Thousands of people yesterday marched on the White House, demanding the President Obama stop the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Canada. Since it’s hard to make an environmental argument for a pipeline to carry fossil fuel across a crucial aquifer, most of the arguments for the Keystone project have been economic ones.
And on the economics, the protest movement seems to be getting somewhere. From the Washington Post:
A TransCanada statement Sept. 30 said the project would be “stimulating over 14,400 person years of employment” in Oklahoma alone. It cited a study by Ray Perryman, a Texas-based consultant to TransCanada, saying the pipeline would create “250,000 permanent jobs for U.S. workers.”
But Perryman was including a vast number of jobs far removed from the industry. Using that technique in a report on the impact of wind farms, Perryman counted jobs for dancers, choreographers and speech therapists.
“Any credible input-output model is going to include all induced effects and . . . some money will be spent on the arts,” Perryman said in an e-mail. “In the construction phase, this number would be minimal, given the temporary nature of the project. However, the permanent effects from lower oil prices would be somewhat larger.”
Like a lot of data in economics, the projection of jobs associated with Keystone is subject to some fancy slicing and dicing. When your economy is as weak as ours is right now, any promise of jobs created becomes a powerful lure for communities. We see this in places like the very poor Youngstown, Ohio, with a new mill (yay!) to make parts for fracking (hmmmm….). The question, always, is whether the deal is worth it.