Keystone XL pipeline: a jobs coup for Republicans in tax deal?
A congressional deal to preserve a payroll tax cut, approved by the Senate Saturday, contains a provision designed to force President Obama's hand on the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.
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Positions taken in the Senate this week echoed the long-running arguments on both sides.
"Unable to sell the pipeline as necessary to meet the country’s energy needs, which it is not, or to refute charges that tar sands strip mining and the refining and burning of high carbon oil cause egregious harm to the environment and health, which it does," TransCanada is making dire warnings about the jobs at stake, Mr. Leahy said in a Senate floor statement. Republicans "have echoed these scare tactics."
Sen. Dan Coats (R) of Indiana, by contrast, said "If job creation is the president’s top priority, then [Obama] should allow construction of the Keystone pipeline immediately." He said thousands of jobs would be matched by reduced reliance on Middle East oil.
A State Department analysis of the Keystone plan pegged the job gains as far fewer than 20,000. The report estimated that "The construction work force would consist of approximately 5,000 to 6,000 workers, including Keystone employees, contractor employees, and construction and environmental inspection staff."
One reason for the different job estimates is the temporary nature of the jobs. The 20,000 figure, promoted by backers of the project, is based on "person-year" estimates. In that framework, employing 6,000 people for three years would equal 18,000 jobs, for example.
Critics of the project also argue that much of the oil processed in refineries near the Gulf of Mexico would be destined for export.
Beyond the specifics of the pipeline project, Keystone has become a symbol of a larger battle over energy policy under Obama. The president argues that he is taking a balanced approach, open to new fossil-fuel development with appropriate safeguarding of the environment.
The Republican candidates for president have blasted him for regulatory overreach that is preventing a potential boom in jobs and domestic energy production.
Interest groups, meanwhile, are lobbying hard to influence Obama's ultimate decision on Keystone.
"The Republican stampede to build the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is going to backfire," predicted Susan Casey-Lefkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council in a statement Saturday. "In forcing President Obama to reach a hasty decision – which he has said he would not do – the president will have no choice but to reject the pipeline as not in the national interest.”