Business, Economics and Jobs

'Concerned' Republicans press Obama on Keystone pipeline jobs


The Keystone XL and the Northern Gateway pipeline face strong opposition from both sides of the border.


Saul Loeb

“Concerned” Republicans are questioning President Barack Obama’s statements about the Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying he should explain further why his job estimates are so low.

A trio of Representatives – Fred Upton, Ed Whitfield, and Lee Terry – wrote a letter to the president asking for a meeting and for the White House to address the approval process, Reuters reported.

“We are concerned that your recent statements have signaled an arbitrary and abrupt shift in how our nation approves cross-border energy projects,” the letter says.

On the weekend, Obama said Keystone would create only about 2,000 jobs, a drastic reduction from State Department estimates of 42,000. He also said Keystone’s approval would come if it met environmental standards.

Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. is attempting to build a pipeline from northern Alberta’s oilsands to refineries in Texas. Critics decry oilsands crude as “dirty” because of the extraction process.

The State Department is controlling the approval because the pipeline crosses an international border.

A former United States ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, is also lamenting Obama’s statements. Wilkins told Sun News that of all the nations that export oil to the US, Canada has the strictest environmental laws.

“That’s a real insult to Canada,” said Wilkins, ambassador from 2005 to 2009. “I can’t see us saying that to China or to other countries about ‘you’ve got to change your regulations in order for us to trade with you.’ … It’s not good policy. It makes very little sense.”

The pipeline is a divisive issue on both sides of the border; it’s also producing wildly divergent estimates on its economic impact.

The Canadian Press reported that Obama’s figures come from a Cornell University Global Labor Institute study, which suggests just 5,000 jobs over two years. That’s in comparison to TransCanada’s figure of 20,000.

Those aren’t the highest estimates, however, with the American Petroleum Institute once claiming 500,000 jobs and Texas Gov. Rick Perry suggesting “100,000 to one million” during the 2012 Republican presidential race, CP said.

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