Archived Story

20,000 jobs take on a life of their own

Published 9:39pm Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Twenty thousand jobs.
Or, in Congressman Fred Upton’s response to President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, “tens of thousands” of jobs lost by rejecting the $7 billion, 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline to transport tar sands oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.
As I wrote in December, that enticing number originated with TransCanada itself, which wants to build the pipeline.
Columbia Journalism Review takes the media to task for its role in fuzzy math, saying news outlets “developed a preference for 20,000.”
Proof positive how something repeated ad nauseum takes on a zombie life of its own.
CJR adds, “Many outlets are still citing inflated and unreliable figures in the tens to hundreds of thousands while ignoring more modest and trustworthy approximations from academia and government” of 2,500 to 6,000.
The magazine breaks down how the company arrived at 13,000 direct, on-site jobs in February, then offered an even more arbitrary figure of 20,000 in August to the U.S. State Department for its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
Based on information TransCanada provided, the State Department concluded Keystone XL “would result in hiring approximately 5,000 to 6,000 workers over the three-year construction period.”
In September, Cornell University researchers ran the numbers and came up with less, the “equivalent to 2,500-4,650 jobs per year.” Why?
The State Department tally is inflated by workers TransCanada already hired, while Cornell’s study sticks to new pipeline construction jobs.
As for the 118,000 spin-off jobs figure also frequently bandied about in news reports, economic analysis conducted for the EIS under contract to the Department of Energy suggests Keystone XL was unlikely to have any impact on the amount of crude oil imported into, or refined in, the United States.
Therefore, it would be unreasonable to suggest the pipeline would cause an increase in employment or other economic activity.
The State Department said, “Regarding employment, construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would likely create several thousand temporary jobs associated with construction; however, the project would not have a significant impact on long-term employment in the United States.”

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