Understanding Keystone XL: Jobs, pollution, China, and Native Americans

Justin King
December 20, 2014

(TheAntiMedia) President Obama dealt a blow to the controversial oil pipeline that is intended to run from Canada to Texas when he said the pipeline would generate “not even a nominal benefit for U.S. consumers.”

Shawn Howard, a spokesman for TransCanada, released a statement touting the same benefit the company has been pushing since the pipeline was first debated: jobs. He said:

“After being approved, Keystone XL will employ thousands of skilled American pipeline industry workers in the United States.”

The problem with this statement is two-fold. Most of the jobs generated by the project would be for its construction. Once the pipeline is finished most of those workers will again be unemployed. So it’s a temporary benefit at best. The second issue is that the purpose of the pipeline is to transport oil that is currently being shipped by truck and rail. Those jobs will disappear as well. After completion, the pipeline would likely cause a net loss in jobs.

Howard also said that there are no plans to export the oil.

That’s a statement very few people believe. The refineries the pipeline ends near have long term commitments with Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Mexico. Even if the current contracts were set aside, all three of those countries maintain ownership of refineries in Texas. It’s unlikely they would cut off their own profits to help make room for the refinement of Canadian oil. The crude oil would arrive via pipeline to a location with little excess production capability. As a former energy policy adviser to both the US Treasury and the Council of Economic Advisers, Phillip Verleger, put it:

“There will be too much oil, it’s got to go somewhere, and it’s going to China.”

Casting further doubt on TransCanada’s statement is the fact that the backup plan if Keystone doesn’t receive approval is another pipeline that is financed by the Chinese and is slated to send the oil to Asian markets.

Constructing the pipeline would require farmer’s to lose their land and have an oil pipeline that sits atop the water supply for America’s food source. It would also run through a Native American reservation. It isn’t just any tribe either; it’s Lakota land. The Lakota tribe maintains a fierce reputation and has repeatedly displayed its willingness to go toe to toe with the federal government. The Lakota have declared their warriors will be

“Dead or in prison before we allow the Keystone XL pipeline to pass.”

It isn’t an idle threat. The Lakota have engaged in armed confrontation with the feds before. Leonard Peltier, the Native American activist wrongly imprisoned for murdering two FBI agents in 1975, is an Anishinabe-Lakota.

In addition to all of the above, environmentalists are opposed to the pipeline because TransCanada doesn’t exactly have a spotless record in regards to oil spills. At times, during the last five years the company promising to build the safest pipeline in the US averaged an oil spill every month. One of those dumped 21,000 gallons of oil into North Dakota.

The only positive attribute of the pipeline is that it grants the US direct access to a friendly nation’s oil supplies in the event of a large scale war. Of course, that pipeline would be a primary target for whatever mythical enemy the US would be facing. The destruction of the pipeline during a war would cripple not only oil production, but would also cause spills damaging food production which is probably why there is no major push by the Defense Department in favor of the pipeline.

The bottom line: The pipeline will cost jobs, not create them. It doesn’t benefit the US consumer. It endangers an important US water supply and food source. It would require violating yet another treaty with Native American tribes, and possibly cause armed conflict. Generally speaking, nobody wants the thing built.

Those in Congress who have repeatedly tried to push this through are placing special interests over the wishes and best interests of the American people.

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