As the deadline looms for President Obama’s Feb. 21 decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, the dogfight is focused on job numbers. Project proponents tout an enormous number of new jobs created by the pipeline, but a labor institute says those numbers are greatly inflated.
New TV ads that began running Saturday, produced by the American Petroleum Institute, praise the pipeline as a source of desperately needed jobs, citing a figure produced by an industry-backed study that claims 20,000 jobs would be created. A contracted study by the Perryman Group said the project would create 20,000 jobs directly and almost 120,000 indirectly, but because the methods used were not transparent, labor experts say they don’t know where they come from.
“That’s part of the mystery. The number 20,000, which has been the most widely cited number, refers to direct jobs. That number is unsubstantiated. No study has actually claimed or supported those numbers,” says Sean Sweeney, director of Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute.
Instead, says Sweeney, the actual numbers could be more like those published in a news release by the pipeline’s parent company, TransCanada, which said the project would produce 13,000 “person-years” of work. Over the two-to-three-year duration of the project, that would mean about 3,500 to 4,200 short-term construction jobs. This is the number that TransCanada provided to the State Department in its original permit request. The department has estimated the permanent jobs created as in the “hundreds.”