Rhetoric gets turned up around Keystone XL
But a limp U.S. economy will win the day for TransCanada’s project
It’s been another wild month for TransCanada Corp.’s $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline as a decision by the U.S. State Department on the controversial megaproject draws near. Hundreds of protesters descended on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill this week to voice their opposition to the conduit, which would send Alberta oil sands crude to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
South of the border, things aren’t going a whole lot better. A TransCanada representative is being accused of flouting U.S. lobbying rules while trying to convince the Obama administration to approve Keystone XL. And the University of Nebraska abruptly ended a sponsorship with the Calgary-based pipeline company after fans attending a college football game in the state capital of Lincoln booed a video that featured TransCanada’s logo. (Note to TransCanada: upset the fans of the state’s beloved Cornhuskers football team at your peril.)
But TransCanada, perhaps sensing it’s been losing the public relations battle on this one of late, hasn’t taken these assaults lying down. On Monday it issued a press release announcing it is launching a series of ads featuring University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor Jim Goeke. In the ads, Goeke will tell Nebraskans they need not fear that a spill on Keystone XL will contaminate the Ogallala aquifer, which the pipeline will pass over on its route to the Gulf Coast. The aquifer provides the state with the majority of its drinking water.
Meanwhile, at a State Department public hearing on the pipeline in Port Arthur, Texas – a town that apparently has never met a refinery or a pipeline it didn’t like – the project was hailed as a job creator by most of the 500 people in attendance.
But does any of this noise really matter? You may have noticed the American economy isn’t doing so hot these days and President Barack Obama is under increasing pressure to do something, anything, to create jobs. There might be a certain amount of puffery in TransCanada’s claims that the Keystone XL project will create 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs and inject $20 billion into the U.S. economy, but it’s a big enough undertaking that it will certainly put many Americans to work, temporarily anyway.
So do jobs concerns trump environmental concerns for Obama with an election year looming? I think they do. All this bluster on both sides about the Keystone XL won’t stop the State Department from approving this thing.