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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Union Prez: Keystone XL Could Cost Canada 36,000 Jobs

Americans opposed to TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline have some allies in Canada. No, not just the usual cast of fellow hippies and duck-lovers: Canadian workers realize that shipping tar sands oil south will also send good Canadian jobs to Texas:

Rammed through despite serious opposition, the first Keystone, built by TransCanada Corp., cost Canada thousands of jobs. An analysis by the Informetrica think-tank demonstrated that besides exporting 400,000 barrels of heavy crude a day, it also shipped out 18,000 high-paying Canadian jobs. Twice the size of TransCanada’s first Keystone is the new project, Keystone XL. It will shoot out 900,000 barrels of heavy crude in a one-way ride to the U.S. The number of jobs lost is expected to be more than double the 18,000 already gone.

These pipelines are sending our raw, unprocessed bitumen from Canadian tarsands to spanking new oil refineries in the U.S. It is the equivalent of shipping millions of raw logs for others to cut the two-by-fours and create the wood furniture. Like forestry, the best jobs are in processing. We are left with the tarsands’ massive mess. The Americans get the good jobs [David Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, "Pipeline Would Ship Oil and Jobs South," Toronto Star, 2010.08.08].

This Canadian labor position is no different from the position expressed by South Dakota politicians on value-added agriculture: basing your economy on the export of raw materials won't produce nearly as many jobs as developing your own capacity to process those raw materials into finished goods.

If the Keystone pipeline system is all about our great friendship with Canada, then do we really want to deny the Canadians 36,000 while leaving them with the environmental costs of the dirtiest oil in the world?
Bonus TransCanada notes:
  1. Keystone spokesman Robert Jones admits that TransCanada's withdrawal of its safety waiver request is mostly public relations: "We're trying to be responsive." Gee, how about being responsive to landowners' requests that you keep your darn pipeline off their land?
  2. In the same article, Jones also hints that I'm dead-on in assuming the waiver request withdrawal is motivated by economic realities of lower demand, not any concern for the environment: "If we ever needed to get to the ultimate capacity, that would depend on market conditions.... I don't see that happening in the foreseeable future." TransCanada will still build the pipe with thinner steel, and they'll keep that safety waiver request in their files, but the market doesn't have enough demand to justify the P.R. battle in the current unfavorable political climate.
  3. Montana has granted TransCanada condemnation powers to build Keystone XL. That means Canadians can take your land and your government won't stop them, just as happened here in South Dakota on the Keystone pipeline. Small consolation: Montana reversed an earlier denial of condemnation authority to TransCanada on the condition that TransCanada actually fulfill the "common carrier" definition and allow local oil producers to hook in and transport their product on the pipeline as well. If we can't stop Keystone XL, South Dakota should at the very least make the same demand for a true common carrier... or maybe a nice bike trail over the pipeline route!

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