Keystone XL Jobs vs. Clean Energy Jobs

Keystone XL Jobs vs. Clean Energy Jobs

Gita Subramony for Zondits, December 12, 2014

With last month’s midterm election, Americans are now turning their attention to major policy issues for the next session on Congress. The Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast is receiving renewed attention, especially as Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu fights to keep her Senate seat. She is one of the few Democrats in favor of the project, and her support of the pipeline is tied to her seeking another term.

Keystone XL proponents claim that it will ease the transport of oil from Canada to the refineries. One of the major arguments for the project is that it will create jobs – through construction and permanent support roles – and spur economic development for Canada and the United States.

However, there are significant environmental costs to this project. Oil production and usage as a result of extracting Canada’s oil resources will contribute to North America’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which will in turn exacerbate climate-change effects. The pipeline will also threaten Canada’s endangered wildlife.

Additionally, a recent article pointed out that jobs related to Canada’s tar sands might not be as plentiful as clean energy jobs. Canada’s clean energy sector has grown from 2009 to 2013 by 37% and currently employs more people than the tar sands industry. The clean energy sector shows promise in terms of job growth for both efficiency and renewable energy, all while helping North America reduce GHG emissions and mitigate climate change effects. The data on job growth in these sectors will become more important as the Keystone XL pipeline debate continues. How much job growth due to the pipeline project will be a result of the construction phase (and thereby temporary)? Perhaps it is in the US and Canada’s interests instead to invest in job growth strategies that help ensure a more sustainable future.