When American Jobs and Opportunity are Political Collateral Everyone Loses

Posted: Feb 26, 2012 1:59 PM
When American Jobs and Opportunity are Political Collateral Everyone Loses

The decision to shudder the Keystone XL pipeline makes little sense. The President rejected the proposal on the grounds there wasn’t enough time to assess its environmental impact shortly after a three year review by the State Department found the project would “ be the safest in the history of constructed pipelines”.

In addition, the pipeline enjoys strong bi-partisan congressional support and the backing of influential groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Laborers International Union of North America. Adding to this, recent polls indicate over 70 percent of Americans support the pipeline’s completion. This widespread acceptance exists because the undertaking would create over 20,000 jobs, provide a reliable source of energy from a trusted ally, and would limit our exposure to price shocks emanating from constrained oil supplies on the global market-like those occurring now.

All of these facts should have led to an approval, instead the President said no. How could this be?

It’s simple. The U.S. environmental lobby made this project a line-in-the-sand. As they see it, stopping the pipeline blocks the development of Canada’s oil sands- the second largest source of carbon in the world. This will facilitate the development of renewable energy and eliminate, or reduce, the need for a carbon alternative.

This view is dangerously naïve and is unsupported by the realities of the world. Blocking the project will not reduce the carbon footprint of the human race; it actually might increase due to carbon shuffling. Worse, denial of the pipeline alienates a trusted ally and provides an opportunity for one of our Nation’s most ardent competitors to gain significant regional influence.

But the decision has been made, and for now at least, we are left to deal with the consequences. Those consequences include a steady increase in the average U.S. gas price by twenty cents per gallon since the project’s denial. American households spent over $4,000 on gasoline in 2011 and current prices indicate this number could jump significantly this year. While the Keystone XL project isn’t a panacea against rising oil prices its completion would have buffered us from this and future increases.

The other consequence is needed employment for workers in our nation’s most struggling economic sectors. While TransCanada has indicated it will continue to pursue the project with a later completion date; the immediate consequence is 20,000 American jobs at a time of stubbornly high unemployment and continued economic malaise.

The rejection of the pipeline meant the immediate loss of 8,500 construction jobs, a sector currently experiencing a 17.7% unemployment rate. Many of these jobs would have been filled by hard-working Americans who could use some good news. According to project data, this includes 2,584 operators, 1,887 laborers, 1,921 welders, 272 mechanics, and dozens of quality and environmental control supervisors. In addition, we also lost 8,500 monitoring jobs and 3,000 jobs at the project’s thirty pump stations.

All of this is lost over false environmental concerns already disproven by one of the President’s most trusted agencies. Never mind the fact the pipeline would have been monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week with over 21,000 data points linked to satellites that feed data to a control center at five second intervals.

Apparently none of these factors trumped the need to satisfy a key constituency that believes our nation must jettison all fossil fuels from its energy repertoire. Due to the decision to please a few at the expense of many our nation’s businesses and consumers now face significant uncertainties, and increased costs; all because the President failed to stand up for science, facts and reason.

America needs energy from all sources to remain economically competitive and struggling Americans need jobs to keep their heads above water. The Keystone XL pipeline would have provided both. Keystone XL’s safety and regulatory standards are unparalleled, it has passed rigorous inspections, and it stands to create 20,000 jobs across a myriad of sectors. For all these reasons, its rejection is difficult to understand and is something we must work collectively to reverse.