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October 12, 2011

Keystone XL Tar Sands: Jobs and Changing Minds

Dougherty6Coming off a fantastically successful public hearing last Friday in Washington, DC, we are disappointed to see some of the latest news on the TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline.

First we saw that the Washington Post opined this week in favor of this dirty, dangerous pipeline plan, with a line of reasoning that resembles a sort of, "The planet's already doomed to climate change, so why shouldn't we be accepting this polluting Canadian crude?"

What a defeatist attitude, not to mention that the editorial follows a false line of reasoning mistakenly arguing that the U.S. will be the major recipient of this oil. In fact, a review of oil industry documents shows that Keystone XL is an export pipeline, designed to provide the tar sands industry with access to the global market and provide Gulf Coast refineries such as Valero with product to supply their diesel export trade with Latin America. Keystone XL will actually hurt U.S. energy security by opening up the global market to the tar sands and leading to increase climate insecurity.

Then this week the White House Jobs Council announced its support for Keystone XL, saying the jobs it would bring (as well as jobs from off-shore oil drilling) would be good for the U.S. Yet according to the State Department, the job numbers quoted on Keystone XL have been over-stated by TransCanada and its supporters.

  TransCanada Claims

  State Department Analysis

  118,000 person years of employment

    5,000-6,000 jobs

  TransCanada's claims are 19 times the State Department's estimates!

Meanwhile, neither TransCanada or State Department have calculated job loss from higher gas prices, environmental damage from spills contaminating our land and major sources of drinking water, and health effects on American communities.

Even unions are seeing the dangers, noting that these jobs are not good jobs - just yesterdya the Florida AFL-CIO accepted a resolution in opposition to offshore oil drilling in Florida's coastal waters at their convention.

And listen to this testimony from Sierra Student Coalition Director Quentin James at last week's State Department Keystone XL public hearing in Washington, DC, about risk to oil industry workers.


Also during last week's hearing, the union members present who had been bussed in to support the pipeline were changing their minds once they heard the real arguments against the plan. Look at these quotes from a Mother Jones article by Kate Sheppard:

After a rally environmental groups held at noon outside of the Reagan building in downtown DC, I found James Foster, a 55-year-old electrician and union member wearing a LiUNA shirt, sitting on the steps nearby. When I asked him whether there was going to be a similar union event, he responded that he didn't plan on participating anyway. At least, not anymore. "I agree with the other side now," said Foster. "I didn't know this was an environmental issue." He'd heard it was a protest for jobs, but, after listening to the pipeline's critics testify Friday morning, he said he decided that "work that destroys the environment" isn't worth it.

"A few bucks here and there isn't going to help us for a lifetime, let alone the next generation," said Foster. "If it's going to hurt us in the long run, we don't need to do it."

A few feet away, several older women from the protest came over to talk to a 30-something man from the union. "I'm going to go home and do research," he told them. "I'm an environmentalist at heart."

Americans are waking up to see the risks posed to our country by the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline. Let’s hope that the Obama Administration is paying attention.

Photo by Jim Dougherty


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