Keystone XL

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)

NEXT: Peter Suderman on Why Jonathan Gruber Is Very Much An Obamacare "Architect"

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  1. Sounds like some “shovel ready” bullshit, amirite?

    I’ll be here all week!

    1. Obama finds himself to be the stupidest person in Washington. until he throws a dart.

  2. If you’re the guy swinging the hammer or driving the loader or pouring the concrete, all of your jobs are temporary. That’s how construction works.

    I’m shocked that the left, with all of their deep ties to the working class and personal experience in manual labor, would forget that.

    1. They’re probably thinking of the Big Dig.

      1. Did that acutally last a full career’s worth of time?

        1. 1991-2006 according to Wikipedia.

        2. Did that acutally last a full career’s worth of time?

          Sure. As soon as they were finished building it, they started rebuilding it. Remember the tunnel ceiling that fell down?

      2. The Big Dig just shows how hard unions are working to make these temporary jobs into permanent ones.

    2. The left couldn’t understand market forces if you dropped a Wal-Mart on their heads.

    3. Having spent years in the construction industry I’ll testify that is exactly how it is.

  3. “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.”

    Someone should tell Obama that “elections have consequences”.

    1. Not for him, they don’t.

      1. We’ll see about that.

        When he goes after that climate change treaty in Paris come 2015, some of those Europeans are going to notice that Obama never bothered to submit his Chinese agreement treaty to his own legislature.

        …but they’re supposed to go take it on the chin from their own voters?

        Obama would love to wipe his rear end with European leaders–just like he did with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

  4. Is Obama getting noticeably dumber or is there a glitch with his teleprompter?

    Does he think the oil will flow through that pipe and get loaded onto a ship for free?

    1. And it’s not allowed to come back. Nope. None of it may be sold for any reason to US citizens. Or foreigners, lest it affect the international markets. Clearly, the plan is to torpedo the ships once they leave port. It’s a costly plan to be sure, but just think of the potential.

      1. Dammit, quit giving Krugman ideas!

        1. I admit, I snickered at the prospect of Krugman torpedoing Obama. Or is it the other way round? Maybe they can both fire some of those defective circular-run US torpedoes from WW II.

    2. Is Obama getting noticeably dumber or is there a glitch with his teleprompter?

      Does he think the oil will flow through that pipe and get loaded onto a ship for free?

      That is the real question. Is he really so clueless about economics that a half retarded Wal-mart could out-think him on that subject? Or is he really so diabolical that he’s willing to look like an economically illiterate potato to achieve his ill-intentioned policy objectives?

      I like to think he’s a bit of both. But it is really fascinating to think that he might actually believe the shit he says.

      1. half retarded Wal-mart shopper*

    3. I thought the plan was for the oil to openly discharge into the Gulf and then for the foreign profiteers to skim it out of the water onto their pirate ships that were obviously funded by the Koch Brothers.

  5. my roomate’s step-aunt makes $77 every hour on the computer . She has been fired for five months but last month her payment was $20090 just working on the computer for a few hours. site here…..

    ?????? http://www.payinsider.com

  6. I don’t think “hack watch” cuts it anymore. We’re beyond “hack” at this point. It’s now like “stupendous liar watch” or “unbelievably insulting about-facer watch” or something.

      1. “joe watch”

        1. Baywatch.

          Michael Bay, I mean.

          1. true artistic genius is never truly appreciated till years after its gone.

  7. Clearly the solution is to dig the pipe ditch with spoons, so that more jobs will be created. How low-productivity does a project have to be before it’s a good idea?

    1. Egyptian rock-pounders? It worked for the pyramids…

      1. Except the pyramids were probably built with the most efficient technology available at the time.

  8. 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.

    Good one, Scott.

    These people are insufferable. Hypocrites all.

  9. The new talking point, courtesy of the preternaturally vapid Bloomberg news hostess, is:

    “We don’t even need it, now, because gas prices are down. See how smart we are?”

  10. It doesn’t have an impact on US gas prices

    The ignorance…

    …it burns.

    Murika, this is the economic genius you elected to the highest office in the world. Dear, fucking, god!

    1. Dude, the left is slobbering over the idea of a president hillary. The very same woman who said “don’t let anyone tell you that businesses and corporations create jobs!”

      I don’t think it is ignorance. I think it is calculated evil.

  11. “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”.

