Hit & Run

Hack Watch: With Keystone, the Left Suddenly Notices Most Infrastructure Jobs Are Temporary

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Keynes would be all "With friends like these …" if he weren't dead.
Credit: USACE HQ / photo on flickr

It appears as though the Senate is one vote short of getting the votes it needs to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and push it forward to President Barack Obama to possibly sign or veto. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who is facing a run-off re-election for the Senate and desperately needs some sort of a win before December, is trying to whip up support among Democrats. If she fails, obviously Keystone will be back before a Republican Senate (possibly without her).

Obama recently commented on the pipeline in a fashion that suggests that he understands the new party dynamics in play in Washington. Ha, ha, no I'm just kidding. He is full of partisan bullshit. Here's what he said last week:

"Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn't have an impact on US gas prices," he said, growing visibly frustrated.

"If my Republican friends really want to focus on what's good for the American people in terms of job creation and lower energy costs, we should be engaging in a conversation about what are we doing to produce even more homegrown energy? I'm happy to have that conversation," he continued.

Because, you know, increasing the supply of oil "everywhere else" won't also supply downward pressure on oil prices produced by other nations and sold to the United States. Perhaps the prices of goods at Walmart are completely unrelated to the prices of goods at Target, right? People just shop where they shop and never look for bargains. It's not like fracking in the United States has caused OPEC to drop oil prices to compete or anything, right?

But even more absurdly, there is now a talking point that KeystoneXL maybe isn't so great because it actually doesn't produce a bunch of jobs. The job numbers people are tossing about are only temporary. This is technically true, but the absurdity comes from these same folks pushing other infrastructure and energy projects that have the same fundamental "flaw" (scare quotes because it's not a flaw). Most of the jobs touted by these projects are only temporary. Fixing roads and bridges, something Obama keeps hammering about? Those are all temporary jobs. The "homegrown energy" projects Obama mentions? Mostly temporary jobs!

CNN's Van Jones noted the temporary nature of the KeystoneXL jobs back in February, prompting a Politifact check declaring his claim it would create only 35 permanent jobs to be true. Some have been attempting to claim that there would be thousands of permanent jobs, so it's not as though Politifact is carrying water for the left and advancing a one-sided argument in this particular case. I looked to see if they were fact-checking other exaggerated claims of permanent jobs from infrastructure projects that the left loves, and they dinged Charlie Crist for saying that Florida Gov. Rick Scott's rejection of federal stimulus money to build high-speed rail eliminated the possibility of 60,000 jobs. Those jobs were mostly temporary, Politifact points out.

But for pundits and politicians, trying to use the temporary nature of the KeystoneXL jobs is pure hackery entirely because so many projects near and dear to the Obama administration and any Democrat looking to bring home the bacon heavily depend on temporary jobs. That massive Ivanpah solar project I wrote about last week? The one that got $1.6 billion in federal loans and is now looking for hundreds of millions in federal grants to help pay off its federal loans because it's not producing nearly as much energy as it promised? It produced more than 2,000 temporary construction jobs and only 86 permanent jobs. These are their own numbers from their web page.

Now take a look at this self-promoting hackery from Bob Keefe of Environmental Entrepreneurs (featuring an embedded advertisement from NRG, which operates the aforementioned Ivanpah solar project) at the Huffington Post:

Keystone XL will create about 35 full-time jobs and 15 temporary jobs, according to the U.S. State Department's analysis. Granted, about 1,950 construction jobs will be created, but those jobs -- while important -- disappear after the pipe goes in the ground.

Clean energy companies, meanwhile, announced more than 18,000 jobs in more than 20 states in just the last three months alone, according to the latest report from my organization, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). See the full report here.

Thanks for the link, Keefe! Did you check out the report yourself? Because thousands of those jobs are also only temporary. From his own organization's report:

Solar generation accounted for 4,600 announced jobs — three quarters of clean power generation's total. All the announcements came from companies with operations in states that have strong public policies designed to expand solar power generation, including California, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Maryland. For example, nearly 2,000 announced solar construction jobs came from California's Imperial, Merced and Madera counties. ­… Duke Energy expects to complete three utility-scale solar PV projects next year, bringing 800 construction jobs to Bladen, Duplin, and Wilson counties.

These are temporary jobs. More than half the solar power generation jobs he is promoting are only temporary, but note the absence of the word in the text. The charts in their report do not differentiate between permanent or temporary jobs, but Keefe is more than happy to critique the nature of Keystone's employment to serve his own agenda.  

(Hat tip to William Freeland for pointing out this trend)