Keystone XL Pipeline and the jobs it would create in the United States


Recently, the newly Republican majority Senate passed legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline. The controversial bill passed by a vote of 62-36 but will most likely be vetoed by President Obama. The Senate would need 67 votes to override a presidential veto. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Constructing Keystone would pump billions into our economy,” right before the voting on the bill.

The XL pipeline is designed to carry up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil a day from oil sands in Alberta, Canada all the way down through the United States to the gulf coast. The new construction would start in Hardisty, Alberta and run through Montana, South Dakota, and then to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would then connect to existing pipelines in the U.S. The pipeline was proposed by TransCanada, a Canadian energy company that operates in North America. The proposed 1,179-mile pipeline would ship diluted bitumen and synthetic crude oil to refineries in Texas and Illinois.

The pipeline has caused political gridlock with the majority of Democrats opposing it and Republicans approving of the bill. Republicans have been heavily pushing for the passing of the bill due to the amount of jobs that would be created. Democrats primarily oppose the bill due to the environmental effects that the pipeline will cause and its impact on climate change.

The number of temporary and permanent jobs that the pipeline would create has been constantly argued by Congress. Comedian Jon Stewart recently joked on his show, saying that the pipeline would create “somewhere between millions of jobs and 35.” The State Department has estimated that the Keystone XL pipeline would create about 42,000 direct and indirect jobs through a two-year period. That number has been contested by many media outlets as well as many political figures.

The 42,000 number is not totally inaccurate, but there’s a lot more to it. It’s not the jobs that most people would think and a small portion of that number would be actual temporary construction jobs. The number of construction jobs to build the pipeline would be around 3,900 on an annual basis. The XL pipeline would be expected to take two years to build but there is no certainty to that. About 12,000 jobs from the 42,000 number would come from direct spending. So for instance, that would be for manufacturing high-strength line pipe that would be used if constructed. However, some of the jobs for making the pipe have already been completed. Workers in Arkansas have already built half of the high-strength line pipe which accounts for 333,000 tons. Other manufacturing jobs for constructing the pipeline will occur in other countries such as Canada and India.

The other 26,000 temporary jobs are even more confusing and fuzzy. These jobs were termed as “indirect and induced spending.” These jobs could be goods and services purchased by contractors or spent money by employees that would be working for a supplier of goods and services. The State Department Report also concluded that 634 jobs would be in the “arts, entertainment and recreation services” as a result of the building of the pipeline.

One number that has not been contested would be the amount of permanent jobs the Keystone XL pipeline will create. The number is about 35 permanent jobs which would be for inspections, maintenance, and repairing of the pipeline. One thing certain is that the Keystone XL pipeline will create jobs in the U.S. but the biggest question is is it worth it or should we try alternative federal jobs solutions, such as rebuilding the infrastructure of the United States?