Beyond the hype, Keystone would yield few permanent jobs
By Alistair Bell
STEELE CITY, Nebraska (Reuters) - In the heated debate over whether to build the Keystone XL pipeline, the energy industry and lawmakers have predicted that the project could unleash an economic bonanza in the Midwest, and provide jobs for up to a half-million people.
Kansas pipeline worker Jeremy Rippe knows better.
"Short term, there will be jobs for everyone around here. Then, not many at all," said Rippe, who helps maintain a gas pipeline on the Nebraska-Kansas border.
Rippe saw TransCanada Corp (TRP.TO: Quote) - the company that hopes to build the 1,200-mile (1,900-km) Keystone XL segment as part of a network of pipelines that move oil from Canada to refineries on Texas's Gulf Coast - lay another section of the Keystone line nearby four years ago.
He recalls that there was well-paying union work for scores of local laborers and machine operators for several months. But the jobs dried up as soon as the construction was over. After that, there were just four workers overseeing pumping stations near this Great Plains town of about 60 people.
Rippe's experience reflects what many labor analysts are saying as President Barack Obama's administration weighs whether to approve the Keystone project: that despite predictions by TransCanada, politicians and business groups of a Keystone-inspired boom, the pipeline would result in few permanent jobs in the United States.
The optimistic forecasts by Keystone supporters are rooted largely in one report from 2010 - funded by TransCanada - that predicted hundreds of thousands of jobs would be created mainly because a flood of crude through Keystone XL would help reduce U.S. oil prices, thus boosting the economy.
Pro-Keystone groups also have arrived at big numbers in estimating the project's potential impact on employment by counting not only those who would work on the pipeline, but also jobs that might be created by economic activity related to the project. For example, a hamburger vendor working extra hours to serve truck drivers who transport steel pipes for Keystone could be regarded as adding to the jobs total. Continued...