Scott Tipton column missed the mark regarding the Keystone XL Pipeline

Rep. Scott Tipton collaborated with a Conservative member of the Canadian Parliament on an op-ed piece Sunday in The Daily Sentinel, claiming that the Keystone XL Pipeline “offers ‘shovel ready’ jobs, (and) advances energy security.”

Even with the help from Canada, Tipton introduced nothing new to the dialogue about the future of the Keystone Pipeline.

Filled with Republican talking points and industry exaggerations, the column obscured more truth than it revealed.

Almost all the economic evidence Tipton presented to justify bringing Canadian tar sands to American Gulf Coast ports has been debunked by experts. Most of the facts he cited have little substance to them.

On environmental issues, Tipton is even worse.

We can build a 1,959-mile pipeline from northern Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast “with no adverse environmental effects,” he wrote. He assured readers, “The Keystone pipeline’s design, route and construction are more than sound enough to prevent any harm to the health and safety of the land, air, water and people with which it may come in contact.”

This claim ignores the fact that the EPA twice rejected environmental assessments — the ones referred to by Tipton — from the State Department because they were inadequate.

Prepared by a company closely associated with TransCanada, builder of the Keystone Pipeline, the reports glossed over huge environmental problems with findings of “no significant impact.”

While Tipton accepts industry claims at face value, 14 senators and representatives called for the State Department “to investigate whether conflicts of interest tainted the process for reviewing environmental impacts” of the pipeline.

Meanwhile, the EPA is proceeding with a full environmental impact statement for the project, to be finished by 2013. The study will provide the president with essential information for his decision on the future of the project.

The jobs numbers Tipton quoted are equally misleading. His column said, “The project will create thousands of American jobs — an estimated 13,000 construction jobs and 7,000 indirect, manufacturing-related jobs during the construction phase alone, plus hundreds more in refining, marketing, maintenance, delivery and related jobs.”

Frequently cited as 20,000 new jobs, these numbers are not an accurate estimate of jobs that will be created by the pipeline. It is not explained that the jobs are spread over two years. Only half, or 7,500 construction job would be offered each year. The 7,000 indirect jobs shrink to 3,500 each year.

Though still high, these numbers comport more closely with other estimates of short-time job creation for pipeline construction. “The company’s claim that KXL will create 20,000 direct construction and manufacturing jobs in the United States is not substantiated,” concluded a study released by the Cornell University Global Labor Institute.

While not insignificant, these temporary jobs will do little to reduce long-term unemployment in the United States.

According to data TransCanada furnished the State Department, the project would create no more than 2,500 to 4,650 temporary, direct construction jobs for two years.

The State Department estimates “The construction work force would consist of approximately 5,000 to 6,000 workers, including Keystone employees, contractor employees and construction and environmental inspection staff.”

“It is our assessment — based on the publicly available data — that the construction of KXL will create far fewer jobs in the United States than its proponents have claimed,” the Cornell report concluded.

Tipton played the national security card with his claim that the pipeline would make us less dependent on foreign oil. “Anything that can be done to reduce that reliance on overseas oil and replace it with a stable, secure, abundant source closer to home is in the interests of both our nations,” he wrote.

Once it makes the pipeline trip to the Texas Gulf, the toxic mixture of bitumen and liquid by-products from natural gas extraction will be refined and sold on the international oil and gas market. According to some economists, even at full production, Canadian tar sands oil will not be sufficient to move the needle on the world price of oil.

President Obama is right to delay a decision on the pipeline until 2013, after the EPA environmental impact statement is complete.

Tipton, also, should wait for the EIS to be completed before making any more extravagant claims that tar sands “will be for the foreseeable future, the driver of American economic and industrial might.”

Bill Grant lives in Grand Junction. He can be reached .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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