Environmental activists gathered in front of President Obama’s Austin campaign headquarters yesterday to applaud his decision to deny Transcanada’s bid to construct the Keystone XL pipeline which would have brought diluted bitumen, a nearly solid form of petroleum, from the tarsands region of Alberta to the Texas Gulf coast.
Adam Hammick, a volunteer with 350.org, was ecstatic, describing the decision as “the only time in decades big oil has been put in its place.” He added, “against all odds we won.” He acknowledges, however, that the fight to keep tarsands oil, which is profoundly nasty substance, out of the United States has just begun, and that there are more pipelines already planned, including the Seaway Pipeline which would bring existing stocks of tarsands oil from Oklahoma to Texas. That there are so many new projects planned means “environmental groups can’t afford to spend this much energy on one project in the future.”
The President was forced to make this decision due to a cynical political ploy from Republicans in Congress who attached a rider on the Payroll Tax Cut Bill that stipulated he must make a decision on the pipeline within 60 days of the bill’s passage. The State Department had previously determined that their environmental impact study for the project was insufficient, and needed approximately 18 months to fully study the pipeline’s proposed route. Congressional Republicans believe that they can use this as leverage in the November elections by painting Obama as a job killing tree hugger who killed a project that would provide energy security to America and, in the words of Transcanada’s economic review “hundreds of thousands of man-years of employment.” Well, their math is just dead wrong.
Two non-idealogical reviews of the project, by the State Department and by Cornell University, show that Transcanada is wildly inflating job creation numbers. The DOS review puts the total number of jobs at 5000-6000, while Cornell estimates that no more than 4650 temporary jobs would be created by the project. Thinkprogress.org’s review of the Transcanada report showed “Among the list of jobs that would be created: 51 dancers and choreographers, 138 dentists, 176 dental hygienists, 100 librarians, 510 bread bakers, 448 clergy, 154 stenographers, 865 hairdressers, 136 manicurists, 110 shampooers, 65 farmers, and (our favorite) 1,714 bartenders.”
The notion that these pipelines would somehow improve America’s energy security is also erroneous. Tarsands oil already flows to market in the US. What it does not do, at the moment, is reach overseas consumers in the burgeoning markets of China and India. If it were to be refined close to major export terminals along the gulf coast, it would actually raise gasoline and diesel prices “10 to 20 cents per gallon,” according to the Cornell study. “These additional costs (estimated to total $2-4 billion) will suppress other spending and will therefore cost jobs.”
The Sierra Club is planning a large rally on February 18 to begin the fight against future tarsands pipelines, and I will keep you up to date on these events as they near.
To read the President’s statement on the Keystone decision, and thank him for protecting our environment and economy, visit whitehouse.gov.