By Rebecca Leber
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) insists that the GOP-led House will fight for the cash-rich oil industry at the expense of the middle-class payroll tax cut. “If that bill comes over to us,” he told reporters, “I will guarantee you that the Keystone pipeline will be in there when it goes back to the United States Senate.” Project advocates, who include Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, misrepresent its economic benefits to favor the oil industry, throwing out claims that Keystone XL creates “tens of thousands of jobs.”
However, studies conducted independently of TransCanada find much smaller jobs numbers, far from “tens of thousands.” An oil contractor hired by the State Department reported it would create between 5,000 and 6,000 temporary jobs, while an independent study by Cornell University found it would create only 500 to 1,400 temporary jobs. Once the costs of the increased pollution and risk of oil spills is factored in, Cornell found, the jobs impact is likely to be negative. The “118,000 spin-off jobs” number used by TransCanada received two Pinocchios from the Washington Post Fact Checker:
As opponents have documented, if the capital costs are lower than predicted, and if the multiplier is smaller, then the number of “spin-off jobs” can shrink dramatically. The same goes for the estimates of “permanent jobs,” which depend also on the price of oil.How did a grossly exaggerated number become the prevailing argument to build the pipeline? The reason is the oil lobby is in overdrive. At least 42 companies have lobbied on Keystone XL since 2009, and 33 actively campaigned in the most recent quarter.
Among the list of jobs that would be created: 51 dancers and choreographers, 138 dentists, 176 dental hygienists, 100 librarians, 510 bread bakers, 448 clergy, 154 stenographers, 865 hairdressers, 136 manicurists, 110 shampooers, 65 farmers, and (our favorite) 1,714 bartenders.
Congress’s best salesmen for the pipeline are conveniently the top beneficiaries of Big Oil donations. McConnell, who said he will oppose any payroll bill that doesn’t include the pipeline, is Senate’s biggest recipient of oil and gas money, receiving $199,000 this year. Boehner is one of the top 10 recipients in the House this year, and has taken in $434,050 from the industry over his career.
Pipeline supporters Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Judy Biggert (R-IL), and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) even own TransCanada stock.
If the numbers weren’t enough, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been bragging about its lobbying spree and influence on the Hill.