Oil Industry Co-Opts Occupy Movement to Sell the Keystone XL Pipeline

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The AFLCIO‘s America’s Building Trades Unions and Oil and Natural Gas Industry Labor-Management Committee are attempting to co-opt the Occupy movement with a new initiative to try to get the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline approved. Jobs for the 99% likens the growing celebrity support against the Keystone XL pipeline to an occupation of sorts. “Celebrities are taking over DC” the website says, and “Hollywood’s elite 1% should stop flying to DC and speaking out against jobs that help the other 99% of America!” 

Pitting celebrity support of anti-Keystone efforts against average Americans, “Jobs for the 99%” tells us that wealthy celebrities are killing valuable jobs, and that by telling the White House to support Keystone XL, “we” can act in solidarity with the 99%. 

You gotta hand it to them, it’s a bold move. But here’s why it’s misleading and you shouldn’t buy it. Hijacking the occupy movement to create a climate killing pipeline is a boon to the 1% who will harvest the profits. The 99% only get a few short term jobs (or not), not long term sustainable employment. That’s why oil and gas companies, some of the largest and most notoriously corrupt corporations in the world, are backing this astroturf campaign with some serious funding.

And they’re handing down the public health and environmental costs associated with a potential spill – and the “game over” climate change that expanding tar sands production will cause – back to the 99%.

Jobs for the 99% reads a lot like a TransCanada advertisement. It details favourable industry information on Keystone and proposed Keystone XL pipelines and urges viewers to ‘have their voice heard’ by calling the White House directly through the website to urge Obama to support the pipeline.  
 
But Jobs for the 99 have their facts wrong in major ways. 
 
A “facts page” about Keystone XL lists the supposed benefits, including “20,000 immediate private sector jobs”, economic growth, and local tax revenue benefits of the pipeline. Actually, it will not create nearly the number that the oil industry suggests, and while a TransCanada-financed study says the project will create 20,000 temporary jobs, the State Department’s analysis says the pipeline will realistically create only 5,000-6,000 temporary construction jobs for three years. And a Cornell study [PDF] suggests the Keystone XL project may actually cost more jobs than it creates by driving up the cost of gasoline.
 
The “Jobs for the 99%” website also maintains that the pipeline will be built with “safety and quality construction”. But if we judge by TransCanada’s spill record, we shouldn’t be convinced. Since its Keystone I pipeline came online in June of 2010, it suffered a dozen spills – more than any other first-year pipeline in U.S. history. That is particularly troubling since the Keystone XL would cross one of the largest aquifers in the world – the Ogallala – which supplies drinking water to millions of mid-Westerners and provides 30% of the nation’s groundwater used for irrigation.
 
The website boldly claims that the pipeline will “help reduce our dependency on oil from the Middle East”. But TransCanada’s own research demonstrates the folly of this claim. The Keystone XL pipeline was never meant to decrease our reliance on foreign oil, just to keep Gulf Coast refineries at capacity and enable exports to overseas markets. Global demand for oil keeps going up, and a marginal shift in Canadian and US consumption will be offset by growing demand from other countries, keeping prices high. 
 
The viewer is told that if the pipeline is not approved, Canada will simply sell its oil to Europe or Asia. But research shows that much of the oil is actually destined for foreign markets anyway. Plus oil goes to the global marketplace, not directly into the gas tanks of Americans.
 
The Oil and Natural Gas Industry Labor-Management Committee website is “under construction,” but their Facebook page links to http://energytomorrow.org, an American Petroleum Institute site. API represents the interests of the 1%. 
 
People certainly need jobs and are looking for them. But let’s be clear: if we want to create a lot of jobs, we should work to create a a clean energy economy that will create lasting jobs and a sustainable future, not more short-term profits for rich oil executives.  

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