The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Keystone XL: Put Workers to Work, Mr. President

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted April 30, 2012

Key points made by the president during Monday’s speech at a conference of the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department:

  • American workers in the building and construction trades literally built much of America’s overall progress.
  • Workers in these trades and others have been especially hurt by the economic downturn.
  • Past generations of American workers proudly built sweeping infrastructure projects.

The president:

“The last decade has been tough on everybody. But the men and women of the building and construction trades have suffered more than most. Since the housing bubble burst, millions of your brothers and sisters have had to look for work. Even more have had to struggle to keep the work coming in. And that makes absolutely no sense at a time when there is so much work to be done. And the worst part of it is that we could be doing something about it. I think about what my grandparents’ generation built: the Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Interstate Highway System.  That's what we do. We build.”

Unfortunately, there was no mention of the elephant in the room: the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline project that would put so many of these union workers and others to work. To be clear, the president used the speech to talk about building bridges, highways and airports. Apparently, there’s infrastructure and there’s infrastructure. Yet, it’s hard to believe that steel workers, pipefitters and other related trades would appreciate the distinction the administration makes between what it considers worthy job-creating projects and the Keystone XL, the largest shovel-ready infrastructure project around. In that context, the president’s blinkered view of putting Americans to work is remarkable.

More from the president:

“I’ve said now is the time do this; interest rates are low, construction workers are out of work. Contractors are begging for work, and the work needs to be done. … It shouldn’t be that hard. Not everything should be subject to thinking about the next election instead of thinking about the next generation. Not everything should be subject to politics instead of thinking about all those families out there and all your membership that need work -- that don’t just support their own families, but support entire communities.”

Yes, Mr. President, the workers are waiting. They’ve been waiting for approval of the Keystone XL project for more than three years. It would be part of an overall strategy that could create up to a half-million U.S. jobs by 2035 – a “no-brainer,” according to Canada’s prime minister, but a political dilemma by the president’s thinking.

One final disconnect: The president’s speech inveighed against Congress for not passing job-creating legislation and vowed executive action. The Keystone XL waits only on the president. No action by Congress, no coaxing of private investment is needed. Give the word, Mr. President, and this project can get under way, putting thousands of Americans to work and helping make America’s energy future more secure.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.