Wall Street Journal Whitewashes Keystone XL

In its sixth editorial pivoting off of Solyndra's bankruptcy, the Wall Street Journal claimed that two recent loan guarantees to clean energy companies amount to "$1.1 billion for 45 permanent jobs," while the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL oil pipeline extension “would create some 13,000 union jobs and around 118,000 'spin-off' jobs,” and “taxpayers wouldn't have to risk a dime.”

The Journal dismissed the temporary construction jobs that clean energy companies will create with their loan guarantees, but touted the “13,000 union jobs” that Transcanada claims it will create -- all of which are temporary construction-related jobs. And this figure is more than double the estimate conducted by the State Department, which projected a “peak workforce of approximately 5,000 to 6,000” to “construct the entire Project.” According to Cornell University's Global Labor Institute, both of those estimates include jobs that will actually be created in Canada. The Cornell report also said the study on which TransCanada bases its job claims is “so opaque as to make meaningful review impossible.”

As for those “118,000 'spinoff' jobs” -- the study, which was commissioned by TransCanada, actually estimated that Keystone XL would create 118,935 “person-years of employment” -- a person-year of employment is defined as the equivalent of one full-time job for one year. The director of the Cornell group predicted that people would confuse “person-years” for the number of jobs created. Sure enough, the Journal misrepresented the estimate.

And how about those risks?

Source: NOAA

Just over a year ago, the BP oil spill in the Gulf demonstrated just how dramatic the risks of oil production can be -- causing tens of billions of dollars in economic damage, and up to $670 billion in ecological and other damage. BP partly wrote off the costs for the clean-up, leaving taxpayers on the hook.

The risk of an oil spill is one of the primary reasons that many environmentalists oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. The current Keystone pipeline has leaked a dozen times in its first year of operation, including one leak of about 21,000 gallons in North Dakota. The Keystone XL pipeline would carry a component of tar sands (diluted by water) that environmentalists say is more corrosive than crude oil and will make the pipeline more prone to leaks. The EPA's analysis of Keystone XL found that “if a spill did occur, the potential for oil to reach groundwater in these areas is relatively high.” A study by John Stansbury of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that a worst-case spill in Nebraska could be disastrous since the pipeline would run across the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides drinking water for two million people.

On top of all this, the agency in charge of overseeing pipeline safety is chronically understaffed overly reluctant to “mandate safety improvements or to level meaningful fines for wrongdoing,” the New York Times reported. In 2010, pipeline spills and explosions killed 25 people and caused nearly $1 billion in property damage. Since 1990, pipelines in the U.S. have spilled more than 110 million gallons of crude and petroleum products:

Oil Spills

In order to make the Keystone XL pipeline seem like a steal, the Journal ignored the risks and exaggerated the employment benefits.