Keystone debate is about politics, not jobs or climate

The intensifying political fight over the Keystone pipeline has almost nothing to do with the merits or drawbacks of the Keystone pipeline.

Take the issue of jobs. Backers of the project claim it will produce tens of thousands of jobs, while outside experts say those estimates are vastly inflated. The high-end best guess seems to be that construction of the pipeline will produce about the same number and type of temporary jobs as construction of the two stadiums now underway in metro Atlanta, which combined will account for some 9,000 jobs of short duration. (For example, you’ve got people building concrete forms for a couple of months, other people pouring concrete for a month or two, other people installing plumbing for a month or two, etc.)

In a national context, with some 300,000 long-term jobs being created a month, the notion that the Keystone pipeline is a major jobs producer is inane. It simply is not so.

keystoneIn fact, much of the pipeline has already been built. As the map above demonstrates, the unbuilt portion still at issue stretches only from the Canadian border south to the Kansas-Nebraska border — existing pipeline capacity then would take the liquid south to the Gulf of Mexico, where it would be refined and some would be shipped out to overseas markets.

Here’s the bottom line: Once the entire pipeline is built, running it will require roughly 35 full-time employees. And that’s not in dispute.

The same is true, although to a lesser degree, about the environmental drawbacks of the proposal. Nebraskans are understandably nervous about the potential for leakage into the Ogallala Aquifer that their entire agricultural economy relies upon for irrigation — remember, the pipeline is being proposed in the first place because many Canadians balk at letting it run through their own lands. Nebraska farmers are still fighting that issue out in state courts, where property owners have contested the use of eminent domain to force them to allow the pipeline to cross their land.

However, the larger question is the pipeline’s impact on development of the oil-tar sands in Alberta, a potential energy source that environmentalists warn would be a particularly nasty contributor of greenhouse gases. The truth is, development of the tar sands depends far more heavily on the international price of oil than it does on the construction of any particular pipeline. If the price is high enough, they’ll find some means to get the oil to refineries and then to market. If it isn’t high enough, the oil will sit there.

And right now, it isn’t high enough. Oil production experts say that the break-even point for tar-sand production is somewhere in the neighborhood of $65 a barrel; as of yesterday, it had fallen beneath $50 a barrel.

In short, the fight accelerating in Congress this week over the Keystone pipeline isn’t a fight over an issue of major substance. The stakes have been exaggerated significantly for purposes of theater. It is a fight over power — who has it, and who doesn’t — within the tight little universe of Washington, D.C.

 

Reader Comments 0

707 comments
DekalbComments
DekalbComments

Since the White House has made clear the President will veto any Keystone legislation this is a moot point. The Republicans lack veto-proof majorities and this is the likely scenario for the next two years.


The only reason the Canadians wanted this pipeline to be routed through the U.S. was they expected to be able to piggy-back on a significant portion that was already in place but under utilized. The other was that their fellow Canadians in British Columbia (where I have a lot of friends from years I lived in Seattle) refused to let it cross their territory. They were concerned about the environment impact both on land as well as in the pristine Pacific waters along the B.C. coast. 


The oil from the tar sands was never going to stay in the U.S. Some of it would be refined but whatever form it was, it was destined for the export market. B.C. residents said no so Canada thought they could talk the gullible Americans into all the talk about jobs and making America energy independent. 


Even without the dirty Canadian oil tar sands the U.S. is much better positioned for both fossil fuels and renewables under Obama than nearly any U.S. President since the 60s. Fracking is destroying ground water and possibly causing seismic activity but it has done its job in increasing U.S. oil production. 


With oil prices so low, fracking in the near term isn't going to be profitable so I expect to see a big decline in that activity. 

blah blah blah
blah blah blah

@DekalbComments all lies, try again sport...  


Even without Obama's support the U.S. is much better positioned for fossil fuels.  


Fracking is destroying ground water and possibly causing seismic activity but it has done its job in increasing U.S. oil production.   GOT PROOF???

TomMiddleton
TomMiddleton

The pipeline will be like their war in Iraq: We didn't need it, we didn't want it, and when it failed, they blamed everyone but themselves. Taking responsibility is not something the Republicans do well, but failing is.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@TomMiddleton

Not sure why you would care whether "we" need or want it.  It's a private enterprise.  But Real Americans are not surprised that Obozo receptacles don't know the difference between big government and private enterprise.

Democrats are stupid.

Kamchak
Kamchak

@LeninTime 

No, the majority of Democrats in congress voted against the invasion.

When you have to lie to make a point the only thing it proves is that you are a liar.

Just sayin'.

Kamchak
Kamchak

Kelvin Cochran (soon to be all about Obama) SHEETZ !

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

you can join the mayor [DeBlasio] in the POS catagory

Honored to be there, thanks.


Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@fedup52 @stands_for_decibels

The mayor stirred up a hornet's nest

...he just addressed some long-simmering, unaddressed concerns of most New Yorkers. Who--for the record--generally don't give a rat's @ss what some guys in Georgia might think of them (going out on a limb here, I know.)

RaindroidWillBoy
RaindroidWillBoy

If we continue to take on debt, why not use it to erase some portion of student loan obligations and make school more affordable.

KUTGF
KUTGF

@RaindroidWillBoy  I am not going back to check the numbers but there have been points made that if we just make college free and eliminated the cost of the student loan program to the US we would actually reduce costs.

