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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

With the Keystone XL pipeline stalled again, now perhaps we can look ahead and consider more promising ways to rebuild our energy system, creating many more jobs than that controversial project ever would. No matter where we look, the far larger issue that still confronts Americans is decaying infrastructure — which emphatically includes the enormous web of oil and gas pipelines crisscrossing the continental United States in every direction.

When TransCanada CEO Russ Girling touted Keystone as an engine of employment on ABC News’ This Week last Sunday, he insisted that its construction would create 42,000 jobs. Not only would his venture create those 42,000 “direct and indirect” jobs, boasted Girling, but those positions would be “ongoing and enduring” rather than temporary, like most construction jobs — citing a State Department study that drew no such conclusions. A company spokesman later tempered Girling’s pronouncements, more or less acknowledging that they were grossly exaggerated. The number of permanent jobs when construction is completed would top out at around 50. With or without Keystone, the national economy already produces about 42,000 jobs every week, so it just doesn’t matter much.

Yet even if Keystone would actually result in tens of thousands of permanent jobs, its expected impact on the environment, health and safety raised grave questions about whether it should be permitted to proceed. But there are pipeline projects of unquestioned value that could create far more jobs for many more years that any of Keystone’s promoters ever contemplated.

Rather than a new pipeline for the dirtiest tar-sands fuel, what America needs is a commitment to repair the “leaks and seeps” that have made the old network of pipelines into a continuing danger to health and safety, air and water – as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka noted in a 2013 interview with The National Memo. The labor chief estimates that a serious program of repair to degraded oil and gas facilities would mean at least 125,000 jobs a year – three times as many as Keystone – and they would continue for decades.

In that brief remark, Trumka alluded to an important point: With more than 2.5 million miles of corroding underground pipes, often made of steel or cast iron laid decades ago, the likelihood of deadly and potentially catastrophic accidents increases every year. Fuel and fumes that escape old pipelines every day, along with occasional large spills of petroleum products, pour carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as well.

Using pipelines to transport natural gas and hazardous liquid fuels is generally safer than the alternatives of road and rail, but when pipeline accidents happen, they can be devastating – as we have learned in recent years from the tragic explosions in San Bruno, CA, which killed eight people and razed dozens of homes, and in Allentown, PA, which killed five people and destroyed 50 buildings.

Officials in Michigan are concerned about the condition of 61 year-old pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet – and where, if the pipelines failed, a ruinous oil spill could conceivably leave the Great Lakes in the same ruinous condition as the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. And New York officials worry every day about the perilous state of the city’s gas mains, aging and decrepit, which exploded in East Harlem last March, killing and injuring dozens of people and causing millions in property damage.

An investigation by reporters at Pro Publica, the nonprofit news service, revealed that over the past three decades, pipeline accidents accounted for more than 500 deaths, over 4,000 injuries, and almost $7 billion in property damage – numbers that will swell in the years ahead unless repairs and inspections are stepped up drastically. At the moment, replacing only the most dangerously corroded pipes in New York’s Con Edison system is estimated to require $10 billion and 30 years of construction.

The upside of this looming threat is that confronting it would create hundreds of thousands of permanent, well-paid jobs while preserving the environment and improving public safety and health. Like so much of the incredible infrastructure left to us by previous generations, the pipelines need to be maintained, modernized, or mothballed for the sake of the future. Politicians and their paymasters may prefer to look the other way, but it is a responsibility we cannot escape.

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Copyright 2014 The National Memo
  • Dominick Vila

    The idea that building a pipeline across the USA to transport highly corrosive sand tar petroleum from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico for export to China because it may create a couple of thousand temporary jobs is absurd. Why should we risk our environment and heritage to ensure the Koch’s brothers Trans-Canada can profit? This is, by far, one of the most outrageous proposals, and one of the most overt examples of servitude to political donors, by those who love to wrap themselves in the flag…until there is a buck to be made.
    Kudos to the Canadian people for opposing the destruction of their environment by building that pipeline across their country, to the Canadian West Coast, and leaving the Koch’s no choice but to do the next best thing. That is, convincing pathetic, treacherous, American politicians to sell their country for a dime.

    • ps0rjl

      I couldn’t agree more with you. Someone should ask them why we should have a pipeline laid in our country when British Columbia, one of their own provinces, wouldn’t agree to let them lay it across their province.

