For several years, the numbers of jobs created if the Keystone XL pipeline were approved has been projected by numerous pro-pipeline sources from hundreds of thousands of jobs to merely thousands, but Republicans have made jobs the centerpiece of their argument for approval. So, GOP lawmakers were indignant about the president’s statements dismissing huge jobs numbers in a New York Times interview on Saturday.
“Republicans have said that this would be a big jobs generator. There is no evidence that that’s true. And my hope would be that any reporter who is looking at the facts would take the time to confirm that the most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline — which might take a year or two — and then after that we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in an economy of 150 million working people. … that is a blip relative to the need,” Obama told the Times.
But Republicans see Obama’s claims as “baseless”, according to a Tuesday report in The Hill.
“A president disparaging private-sector jobs while backstage at a jobs rally is beyond belief. The president’s own State Department reported that Keystone would support upwards of 40,000 jobs. In this economy, any source of private job creation should be welcomed with open arms,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said in a statement.
However, the State’s draft findings ultimately agree with Obama’s assessment that direct and indirect jobs will be only several thousand temporary jobs during construction and relatively few permanent jobs at the conclusion.
“The President was clearly stating that the proposed project would have a negligible impact on the overall US job market, which was the finding of the State Department in the initial, Draft SEIS (supplemental environmental impact statement),” a State Department official said.
In addition, the president said gas prices in the Midwest could go up if the pipeline were approved, which was confirmed in a recent Consumerwatchdog.org report. It concludes that Americans would take all the risks and get none of the benefits, since the pipeline would go from Canada to the Gulf refineries and shipped to international markets from there. The crude would bypass traditional American markets.
President Obama told the Times that his decision on Keystone would be made based on its climate change impact, but he hedged when asked if Canada could be encouraged to make climate mitigating changes that might influence his decision. He said Canada “could potentially be doing more” to counter potent emissions from tar sands extraction.
Some analysts see his remarks as an effort to give TransCanada a path to “yes” on his Keystone decision.
“Arguably, what came out at the Times was a clue,” said Kevin Book, a ClearView Energy Partners policy expert. “And the clue says build more green capacity, TransCanada; do something to offset your emissions profile, TransCanada. That perspective, which is one we actually hold, means he is headed toward yes, and he’s looking for defensible ways to support yes,” as quoted in Politico.
But other experts see Obama’s remarks as the opposite. They say that downplaying the massive jobs claims by Republicans and the Petroleum industry means that Keystone opponents are making their case and changing the debate.
No timeframe was given by the president for his decision on the Keystone pipeline, but he said everything would go “into the mix” in John Kerry’s recommendation and his ultimate ruling on the issue.