XL oil will be exported. But the Canadian government and Keystone XL shippers haven’t made any secret over the fact this pipeline is designed for export. The tar sands industry has been desperate to find a way to get their product overseas and Keystone XL has been their choice. The key point is proponents of the pipeline say the pipeline will offer the U.S. energy security when in fact it was never designed to meet U.S. energy needs.

And incidentally, Keystone XL will increase oil prices in the Midwest. Oil prices may be set globally but pipeline operator TransCanada has admitted that the pipeline would increase the price of Canadian oil in the United States which for Midwesterners could mean higher gas prices. Again, this is by admission by the pipeline company.

Finally, it is absolutely clear that being dependent on foreign oil holds us hostage. This is a message from military generals who understand that increasing our dependency on Canadian oil will do nothing to insulate us against the uncertainties of the global oil market.

And while clean renewable energy is the end goal, we can significantly reduce our oil consumption by simply putting more efficient engines in more efficient vehicles. In fact, the U.S. can reduce its oil use by 5.7 million bpd in the next twenty years through technologies that exist today. Our nation has already reduced our dependency on oil with the Obama administration’s introduction of vehicle emissions standards – a measure that will save us 1.7 million bpd by 2030.

The comment about bitumen not being transported on pipelines really strikes at the heart of many of the safety concerns with Keystone XL. The industry used to process bitumen into synthetic crude oil before sending it on the pipeline system. However, tar sands producers have now begun putting raw bitumen diluted by natural gas liquids on pipelines – a practice that has caught many people, including pipeline regulators, unaware. The diluted bitumen is still a thick toxic sludge that is unlike synthetic crude or the lighter crude oils. This raises increased safety concerns – the diluted bitumen spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan has been a disaster with a $700 million price tag due to the increased challenges of cleaning diluted bitumen.

The argument that pipeline operators have incentives to prevent accidents is frequently used, but the fact of the matter is accidents do happen all too frequently. TransCanada’s first Keystone line spilled more than 21,000 gallons in 14 leaks during its first year of operation. While pipeline operators may not want accidents on their pipelines; when they’re forced to choose between expensive safety measures and saving money, company decision maker face strong pressures to make the wrong choice. A federal investigation of the San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion, which killed eight people found that the disaster was the result of a pipeline company exploiting weaknesses in a lax system of oversight.

It’s one thing to make a fair assessment of the risks of spills along a certain path – it’s quite another to pretend that risk doesn’t exist. Finally, I want to emphasize a key point about how this pipeline is not in the best interest of Americans. In addition to it being an export pipeline that will raise oil prices in the Midwest and not meet U.S. energy security, there are serious concerns about pipeline safety, the transport of tar sands, and green house gas emissions.

In the end, the decision to deny the pipeline was the right one, and not just for the health and safety of the American people.

January 21, 2012    View Comment