The Two Biggest Myths About the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline, Debunked

Jungbim via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-NC 2.0

There are really only two recurrent arguments the GOP trots out to defend the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that the oil industry wants to build across a 1,700 mile stretch of middle America. Both are almost entirely fabricated, but they're the best pipeline proponents can do ("because the oil industry want us to" evidently doesn't play well with most Americans).

The first is the ethical oil nonsense, which goes like this: If we build this pipeline, we'll be getting more oil from a "friendly" neighbor, Canada, not some big, scary, nasty country like Saudi Arabia or Nigeria. This argument is totally false--the oil piped through the Midwest has been shown time and again to be destined for the international market. That black gold is getting shipped out to the highest bidder, and will do little to sate the United State's domestic energy needs.

The second one is even simpler, and it goes like this: Jobs. Building this pipeline will allow wonderful, oily jobs to rain from the sky. The most preposterous 'study' (which has now been widely and wildly debunked) claimed that the pipeline would lead to the creation of 118,000 jobs. It hilariously projected that the project would so stimulate the economy that 'spinoff' jobs like choreographers and dancers would be created; all thanks to a single oil pipeline.

The Washington Post Fact Checker has some fun debunking the story, noting all the supposed jobs it would create: "51 dancers and choreographers, 138 dentists, 176 dental hygienists, 100 librarians, 510 bread bakers, 448 clergy, 154 stenographers, 865 hairdressers, 136 manicurists, 110 shampooers, 65 farmers, and (our favorite) 1,714 bartenders."

It is, again, a truly preposterous study; one that the oil interests who pointed to it hoped never fell under scrutiny. But the weird thing is that, even after it did, politicians still clung to those numbers. Or at least they used them as a basis for saying that the Keystone XL will create "tens of thousands of jobs". Which is flat-out false.

The only independent study conducted on the tar sands pipeline job creation prospects was carried out by Cornell Univeristy--and they found only 500-1400 jobs would be generated by the project, and that most would be temporary. And yet, a slew of top politicians continues on trotting out the debunked, grossly over-exaggerated jobs numbers. Even TransCanada says it will, at best, create 5-6,000 jobs.

Think Progress Green offers a pretty damning case for why those pols are continuing to harp on the exaggerated numbers:

"The reason is the oil lobby is in overdrive. At least 42 companies have lobbied on Keystone XL since 2009, and 33 actively campaigned in the most recent quarter.

Congress’s best salesmen for the pipeline are conveniently the top beneficiaries of Big Oil donations. McConnell, who said he will oppose any payroll bill that doesn’t include the pipeline, is Senate’s biggest recipient of oil and gas money, receiving $199,000 this year. Boehner is one of the top 10 recipients in the House this year, and has taken in $434,050 from the industry over his career.

Pipeline supporters Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Judy Biggert (R-IL), and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) even own TransCanada stock

So at least we know why these politicians are continuing to distort the truth to make the case for the oil industry's pet project--they're essentially getting paid to do so.

So. Be aware that those jobs figures you hear floating around are the stuff of thoroughly-debunked myth, and that the GOP politicians who are telling the tall tales have a direct, vested interest in spinning those yarns.

Tags: Congress | Oil | Tar Sands | United States