Even the electric chair probably created jobs

Keystone ad

Is tar sands really all about jobs?

While attending a conference for solar energy companies from the Mid-Atlantic states held last week in Washington, DC, I picked up a copy of The Hill, a newspaper for Washington insiders that comes out daily when Congress is in session. And I marveled at the full page ads taken out by big government contractors and industry lobby groups and directed at members of Congress and their staffs.

Just another way that corporations act like people — people with huge budgets for issues ads, that is.

Anyway, there’s Lockheed Martin showing off the latest models of bomber plane, aircraft carrier and helicopter to offer “Total situational awareness. Mission-wide connectivity. Fewer casualities.” Then there’s an open letter to committee chairs in the House and Senate from tech companies including Google, AOL, Facebook and eBay, opposing anti-piracy bills they say will stifle internet innovation. But what really caught my eye was a pitch from an outfit called the Partnership to Fuel America, which turns out to be a front group set up by the US Chamber of Commerce. Their ad touts the Keystone XL Pipeline:

America Needs More Jobs Without Delay

The Keystone XL project is good for America. It will create 20,000 well-paying jobs in the short term, thousands more in the long term, and generate $20 billion in spending to benefit our economy. But the Administration has gone back on its word and is delaying a decision for another year, until 2013.

You can argue with that job figure. On the high side, Steven Colbert aired a clip mocking Fox News anchors and guests for making wildly different claims, from “20,000 immediate jobs,” to “118,000 in direct jobs” and finally “a million new high-paying jobs.” On the low side, even TransCanada, the company that would head the project, has said the total jobs created would be far fewer, and an independent report has found that the project could actually destroy more jobs than it creates through higher fuel costs and environmental damage.

A bazillion jobs still wouldn’t be enough

But given what the Keystone XL pipeline was suppossed to do, create a bigger market for dirty Canadian tar sands oil, how many jobs would it really take to make it worthwhile?

You don’t need to go as far as NASA’s James Hansen that tapping the emissions-heavy tar sands would mean “game over for the climate” to conclude that no amount of jobs would justify this monster.

Just stick with simple economics. The industry says that tar sands oil will give America energy security. But because oil is a fungible commodity that can be sold to whoever’s paying the highest price, there’s nothing to stop US oil companies from selling the refined products to customers overseas. Refiners have already been shipping diesel fuel to Europe and Latin America, where it’s in high demand. That of course, does nothing to give Americans energy security.

A pipeline to Gulf ports will make it that much easier to ship tar sands oil abroad. In that case, Midwestern states would take the environmental hit (pipeline spills are common) while much of the energy may go to foreign countries. And if that happens, the American heartland will start to become just another exploited oil exporter like Nigeria.

Oil companies that would fool Americans into thinking that they were getting energy destined for foreign markets are just using and abusing us. And no amount of jobs can transubstantiate that kind of evil into good.

— Erik Curren, Transition Voice

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  1. says

    Great comments, Erik, and fun video of Colbert and McKibben. Even if the tar sands project or the Keystone Pipeline really generated those numbers of jobs, that style of job creation is tantamount to burning down the house to keep warm. Ultimately we end up with a planet with no jobs. David Brower said it well: “There is no business to be done on a dead planet.”

    Dave Gardner
    Director of the documentary
    GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth

  2. Auntiegrav says

    We have spent the last century replacing people’s jobs (the “drudgery” of farm and other labor) with petroleum.
    With that in mind, how does anyone think that more petroleum will create more jobs?
    The bottom line is that people don’t need ‘jobs’. They need food, clothing, and shelter. We already have more houses than anyone needs, and clothing and food are produced by about 4% of our population. Now it’s time to decide what people are for. Will we just produce bodies that sit around and get fed, or will we somehow integrate ourselves back into our own ecosystem, where each new person is a celebrated contributor to the future?
    There is plenty of space and plenty of energy (labor) for everyone to be satisfied. We just have to stop wasting it all on not being satisfied (marketing).

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