Welcome to today’s edition of Debunktion Junction: Keystone XL Pipeline

The Keystone XL pipeline is, at its core, a deeply destructive concept, and a lightning rod for deception and politicization. Big-monied interests have a huge stake in manipulating the public into thinking that it should be built, and if you listen to conservatives like Mitt Romney, Rush Limbaugh, John Boehner, and even the supposedly “moderate” Scott Brown (who is one of the few Republicans who claim to believe in Global Warming), you would think that the pipeline is the answer to all of our problems; they say it would create jobs (it wouldn’t), decrease price at the pump (it wouldn’t),  and decrease our reliance on foreign oil by increasing our domestic supply (it wouldn’t).

So where do these lies come from, and what is the truth?

In the January 18, 2012 print of Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, the US Chamber of Commerce (whose president recently called for a civilization-ending amount of pollution) took out a full-page ad that made two main claims about the Keystone XL pipeline. Both claims are blatant lies…

I will leave the most obvious lie (20,000 jobs) for last, and start with the one that’s buried deeper in the text:

1) The Chamber of Commerce claimed that the pipeline would “provide our nation with a safe, secure supply of reliable and affordable energy.”

This is a 2-part lie. First, the Chamber implies that the oil from the Tar Sands would be for American use. Wrong. In fact, the existing Keystone pipeline currently brings the oil to Midwestern refineries to use in the US, but the whole point of the new pipeline is to BYPASS the interior US refineries, transporting the oil to the Gulf coast where it can be exported to other countries (in Europe and Latin America). So the Keystone XL pipeline would actually COST America oil.

Second, the Chamber claims it would result in ‘affordable energy’ for the US. Wrong.  Being that the oil would actually be taken away from the US, gas prices would rise for Americans by roughly 20 cents per gallon. And to suggest otherwise is a lie designed to manipulate the uninformed.

2) As seen by the headline text, the Chamber claimed that it would create 20,000 jobs… this number has long-since been debunked – and by the very person who first created the lie: TransCanada’s Chief Executive Russ Girling. For the Chamber to bring it up as a ‘fact’ is completely disingenuous.

The number first got reduced to 13,000 jobs… then Girling finally admitted that it’d be more like 6,500 jobs, because they used a misleading metric that said if a job lasted two years it counted as two jobs. (Apparently I need to update my resume, because since I’ve stayed with the same company for 5 years, that means I’ve had 5 jobs…)

But even the 6,500 jobs is misleadingly optimistic. In the only independently-funded study (all others are funded by TransCanada itself),  Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute found that it would only create 500-1400 temporary jobs, and then the long-term job effect would actually be negative.

But this hasn’t stopped FOX ‘News’ (Rupert Murdoch’s other media empire) from pushing the lie even further: Neil Cavuto claimed that the pipeline would create 130,000 jobs. Where does that number come from? Who knows – it’s FOX… they likely just made it up like they usually do. They’ve previously claimed 50,000 jobs, 118,000 jobs, 120,000 jobs, and 1 million jobs.  As Stephen Colbert pointed out, “those numbers come straight from the pipeline they built from their ass to the airwaves.”

But regardless of which random number they choose, it’s probably loosely based on estimate of so-called “spin-off jobs,” or those created as a result of the pipeline being in existence. This analysis was done by Ray Perryman, a Texas-based consultant, and hinges on the pipeline becoming some sort of tourist attraction. His number includes the ludicrous claim that 51 NYC dancers would move to the Midwest to put on shows… apparently for the “100 librarians, 510 bread bakers” and “1,714 bartenders” that the pipeline would supposedly create jobs for.

As Bill McKibben once pointed out to Keith Olbermann, any jobs created by the pipeline would be “dwarfed by the number of people who would be employed if we turned to the wind and the sun – if we decide that we are no longer going to allow our addiction to oil to grow.”

This sentiment was enforced by environmentalist and actor Mark Rufalo on Olbermann’s Countdown show when he said “the Solar Jobs bill for NY State alone would create 22,000 jobs. You put a Solar Jobs bill in each of the 6 states that the pipeline would go through, and that’s 132,000 jobs – real jobs that are clean jobs that will really get us off of foreign oil.”

And even if the jobs claim were accurate… some things are more important than jobs and money — like humanity’s ability to inhabit the earth.

According to the NY Times: “the extraction of petroleum from the tar sands creates far more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional production does.” And in a second interview with Keith Olbermann, Bill McKibben said:

“The Tar Sands in Alberta is the second largest pool of carbon on Earth. Only the oil fields of Saudi Arabia are larger. When we plumbed the oil fields in Saudi Arabia, we didn’t know about Climate Change. Now that we do, if we just repeat the same thing, then we’re idiots. That’s why NASA’s Jim Hansen – our foremost climatologist – said ‘tap this stuff heavily, and it’s game over for the climate.’ … It’s a reminder that we need to leave carbon in the ground.”

I’m reminded of one of Bill Maher’s “New Rules” in response to the 2010 BP oil disaster… “Fuck your jobs… Sorry roughnecks, but eventually you’re going to have to find something else to do – try building windmills. … Calling something your job doesn’t make it sacred … maybe your job needs to go when it starts killing things.”

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One final note: while President Obama struck down part of the Keystone XL pipeline as it’s currently being proposed, he did so not because he is necessarily opposed to it, but rather because Republicans forced his hand before a thorough review could be completed:

“This announcement is not a judgement on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline…”

In fact, few people realize that President Obama approved part of the pipeline – the southern leg that takes oil from Oklahoma to Texas for export. This will likely cause an increase in cost at the pump, so be on the watch for conservatives to blame Obama for approving the pipeline that they are currently blaming for not approving.

The Keystone pipeline is still in existence and growing. It poses a serious threat to humanity’s ability to inhabit planet Earth. It’s time for change.