Two Years after Obama’s Visit to Cushing, Numbers Show Economic Value of Keystone XL

Two years ago this Saturday, President Obama travelled to Cushing, Oklahoma to announce his support for the Gulf Coast Project – the southern leg of Keystone XL.  At that time, he said he would be directing his administration “to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.” Here are some of the highlights of his speech two years ago:

  • “We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some”
  • “if we could, then we would be able to increase our oil supplies at a time when they’re needed as much as possible”
  • “the fact is that my administration has approved dozens of new oil and gas pipelines over the last three years -– including one from Canada.” 
  • “And as long as I’m president, we’re going to keep on encouraging oil development and infrastructure and we’re going to do it in a way that protects the health and safety of the American people.  We don’t have to choose between one or the other, we can do both.”

Ahead of the president’s visit to Cushing, White House press secretary Jay Carney explained the great job creating potential of this portion of the pipeline:

“Moving oil from the Midwest to the world-class, state-of-the-art refineries on the Gulf Coast will modernize our infrastructure, create jobs, and encourage American energy production.”

Two years later, the project is now complete and oil is flowing through the pipeline.  And it has certainly delivered on the jobs – 4,844 of them. As TransCanada has reported,

  • Construction of the 487-mile crude oil pipeline involved more than 11 million hours of labor completed by 4,844 workers in the United States of America, more than 50 contracts with manufacturers and companies building the pipeline and equipment from across the U.S. It also includes the addition of 2.25 million barrels of new oil storage capacity at Cushing, Oklahoma.

Those 4,844 workers, along with thousands of others across the country are now ready to get started on the northern leg of Keystone XL. Union boss Danny Henrix explained, “These jobs are really good-paying jobs. They provide not only a good living wage, they provide health care and they also provide pension.”  Henrix also stressed, “If the permit gets approved, we’ll start construction on the northern end of it immediately.

Many of the workers who completed the southern leg – especially members of the Pipeliners Local 798 – rallied last year in Tulsa, Oklahoma to encourage President Obama to approve the entire pipeline (for the video click here).  This location is fitting considering that, as the Tulsa World explained,

“[R]ig welders come from all over the United States to Tulsa to train.  They figure if this new pipeline gets started, 10,000 jobs will be created and some of those constructions jobs will start right here in Oklahoma.”

At the Tulsa rally, one union member, David Barnett, addressed clearly opponents’ claims about “temporary” jobs: “Tell me a job today that’s not temporary.  We’ve made a living all our lives off temporary jobs.”  The rally also included a group of veterans supporting the construction of Keystone XL.  As the Tulsa World reported,

“Mike Hazard, a Navy veteran who is the United Association’s training specialist for a program which prepares service people for careers in union fields, recalled his own experience getting a job after leaving the military.

‘I know what it’s like to come home and face uncertainty over how to make ends meet,’ Hazard said, also linking approval of the Keystone XL to geopolitical uncertainties in the oil-rich Persian Gulf and Venezuela. ‘If the Keystone XL isn’t approved, we’ll continue to reply on oil from unstable regimes.’”

At this point, the State Department has issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement finding, for the fifth time in five years, that construction of Keystone XL will have a negligible impact on the environment.

Poll after poll has shown overwhelming support.  A Washing Post/ABC News poll released last week found the highest support for Keystone XL in two years.  A new Pew poll released this week found not only that Democrats, Republicans and Independents want Keystone XL to be built, but that a majority of Democrats on low or fixed incomes support Keystone XL while wealthy Democrats oppose it.

Are these wealthy donors what’s holding up President Obama’s decision?  The southern leg of Keystone XL – the pipeline that President Obama praised for creating jobs and bringing energy security – is exactly the same pipeline that would traverse from Canada to the Gulf.

Mr. President, if it’s not for these wealthy campaign donors, what are we waiting for?

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