      • Eleanore Whitaker

        According to the BC government, Keystone was “the greatest potential environmental disaster” (Calgary Sun newspaper 2006)

      • Dominick Vila

        I don’t blame the Canadians for taking steps to preserve their environment and their heritage, I blame the American politicians determined to do what their master is asking them to do in exchange for donations, even though they know that what they are pursuing may have disastrous consequences for the USA.

        • JPHALL

          They, the politicians, do not care. They figure that when the trouble starts they will be dead or able to move somewhere safe.

  • Whittier5

    Let’s face Facts. Republicans Lie Big Time All of the Time.

    There is nothing to recommend the Keystone Pipeline or the Tarsand oil to the American People.
    – The Profit will go to Red China, Koch Industries and Halliburton
    – For 2 years, Only 2,500-4,000 Jobs will be created They will then disappear.
    – The oil in the sludge is NOT for American consumption, but Red Chinese.
    – The #2 Investor in mining and pipeline project is Red China
    – The route to Houston is to get the sludge to a deepwater port
    – Once refined, the resultant “oil” will be loaded onto Supertankers
    – What happens to the remaining toxic tarsand? It will end up as a “mountain range” of tar-sanddunes on the Texas Gulf Coast.
    – The “oil”-laden Supertankers will transit the newly deepened and widened Panama Canal and head to Red China
    _ We the People will get to pay for any Spills or wind-blown tarsand residue
    – We will get to see the sea levels rise faster and breath in the particulate matter that blows across the Pacific – and it does.

    Yet, Sens Hoeven (R-ND) and McConnell (R-KY) hold such a Belief in American Stupidity and Mis-information that they have the huevos to pose on camera and Big Lie to the People.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    I frequently read the Calgary Sun newspaper and Canada’s National Post for almost a decade. (I have several friends who live in Alberta). In August 2000, I visited Alberta and British Columbia. I saw the Hardisty Tar Sand Oil site. Here’s what I saw. Gouged out areas of lower mountain ranges, water cannons shooting out millions of gallons of water per hour as an oil/water separator, huge piles of tar sand remants on the perimeter of the Hardisty site and trucks hauling away the separated oil.

    In 2006, then Alberta Premier Ralph Klein invited then President George W. Bush to visit the Hardisty site, as reported by the Calgary Sun and National Post. In 2006, Alberta had already burgeoned from a stable population of 900,000 which was causing several economic problems as a result of a massive housing glut. In 2007, these two papers reported that the Keystone Pipeline was a done deal between the Bush Administration and the Canadian Government, (seizing on a huge financial opportunity at the expense of American taxpayers.) In summer 2007, Bush invited Klein to DC to finish the “deal.” Bush and Klein were certain Keystone was “a done deal.” All they had to do was get it passed by a GOP controlled House and Senate. Hence, the 2010 push by the GOP to take House control needed to disperse tax dollars for Keystone.

    Later, in 2008, both Canadian papers began to report on details of the pipeline and estimated that “thousands of jobs” would be created for “Canadians” both at Hardisty and in the pipeline installation itself.

    The only hitch was land owned in affected states from Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and two other states. The reality is that Texas Big Oil had already begun to lay pipeline in Montana and Nebraska forcing landowners in these states to hand over their properties to CanOil. In effect, allowing Canada to own US land. See the danger in that yet?

    Keystone flies directly in the face of what most Americans want: An end to fossil fuel holding all of us hostage. And if you think Big Oil doesn’t do that, take a good long look at how many other “industry” giants are tied to Big Oil, notwithstanding, Big Insurance and a host of others.

    The GOP will keep pushing this. They own the Koch brothers huge for campaign promises they made to get Keystone through whether or not American taxpayers will pay for it.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    All anyone has to do is talk to residents of Lac la Biche, Alberta to see what happened to the Bow River there…it’s polluted from Hardisty’s leachate into this huge river that spans from the eastern part of Alberta to the northernmost region.

  • FT66

    NO, NO, NO to the Keystone XL pipeline. Who came with such a terrible idea? What was he or she thinking? It is better to leave behind mega debts for future generation than constructing such a ticking bomb of which no matter how many days it will stay intact, there will be one time it will burst and cause unthinkable catastrophe. By the way, who will own the pipeline? Will it be Canada or China? And how much will they pay to US by passing through the pipeline in a land which is not theirs? And for how long (how many) years the payment will take?

