The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Keystone XL: Real Jobs for Real People

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted February 19, 2013

Another “face” of the Keystone XL pipeline project is Billy Rogers, an employee of the Michels Corporation and a member of the Operating Engineers Local 139. Rogers is among 4,000 U.S. workers already building the southern leg of Keystone XL in Texas and Oklahoma – which didn’t need presidential approval to move forward. Rogers talked to reporters at an event on Tuesday hosted by the National Association of Manufacturers:

"Working on the Gulf Coast Project has afforded me a good income that allows me to support my family. In addition, the construction of this project has had a significant impact in the local communities in which we work as the hundreds of crew members spend their money locally in restaurants, grocery stores, shops – everyone is benefiting. … Contrary to what people may see or read, as a front-line worker on the Gulf Coast Project, I have personally witnessed the support from the local residents we deal with daily during construction. They are happy to see us. … It’s mind-boggling to see how far this spreads” economically.

Real jobs for real people. That’s what the full Keystone XL means – 20,000 building and construction jobs and the ability to support an additional 117,000 U.S. jobs associated with oil sands development by 2035, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute.

Rogers tells a compelling story – one that parallels a plea last week to put American building and construction workers back to work by Sean McGarvey, president of the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trade Department.

The result is a sharp contrast – between calls for more well-paying jobs for American workers that could be created with approval of the full Keystone XL, and the shifting rhetoric of the project’s opponents, which has been rebutted over the more than four years the pipeline has been reviewed by the administration.  Quick review:

  • Pipeline safety – Pipelines are the safest way to deliver petroleum products. Alex Pourbaix of TransCanada, the Keystone XL’s builder, noted that the U.S. already is served by 250 million miles of pipelines. On the Keystone XL, TransCanada has agreed to adhere to 57 special safety conditions related to its design, construction and operation, developed with the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
  • Emissions – A non-issue because the Keystone XL will have virtually zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, Pourbaix said.
  • Oil sands – The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers reports this crude has similar CO2 emissions to other heavy oils and is only 6 percent more intensive than the U.S. crude supply average on a wells-to-wheels basis – measuring CO2 emissions from production through combustion. Pourbaix said oil sands development represents just one-tenth of 1 percent of global GHG emissions.

So, two other points:

1) The United States needs a strong energy relationship with Canada, our No. 1 supplier of imported crude. The Keystone XL would bring more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil from domestic and Canadian sources – versus sources that often aren’t as friendly. API Executive Vice President Marty Durbin noted new polling that showed 69 percent favor the full pipeline’s construction and that 83 percent see the pipeline’s significance in strengthening U.S. energy security. “The public gets it,” Durbin said.

2) Canada will export oil sands crude with or without the Keystone XL. The New York Times’ Joe Nocera addresses activists’ claim that by choking off the supply of new oil sources like the oil sands the U.S. and perhaps the world will be forced to transition more quickly to green energy:

Can you see how backward this logic is? As Adam Brandt, an energy expert at Stanford University, pointed out to me recently, so long as the demand is there, energy producers are going to search for new supplies of fossil fuel — many of them using unconventional means … “With growing global demand, the economic pressure to develop unconventional resources is enormous and not going away,” he said.

America needs an all-of-the-above energy approach – not one that rejects energy from oil and natural gas that is the engine of our economy and foundation for our modern way of life – while offering no real energy alternative. We need all forms of energy, including wind, solar, biofuels, nuclear and others. But oil and natural gas are key to keeping the U.S. growing and prospering. As such, the full Keystone XL pipeline is a vital piece of energy infrastructure that must be approved and built.


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.