Recently the Obama administration rejected the proposed Keystone XL pipeline extension. In a statement, Obama said:
“The rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment.”
The company that would have built the pipeline, TransCanada, will be able to reapply for a permit and have said that they plan to do so. The discussion of the merits of the pipeline will be sure to come up again and I wanted to focus on one of the key arguments in pro-pipeline discussion: job creation.
Many numbers have been quoted for how many jobs the pipeline would create. TransCanada has projected up to 20,000 jobs. However, the State Department calculated between 5,000 and 6,000 jobs while a Cornell study found that that number may be as low as in the hundreds. As well, many of these jobs are temporary construction jobs and would involve bringing in specialists from Canada to do the work. Even Robert Jones, Vice President of TransCanada, said on CNN that the pipeline would only yield a few hundred permanent positions.
In these tough economic times, we are all very sensitive to holding back potential projects that would create jobs. However, when you add in the environmental damage through the giant carbon footprint the pipeline would allow as well as potential leaks in environmentally sensitive areas throughout the pipeline route, and the fact that most of the oil would be exported to foreign markets and not increase our energy independence, the job argument becomes very weak. If those who are for the pipeline are concerned about jobs, perhaps it’s time to look at a job source that already employs many Americans and has the ability to hire many more; green jobs.
In a Think Progress article, the growth of green jobs was thoroughly documented:
“In just a six week period in September and October 2011, Environmental Entreprenuers, a national community of over 850 individual business leaders, identified the creation of 32,000 clean energy jobs by 100 companies including manufacturing plants, power generation project, renewable energy, and energy-efficiency retrofits.
More than 2.7 million people are working in the U.S. clean energy economy right now – more than the entire fossil fuel industry put together. Every month new clean energy jobs are announced that are shovel-ready and lead to long-lasting permanent job growth in America. Clean car manufacturers have created over 151,000 quality long term jobs in the United States while saving consumers billions of dollars at the pump. Between 2003 and 2010, the clean energy sector grew nearly twice as fast as the overall economy.”
It appears to be a win-win to concentrate on the growth of an industry that has a small environmental footprint, creates domestic jobs and will help our country focus on a renewable energy future. Instead of focusing so much on the creation of a few hundred jobs involving a non-renewable, environmentally damaging resource, it is time to concentrate on the green industry and create green jobs.
Be sure to check out this TED talk from environmental photojournalist Garth Lenz about the tar sands in Canada and the environmental impact that the oil extraction has had so far.