  • oldtack

    The pipeline is a blatant example of our leaders in Washington being bought and paid for to do the bidding of Big Business. Degenerates enslaved to payoffs to keep control of our government. If British Colombia blocked the pipeline from being built across Canada to the deep ports on the West Coast do you not think they had a valid reason for so doing? Look at the pollution, look at the environmental impact from the “junk” that is piled up at the sites and at the refineries. Does this “oil” come to the USA for our usage? NO. This stuff will be transported across our aquifers to our refineries and then shipped to China. All we will reap is temporary jobs for construction and all the toxic waste that will pollute our land. what I see is that through money greed and lust for power America has declined from a Great Nation to a third world country. We are no longer mass producers. We are now Consumers. Where are your clothes made? Where is your furniture and appliances made? Where is 90% of your vehicles, industrial equipment made? Wake up people. We are fast approaching the time we will become nothing more than a Third World Country manipulated by the Power Brokers that have bought our Government. . .

  • latebloomingrandma

    This is an article filled with common sense. Can we ever expect the Congress to act with anything resembling common sense? The fact that some say approving the Keystone XL is a”no-brainer” tells you where we are.
    Today on Morning Joe, a reporter for the NY Times was on and stated that this project holds little potential for environmental damage. Since when did this assessment happen? For years now, all I’ve heard was the opposite! Which is it?
    Soooo—sending this thick, toxic oil across America’s breadbasket and close to clean water aquafiers for oh, a thousand miles or more, what could possibly go wrong? Especially since this Congress and many businesses do not want to put any amount of investment money into the maintenance into infrastructure that is crumbling. I guess the policy is just wait till buildings blow up, clean air and water are contaminated, new cancers develop, levies are breached, people drown, etc., etc.; and of course, if there is a Democratic President, just blame him.
    Investment is demonized as tax and spend or as big bad government. I don’t think the farmers in the mid-west are happy about this pipeline, not the Native Americans whose treaty will be broken.

    • FT66

      Not only on Morning Joe reporters are misleading people, I heard also last night Gorge Will (Fox News) attacking the President when he said the oil is not ours. The President is quite right it is not ours. The oil will be transported to China. US can’t sacrifice all that much, just because of easing the oil price on Global Market.

  • dana becker

    Republicans don’t care about jobs and everything they are saying about this pipeline is a lie. Just like the lies from the people who benefit from it.

    “he insisted that its construction would create 42,000 jobs. Not only would his venture create those 42,000 “direct and indirect” jobs, boasted Girling, but those positions would be “ongoing and enduring” rather than temporary, like most construction jobs — citing a State Department study that drew no such conclusions. A company spokesman later tempered Girling’s pronouncements, more or less acknowledging that they were grossly exaggerated. The number of permanent jobs when construction is completed would top out at around 50. …”

    Why does anyone believe anything they say when they always LIE?

  • dana becker

    Whatever the Republican say about something you should take the opposite view if you want the truth.

  • dana becker

    FAX BOMB CONGRESS. Tell them in no uncertain terms you don’t want this and you will be watching them. It certainly can’t hurt. Do it now. I did it.

  • halslater

    If you stop listening to their words and simply watch the consequences of their actions, the GOP stands for one thing: corporate welfare, the transfer of wealth from the majority of Americans to their cronies. It is their only consistency.

    The best approach is like this article, take one of their supposed “values” and point it toward a truly productive and mature action like taking care of the stuff we already have and have let fall into decay. There will be push-back from the whiners in the oil industry but it will be hard for the remainder of them to resist.

    BTW: Who still has a FAX machine? lol

    • Billie


  • Lynda Groom

    The argument today over the Keystone pipeline is not about JOBS, and it never has been. This is purely political theater designed to keep the voters distracted from real problem that need to be addressed. Governing is hard, so the GOP is doing all possible to avoid it.

  • Six Edits

    Man-made global warming cannot be proved. It’s an ever-shifting mirage of illusions conjured up to exploit the sympathies of the gullible.

