Recently Linda McMahon declared that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is in the national interest and described it as a “gift horse”. She is wrong. It is neither. A more accurate description of the project would be a “poison pill” or a “dirty needle used to feed our oil addiction.”
The jobs figures Ms. McMahon cites to support her argument are misleading at best and, at worst, utterly false.
According to studies conducted by the US State Department and Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute, these figures come from a study funded by TransCanada (the company proposing Keystone XL) and are wildly inflated. The independent study done by Cornell found that there would be no significant job gains and that the pipeline could actually cause job losses. Further, the claim that environmental concerns have been “put to rest” is also specious. As the New York Times reported, the study that found “minimal environmental risks” was conducted by Cardno Entrix, a company selected and paid for by TransCanada. The study also did not account for the disastrous climate change effects of refining and burning the extraordinarily dirty oil transported through the pipeline. In addition, the US EPA has called this report “inadequate” and providing “insufficient information.” TransCanada’s claim that it will find a safe route is hard to believe given its record of 12 spills or leaks in the first year the current Keystone Pipeline was operating and the safety violations revealed by Mike Klink, a former employee, of the last pipeline they built.
TransCanada has misinformed, paid off, and otherwise pressured land owners to give up their land rights for this pipeline according to Randy Thompson and other land owners in Nebraska. Finally, the claim that the oil will be produced and shipped overseas regardless of whether the US is the “beneficiary” of the project is proven false by the Globe and Mail who reported that Canadian citizens have so far prevented TransCanada from building a pipeline to Canada’s west coast, arguing that the resulting damage to the environment would be too high.
Even with the overwhelming weight of the above evidence against proponents of Keystone XL, there is an issue here larger than the unfounded arguments advocates of the pipeline have put forth about jobs. They try to frame the decision to approve Keystone XL as a choice between jobs and the environment. This is a dangerous false choice. Since the EPA was enacted in 1970, Americans have seen the end of holes in the ozone layer, great reductions in acidification of waterways, and reductions in the pall of smog engulfing so many cities. Study after study has shown virtually no net loss of jobs due to regulations, and often shown increases in jobs according the Economic Policy Institute. And this does not account for the reductions in costs related to health and infrastructure decay caused by pollution. GreenForAll.org has outlined many ways that upgrading our energy infrastructure to be clean and safe would provide employment for thousands of American citizens.
Proponents of oil, coal and natural gas want us to continue using the dangerous, deadly energy of the past. Continuing and increasing investment in solar, wind, and other clean, renewable technologies, we will not only see improvements in the quality of land, air and water, but also job gains that fossil fuel projects cannot provide. The Keystone XL Pipeline must be rejected as part of an overall strategy to convert our nation, and world, from yesterday’s dirty energy to tomorrow’s clean power. Putting Keystone XL into place will lock us into burning fossil fuels at a time when the survival of our planet demands that we do the opposite. We must stop the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Ben Martin is a Wallingford resident and a member of 350 Connecticut, a statewide grassroots climate action organization.