We've talked a few times about the well-funded efforts by the oil and gas industry to make an electoral issue in Colorado out of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline–a shortcut from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada to Oklahoma and petroleum export terminals along the Gulf Coast. The industry and allied Republican politicos have expended tremendous time and effort into firing up the public to demand construction of this pipeline begin immediately–before environmental reviews are complete. That's not the way they characterize the issue, of course, but that's the bottom line.
Here in Colorado, despite the industry's insistence in paid advertising that the Keystone XL pipeline represents an essential battle for American freedom, there's never been much to get agitated about either way. The Keystone XL pipeline won't pass through our state, and Colorado already has pipelines connecting Commerce City to the oil sands region in Canada. Studies indicate that, far from an economic benefit to our state, completion of the Keystone XL will increase gas prices in the central United States including Colorado, since we'll be competing with export customers for Canadian crude oil.
We've discussed all of this in previous posts, but the fallacious arguments for Keystone XL from Colorado Republican politicos go on unabated. Yesterday, Pulitzer Prize-winning fact checker Politifact ripped GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner for claiming again, as he has many times, that Keystone XL would create "thousands of jobs in Colorado."
In the Colorado Senate race, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall recently voted against Congress fast-tracking the pipeline, but said the administration’s review process should continue. His likely Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, has called for swift approval, insisting it would be an economic boon to the state…
"The Keystone Pipeline would create good-paying jobs," Gardner said. "Not only where the pipeline is being built, good-paying construction jobs, but manufacturing and service opportunities in Colorado along with the Keystone Pipeline. We would create thousands of jobs in Colorado, if the Keystone Pipeline were to be built."
As Politifact explains, that isn't anywhere near accurate. Early estimates of "job creation" from Keystone XL reached into the totally ridiculous hundreds of thousands, figures which Politifact reports not even industry proponents use anymore. According to the State Department's latest analysis, if the construction of Keystone XL lasts two years, roughly 8,000 temporary construction jobs would be created. Adding reasonable multipliers for indirectly created jobs from that economic activity results in something like 40,000 "job years," or individuals employed for a one-year period as a direct or indirect result of the project–with some 30,000 of those outside states where the pipeline will be located.
The bottom line is, "multipliers" to account for "indirect job creation" are a major fudge point for political prevaricators. But for argument's sake, let's say they're right. How many jobs, direct or indirect, would Keystone XL create in Colorado?
Ian Goodman, who co-authored a Cornell University study of the pipeline, said it’s unlikely that Colorado’s chunk of those 30,000 jobs would reach the thousands…In a rosy scenario, Goodman estimated that at most 1,400 additional jobs could be created in Colorado, but more likely it will be less, perhaps closer to 500. [Pols emphasis]
As we’ve noted in the past, too, almost all of these jobs are not permanent, as is often the case with construction projects. The State Department found the pipeline would create 35 permanent jobs and 15 temporary jobs once it went into operation.
So yes, there would be some number of temporary jobs created in Colorado by the construction of Keystone XL. Colorado has a robust petroleum services sector, with plenty of qualified workers who could supply the construction effort. But it's nothing earth-shattering for our state's already booming oil industry, and to say that "thousands of jobs in Colorado" are riding on the Keystone XL is simply not true. And if you really want to get into the weeds about it, are 500 temp jobs worth as much to Colorado's economy as the higher gas prices forecast by Keystone XL's completion will hurt?
There are plenty of arguments worth having in Colorado this election season. Keystone XL isn't one of them, but it may prove valuable for snaring Gardner in another demonstrably false statement.