Yes_Jesus_Can
Yes_Jesus_Can

@RaindroidWillBoy 

BAD idea economically speaking, fiscally and monetarily. 

If tuition isn't supported by good jobs following graduation, then students shouldn't be in high-tuition schools. 

We are spending individually and collectively too much on "luxury" education which has little economic value. 

"When I think of all the crap I learned in high school...."  --Paul Simon

Turns out they're teaching lots of crap in college too nowadays. 

Doom Classical liberal
Doom Classical liberal

@RaindroidWillBoy


Because then we would just be subsidizing student loan debt, which is what got us into the student loan bubble to begin with. The whole reason college is becoming more expensive is because we keep subsidizing it further. There's a reason why over 600 colleges and universities now feature rock climbing walls of all things.

Yes_Jesus_Can
Yes_Jesus_Can

Georgia received $56.9 million from the Federal Highway Bridge Fund in FY2011.

The District of Columbia received $26.1 million from the Federal Highway Bridge Fund in FY2011.

Source: American Society of Civil Engineers.

Anyone else see the problem here? 

Yes_Jesus_Can
Yes_Jesus_Can

@fedup52 @Yes_Jesus_Can 

I voted, and hopefully my representative, David Scott, whom I did not vote for will explain it to me, but I'm not holding my breath. 

SeriouslyFolks
SeriouslyFolks

@Yes_Jesus_Can @SeriouslyFolks @HeadleyLamar Gee..if there was only some magical way that we could increase the fuding sources that would allow for more infrastructure investments.......

Wonder why Obama never thought about that...you know, "Say, we have all these bridges and highways that need repairing, what do you say, Congress??  Lets come together and fix us some roads and bridges"...


I know..ANOTHER failed attempt by Obama to lead, right?????

barkingfrog
barkingfrog

Probably should build a pipeline with one end in a large Canadian lake and the 

other end in the headwaters of the Colorado River. 

SeriouslyFolks
SeriouslyFolks

@barkingfrog As a Nevadan, YES!!!!!!!!!!  The sad part is no one can make millions of dollars off of selling water......and I hope that never becomes the case!

fedup52
fedup52

@barkingfrog  Come on that makes too much sense.  How will Koch boys make money out of that.

Moderate_line
Moderate_line

In 2000 revenue for the gov't was 19.9% of GDP while spending was 17.6%.

In 2013 revenue was 16.7 while spending was 20.8.


Revenues went down 2.1% while spending went up 3.2%.2000 was the highest revenue year since WWII and lowest spending year since 1966 according to OMB..

KUTGF
KUTGF

@Moderate_line  And did something happen, oh let's say in 2001 that might have changed spending? 

Yes_Jesus_Can
Yes_Jesus_Can

 Take the issue of jobs. Backers of the project claim it will produce tens of thousands of jobs, while outside experts say those estimates are vastly inflated. The high-end best guess seems to be that construction of the pipeline will produce about the same number and type of temporary jobs as construction of the two stadiums now underway in metro Atlanta, which combined will account for some 9,000 jobs of short duration. (For example, you’ve got people building concrete forms for a couple of months, other people pouring concrete for a month or two, other people installing plumbing for a month or two, etc.)

-----------------------------------------

The leftists made "shovel-ready jobs" into a big huge joke vis-a-vis government stimulus, and obama, the former laughing stock, is now a get-out-of-the-way public nuisance to his country and his own party, not to mention his own legacy. 

No reason to apply that logic to the private sector, Jay Bookman.  It is a project, and it doesn't include infrastructure around Washington, DC. 

In his latest State of the Union address, President Barack Obama noted how “first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure” through new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.

Baloney, Jay Bookman.  Heed your our Prez. 

SeriouslyFolks
SeriouslyFolks

@Yes_Jesus_Can You mean the stimulus that pretty much all economists agree kept the country from collapse??  The stimulus that kept intact middle class tax cuts??  The stimulus that was not nearly big enough and kept us in a recession for so long??? 

So I guess you are saying that if a foreign owned company lobbies Congress to grant it "eminent domain" to construct a pipeline through the middle of your church's sanctuary, you are going to stand up to your fellow church goers and say they need to "get out of the way" ?????????????????????????????

Yes_Jesus_Can
Yes_Jesus_Can

@SeriouslyFolks @Yes_Jesus_Can 

You mean the stimulus that pretty much all economists agree kept the country from collapse?? 

Saying "all so-and-so's" agree I could make an analogy about global warming to tear your line of raison faux to shreds.  Pretty much all scientists agreed in 1996 that the world should have ended in heat death by now. 

So, what you are apparently saying is that government spending = good.  Private spending via keystone = bad.  What about employment?  What about jobs? 

Is that it?  Because it's exactly opposite to what bamster is saying now, running around the country crowing about how good the economy is doing? Bamster seems to think it is, and the country too--which may even have a bipartisan veto-proof congress to oppose our absurd little man president. 

Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@Yes_Jesus_Can @SeriouslyFolks "agree I could make an analogy about global warming to tear your line of raison faux to shreds."


Reasoning by analogy is the sign of both a weak argument as well as ignorance of the topic under discussion.


Tiberius-Constitutionus
Tiberius-Constitutionus

@DownInAlbany @SeriouslyFolks @Yes_Jesus_Can

Except perhaps in a con's mind, it is not contradictory to say the following: "although the Bush tax cuts should never have been passed in the first place, extending them after all the economic destruction wrought by the cons helped mitigate the long-term effects of said destruction."