Jobs and the Keystone XL

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted January 13, 2015

As the Keystone XL pipeline debate in Congress continues, working Americans are pushing back against those – including President Obama – who dismiss as “temporary” the jobs the project would support.   

unionsNorth America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) published an open letter to members of Congress (left) that asks a simple question: “When did our careers and livelihoods become fodder for disdain and ridicule?”

Great question, because disparaging the more than 42,000 jobs Keystone XL would support during its construction – according to the U.S. State Department – has become a standard line of attack from Keystone XL opponents, from the president on down.

The union ad makes clear that those who work in the construction trades have had it with politicians who are double-tongued about the need to put Americans back to work and the need for infrastructure investment – while brushing off the way Keystone XL could help with both. From the ad:

“It is the height of hypocrisy for any politician – Democrat or Republican – to champion construction jobs out of one side of his or her mouth when talking about infrastructure investments and economic growth, and then turn around and curse these same jobs when they are associated with an issue such as the Keystone XL pipeline.”

The ad notes that the construction industry represents about 4 percent of U.S. GDP, and that more than 6 million Americans earn a living in that industry. It points out that projects such as the Hoover Dam, the interstate highway system and the new Freedom Tower in New York City are all examples of “temporary” construction projects.

NABTU President Sean McGarvey, in a separate letter to the House of Representatives earlier this month:

“In the five years that we have waited for a presidential decision on Keystone XL, more than 10,000 miles of pipelines have been constructed across America. … As if the persistent high unemployment in construction is not damaging enough, the over 6 million men and women who make their livelihoods in the construction industry must suffer the indignity of having their chosen careers demeaned by professional politicians as nothing more than ‘temporary’ jobs in the context of the debate over the KXL project.”

As Congress digs into the Keystone XL issue we need an honest, fact-driven debate. Especially when it comes to jobs and economic growth. Keystone XL’s relevance on those issues shouldn’t be confused by distortions and misrepresentations like those discredited by the Washington Post Fact Checker and the Tampa Bay Times’ PolitiFact.

These fall under the category of political gamesmanship – all too common in Washington – but hardly a game to American working men and women. They’re ready to work on an important piece of energy infrastructure that has strong support from American voters – the kind the president has been calling for all across the country:

It’s time to quit talking about job creation and infrastructure investment. It’s time to get busy doing it. It’s time to build the Keystone XL pipeline.


Mark Green joins API after spending 16 years as national editorial writer in the Washington Bureau of The Oklahoman newspaper. In all, he has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, including six years as sports editor at The Washington Times. He lives in Occoquan, Virginia, with his wife Pamela. Mark graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in journalism and earned a masters in journalism and public affairs at American University. He's currently working on a masters in history at George Mason University, where he also teaches as an adjunct professor in the Communication Department.

Energy Tomorrow is a project of the American Petroleum Institute – the only national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry – speaking for the industry to the public, Congress and the Executive Branch, state governments and the media.