Last summer, President Obama sat down for a lengthy interview with the New York Times, which noted that congressional Republicans talk about the Keystone XL pipeline “as a big job creator.” The president was incredulous.
“There is no evidence that that’s true,” he said. Obama noted temporary jobs would be created during the construction of the pipeline, but after that, “we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 [chuckles] jobs in an economy of 150 million working people.”
Republicans were outraged. PolitiFact labeled the president’s comments “false.” But a new, comprehensive, long-awaited State Department report on the pipeline project suggests Obama’s assessment was pretty accurate.
“Once the proposed Project enters service, operations would require approximately 50 total employees in the United States: 35 permanent employees and 15 temporary contractors. This small number would result in negligible impacts on population, housing, and public services in the proposed Project area.”
In fairness, it’s important to note that the same report found the project could create over 40,000 temporary jobs – “direct, indirect, and induced” – during the construction of the pipeline itself. But (a) those temporary construction jobs would likely come and go quite quickly; and (b) this total is still well under half of the total talked up by congressional Republicans.
In contrast, the CBO estimates that extending federal unemployment benefits is worth 200,000 jobs in 2014 alone.
Of course, Keystone isn’t just about jobs, it’s about oil. And while the State Department’s report is likely to disappoint conservatives who see the project as a job-creating bonanza, the same document is likely to disappoint progressives who see it as a serious environmental risk.
The New York Times’ report this afternoon explained:
The long-awaited environmental impact statement on the project concludes that approval or denial of the pipeline, which would carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta to the Gulf Coast, is unlikely to prompt oil companies to change the rate of their extraction of carbon-heavy tar sands oil, a State Department official said. Either way, the tar sands oil, which produces significantly more planet-warming carbon pollution than standard methods of drilling, is coming out of the ground, the report says. […]The project, which has been under review by the State Department since 2008, has become a political lightning rod for both the left and the right. Environmentalists rallying for action on climate change have seized on the pipeline plan as a potent symbol of fossil fuel projects that contribute to global warming.
Note, the report is an important step in the overall process, but today’s release is an “Environmental Impact Statement,” not the final word on the project. The State Department will continue its investigation, and prepare an additional analysis that weighs Keystone’s environmental, economic, and diplomatic effects.