    • Rippie

      Even that wet-brained moron the Shrub finally admitted the problem in the last quarter of his presidency, much to the anger of denial idiots like you. Do you also crap in your dish at dinner and in your bed, too? Just crap up everywhere you go and everything you do?

      That’s what human caused climate change is all about: And you DON’T crap where you eat!

    • Mortalc01l

      NASA and every single institute that deals with Climate Change in the entire World disagree with you.: Find me ONE single recognized University, Academy of Science, or similar that has refuted Climate Change – You can’t find a single one, because there ARE none.

      • Rippie

        Well, that’s not true, though I think he’s out of his mind given that MIT is a major collector of and analytical compiler of raw and collated data on the matter. Check out Richard Lindzen’s Wiki: as a starting point. The rightwingtardz LOVE to quote him. I’ve read a few of his analyses and for a smart guy, and he is that, he’s a dumbazz, too. Check him out so you know what your opposite number relies upon.

    • highpckts

      Oh for God’s sake, spare us your ignorance!!

  • Lord_Reaper

    This would be a total disaster for the United States. That just goes to show how ignorant republiCONs are. F

  • Rippie

    KXL is typical GOP crap. WE get to destroy environment. WE get to take the risk of moving another country’s oil. WE get to take the risk in refining that oil. WE get to take the risk in offloading it for shipping.

    What do WE get in exchange? NOT ONE DROP OF THE FINISHED REFRACTED PRODUCTS. NOT ONE DROP. So it does not help our energy profile whatsoever, though we do get to use energy to produce their products.

    WE get a FEW DOZEN permanent jobs. Wheee.

    WE get paid landlease fees, etc. SO, why do this when Canada has all the real estate they need to pipe or rail-transport their oil to a refinery THEY can build on their BC coastline.

    But none of that will happen. Why?

    Because they can pay us to take the huge risks, lining Rethuglican pockets.

    And they are about to get away with it.


    • 1standlastword

      You forgot we get to process and store the toxic waste when the pipes blow

      • Rippie

        Oh yes. Something else to which we can look forward with delight.

        Future bliss.

  • Billie

    What would be coming down that pipeline is shale oil. Full of rocks. If there is a break in the pipeline it forms balls of oil and will not float to the top as other oil would. It would take years,if ever, for the water to become usable again. Most common oil will float to the top and eventually the water would be usable again. It isn’t just for use in the home it would be fish and wild life that drink the water.

    • 1standlastword

      If we apply a disaster capitalism paradigm it would create lots of jobs for a very long time to excavate trillions of tons of contaminated soil….think of the jobs

      Additionally, think of all the medical jobs and pharmaceutical jobs created from treating disease from particulate exposure.

  • highpckts

    Yep, Congress will get right on that! When the Senate gets their new members, this will come up again and guess what? Greed wins out over pollution and ruined water. Fixing what we have is so much more sensible, but, hey, we don’t get a say in anything anymore. I think that everything that Congress wants to do should come up for a vote from the people. After all, they are there to represent us right? We could vote via internet. Have you ever had a Rep or Senator of your district ask you what you wanted done? Me neither!

  • jamesowens

    canada wont let the oil company pipe it across their country because of the polution and their politicians cant be bought off so again the American public gets screwed so the oil companys can make billions and spread the wealth to the GOP .
    The lies the GOP has spread about jobs is total BS as there will be less than 10,000 us jobs during construction and the canadian company that will be running the show says that after completion there will be less than 50 jobs for Americans but the republicans wont tell you about that part and faux news avoids those facts like the plague.

    • Allan Richardson

      Generally, Faux avoids ALL facts!

      • jamesowens

        agreed ihink dooocy an company would break out in a rash if they ever told the truth.

  • 1standlastword

    Life is not going to get any better for Mr. Obama while he’s president of these (un) United States.

    He has to VETO this stinker so that “WHEN” it causes a MAJOR environmental disaster it doesn’t fall back on his legacy.

    The Goppers play hardball and they play dirty and they play winner takes all. They’ve already projected the profits for Big Oil, the investors and CEOs: that is a number nobody talks about while all they talk about is a temporary bump from contractor job and a paucity of maintenance jobs so that they can sell this wooden nickel to the mostly lame brained conservative constituent and bash Obama for potentially rejecting it.

  • Jon Johnston

    A quick climate fact: So far, 2014 has been the coldest year on record in the north-east US.