America’s 629,000 unemployed construction workers face a grim New Year. The recession brutalized their sector of the economy, and the recovery remains tepid. While the rest of the nation is now enjoying a 5.8 percent unemployment rate, in the construction sector, it’s 7.5 percent. That means a longer spell between projects for many workers. Meanwhile, public and private spending on construction remains 13 percent below pre-recession rates.
President Obama could help these struggling Americans welcome 2015 with a long overdue approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
TransCanada first submitted its application for the pipeline in September 2008. In the years since, the U.S. Department of State has published five environmental-impact assessments determining that the pipeline’s effect would be negligible at worst. And the outcome of the recent congressional elections makes passage of legislation approving the pipeline a near-inevitability in January.
In other words, President Obama has no good excuses to leave a $7 billion, shovel-ready, economy-boosting investment languishing.
The two-year construction process will generate 42,000 jobs, including 9,000 in construction. Some complain that most of those jobs are only temporary. They miss the point: construction jobs are always temporary. Workers in the industry move on when a project is completed.
Speaking of temporary, the clock on President Obama’s term in office is running down, too. Even from a political perspective, stonewalling approval of the Keystone XL pipeline is a short-sighted move for the president and his party. The Pew Research Center recently reported the majority of Americans want the pipeline green-lighted, while fewer than one in three oppose it.
Public support for Keystone remains high because the benefits of the pipeline are clear. Approval of Keystone will have a ripple effect throughout the U.S. economy.
The domestic economic benefit of imported oil is only 10 cents on the dollar, compared to a domestic benefit of between 80 and 90 cents on the dollar for North American oil. Lower oil and gas prices also spur American manufacturing; in 2012 alone, cheaper energy saved the manufacturing sector around $130 billion.
Approval of the pipeline would also reduce our dependence on foreign oil and increase our energy security. Keystone would move 830,000 barrels of oil a day from our friendly and reliable neighbor to the north, dramatically reducing America’s reliance on Middle Eastern oil imports.
There’s an environmental component, too. The Alberta tar sands may be the third-largest oil reserve in the world, but they account for only .01 percent of carbon emissions globally.
Meanwhile, all of the alternatives to Keystone XL carry major environmental costs. If the United States fails to import its crude oil from Canada, it will rely instead on Middle Eastern oil, which exacts a greater toll on Mother Nature.
Some opponents of fossil fuels seem to think that if Keystone XL doesn’t go forward, all that oil will remain in the Canadian tar sands. That’s flat-out wrong. It will find an alternate market somewhere far across the world - racking up even more carbon-intensive travel. Without the pipeline, Canadian oil will move by train, truck and tanker, increasing emissions by 42 percent, according to the State Department.
After six years of extensive debate, it’s clear that going ahead with the Keystone XL pipeline is the right thing to do for the economy, the environment and the security of the United States.
Drew Johnson is a Senior Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to limited, responsible government.
Published: Jan. 1, 2015 - Volume 13 - Issue 38