On Jan. 29, in one of their first acts, the Republican-controlled Senate approved the Keystone XL Pipeline by a 62-36 vote, and GOP lawmakers in the Senate have called passing the Keystone XL pipeline a “top priority,” according to U.S. News.
On Feb. 11 the House approved the Senate authorization of the Keystone XL Pipeline by a 270-152 vote. U.S. News reported that Speaker John Beohner said that “this project would mean stronger economic growth and a more stable and affordable energy supply.”
But would it?
Noted oil economist Phillip K. Verleger has argued that the pipeline, once completed, would at best have no effect on gas prices and at worst would actually raise gas prices. He cites a testimony by TransCanada, the company who would own and operate the pipeline, where they state that they would use the pipeline as a way to manipulate crude oil prices. These manipulations could raise the price for a gallon of gas by 10 to 20 cents.
So the pipeline has the possibility to raise gas prices. But won’t it create jobs?
In the State Department’s study of the effects of the Keystone XL project, they conclude that the pipeline would only create 12,000 jobs, which they define as positions filled for only one year, in the four states in which the pipeline would be built. Once completed the pipeline would require an estimated 50 employees, 35 permanent employees and 15 temporary contractors, to operate.
So the construction of the pipeline would only result in 12,000 temporary jobs in the effected states, which are Montana, South Dakota, Kansas and Nebraska. These jobs are expected to only last for one year and result in a total of $405 million in earnings. Once completed the pipeline would only create an estimated 50 jobs which wouldn’t even be considered newsworthy on a slow day, let alone being worth the higher gas prices and considerable environmental damage the pipeline would cause.
TransCanada has called the pipeline “routine” and has said that it would not cause any significant environmental damage. However, extracting oil from tar sands produces a considerable amount of greenhouse gas emissions, and is largely considered to be one of the dirtiest forms of oil production.
Pipelines are not a full proof, completely safe way to transport fuel either. In Michigan, on Dec. 8 of last year, a leak was detected in a natural gas pipeline running through the Upper Peninsula, which dispersed an “undetermined amount” of natural gas liquid into the atmosphere.
A Wyoming company had a pipeline leak 30,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River in the early part of this year. The Guardian reported that the company that owns the pipeline, Bridger, recorded nine pipeline leaks between 2006 and 2014, spilling nearly 11,000 gallons of crude oil. Its sister company, Belle Fourche Pipeline, recorded 21 incidents over the same period, spilling a total of 272,832 gallons of crude oil.
President Obama has pledged to veto the Keystone XL Pipeline. Congressional Republicans have tried nearly 50 times to either repeal or defund the overall successful Affordable Care Act, so it is safe to assume that they will continue to try and pass the Keystone XL authorization again and again.
Rather than trying to get a pipeline that would not make fuel more affordable, not create jobs, and have adverse effects on the environment, House and Senate Republicans should instead look to passing a new infrastructure bill to help repair our crumbling roads, collapsing bridges and aging water systems. Or pass new funding for green energy research and investments.
The Keystone XL Pipeline is not the answer to our energy and economic woes.