In what is becoming an annual tradition, Republican Representative Paul Ryan has put forth his budget plan for the coming fiscal year. Ryan’s previous budget proposals were approved by the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, but rejected along party lines in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate.
Not unlike his previous budget plans, the new Ryan budget would be a disaster for the environment. In addition to cuts to crucial environmental and health programs, the budget would mandate immediate approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Like other proponents of the pipeline, Ryan cites the “large” numbers of American jobs that would be created by the construction and maintenance of Keystone XL. However, the massive job boon from Keystone is an industry myth, as reports – even those from TransCanada – show that the pipeline would only create a few thousand permanent jobs, so few that it would have almost zero impact on the unemployment rate in America. Ryan claims that the pipeline will bring at least 20,000 new jobs to America, and an additional 118,000 in indirect jobs. The State Department says that, in the end, only 35 new jobs would be created from the pipeline.
As Ben Geman at The Hill points out, the inclusion of Keystone XL shows how entrenched the modern Republican Party has become with the oil industry, and how essential the pipeline is in the Party’s negotiations with Democrats.
But Keystone is only a small part of the budget. Almost as troubling are the provisions within his plan that call for increased oil and gas drilling on federal lands. This is at a time when oil production in the United States has reached its highest levels in decades, while energy prices continue to climb, so it is unclear what economic benefits Ryan is expecting from increased drilling, other than padding the bottom line of the dirty energy industry.
Even though Ryan has taken a hatchet to many important programs in the budget, there is still one item that remains intact – The $4 billion a year in subsidies to the dirty energy industry.
While the budget would be a disaster for America, it would clearly have give an enormous benefit to the energy industry through the pipeline approval and the drilling expansions. For Ryan, this is a way to repay his campaign backers, who have poured a little over $264,000 into his coffers over the course of his career, which includes a healthy sum of $65,000 directly from Koch Industries.
Not unlike years past, Ryan’s budget stands little to no chance of actually being approved. The only thing it truly accomplishes is laying out the goals of his political party, which are clearly at odds with the well-being of the American public.