The final State Department report on the Keystone XL pipeline’s environmental impact is expected in a matter of weeks. Yet, the administration continues to send mixed messages as to which direction it is leaning. If the government announced it would make no sense to rebuild the World Trade Center in New York because when finished it would create only 50 jobs for maintenance people, you would laugh yourself silly. Yet that’s the line of argument President Obama used recently while talking about the Keystone XL pipeline project that, to appease environmental activists, he has blocked for the past five years.
“They keep on talking about this—an oil pipeline coming down from Canada that’s estimated to create about 50 permanent jobs—that’s not a jobs plan,” he said.
By Obama’s calculus, the 5,000 to 6,000 jobs a year created in the construction of the pipeline (State Department estimate) or the “approximately 42,100 average annual jobs across the United States over a one-to-two-year period” with wages totaling $2 billion the project would support (also State Department) are to be dismissed. These jobs include the manufacture of steel, the people making the pipe, and the waitresses and hotel workers.
No one knows better than the major labor unions—which support building the pipeline—that the entire construction industry is based on a continuing series of single projects, be they roads, buildings, bridges, or other structures.
Sean McGarvey, president of the AFL-CIO Construction Trades Department, which represents 13 unions, makes the point: “The interstate highway system was a temporary job; Mount Rushmore was a temporary job. If they knew anything about the construction industry they’d understand that we work ourselves out of jobs and we go from job to job to job.”