    That this is wrong is obvious to every libertarian–and anyone who ever sat through the first day of Econ 101–but these kinds of blunders really do need to be emphasized to our progressive friends and family…

    I swear, Obama says something every day to the media that is fundamentally dumber than creationism, but I’ve met plenty of creationists who know that what Obama is saying about the economy there is dumber than Georgia dirt.

    Proud, left wing, Keynesian, neo-Marxists cringe when they hear Obama say something that stupid!

    This is the man that recreated Wall Street! This is the man that’s pushing for a climate change treaty in Paris come 2015! This is the man who wants the authority to negotiate more free trade agreements on our behalf! This is the man who fundamentally recreated our healthcare system by way of ObamaCare…

    And he doesn’t know the first thing about economics–nothing! He’d get laughed out of the first lecture in Econ 101.

    Progressives who believe what Obama says about the economy are dumber than creationists who get their science from the Bible.

    1. In their defense there are many many many republicans that believe the same things about commodities. The fact that this isn’t something that is instantly laughed about and pointed out as a gaffe of Biden like proportions points to deeper underlying problem. I for one blame public schools.

      1. To believe in creationism, you just have to believe that there’s an omniscient and omnipotent god.

        To believe what Obama says about how the economy works–and in his solutions–you have to believe that Barack Obama is both omniscient and omnipotent.

        Which one makes more sense? Who could look at what Obama’s done and think that?! Your average creationist is way smarter than that.

        1. I was just commenting to the general ignorance of even the most basic economic theory of the general population.

          1. I was just commenting to the general ignorance of even the most basic economic theory of the general population.

            THIS!

          2. Do you think your average uneducated self-identifying Republican voter is more or less a believer in free market capitalism than your average self-identifying progressive?

            1. I tend to think most voters are rational and vote in their perceived self interests (ie taxes, education, free shit and employment) rather than whether or not who they are voting for is a free market capitalist or not. Also your not comparing like and like as you should be asking the same question but with democrat instead of progressive(as that is not a party), in which case the answer is no.

              1. and no as in they are probably equal. Political Parties are more tribal than anything else.

      2. I for one blame public schools.

        You can blame lots of things on public schools. But I’m not so sure you can with this. A lot of the people pushing crap like this (including Obama) went to private schools.

    2. Amen, Ken. He is an economic retard. Literally doesn’t comprehend basic economic principle. There can only be two other options:

      1. He’s simply a fucking liar who will say absolutely anything to further his political agenda.

      2. He believes in magic.

      1. I’m voting for #2. Check out the academic world: there are dozens of people – highly educated – who will (& do) believe shit like this. To us, it would be believing in magic. To them, it is the power of superior intellect that average people don’t understand.

      2. I choose…..both.

      3. “1. He’s simply a fucking liar who will say absolutely anything to further his political agenda.”

        Yeah, I’m leaning towards his being an ignoramus who believes in magic, too, and the reason is because if he was lying, he’d be the most consistent liar in history.

        I mean, he’s lying, too, but he’s lying to favor his belief in magic–and his believe in magic is so consistent that it makes all of his lies blow in the same direction.

        You can’t accomplish six years of lying–all in the same direction–unless there’s some consistent belief (or ignorance) behind it.

    3. The downward pressure the pipeline will place on the oil markets is miniscule. Saudi Arabia manipulating prices at the request of the U.S. government to put pressure on Russia makes tons more difference. Meanhwile, human caused global warming is very real, and any statement to the contrary comes from those who stand to make short term billions from doing nothing about it.

  12. When Congressman John Shimkus cornered one of Obama’s dunces on the issue of whether she believed that supply and demand affect energy prices in the way basic economic theory suggests they do, she responded that it depends on the elasticity of the cost curve. NYT excoriated Shimkus for insulting her intelligence, but since when does anyone believe that demand for energy is perfectly inelastic? Democrats know it isn’t when they want to jack up the price of gas and “encourage” Americans to run their cars on unicorn blubber. He was trying discern whether she was ignorant or disingenuous, which is a fair question to ask of economics deniers.

    Add to that the fact that Obama himself would reportedly glaze over when his University of Chicago colleagues tried to explain basic economics to him. Does he disbelieve or simply lack the capacity to understand?

    So, the economic denial on the left is risible. It seems be a weird admixture of willful ignorance and dishonesty, and I don’t see the Democrats being able to argue in good faith long enough to get any more clarity than that.

    1. If you want people to use less fossil fuels, you use taxes or some other policy to raise the price. That way people buy less of it.

      If you want people to smoke or drink less, you use taxes or some other policy to raise the price. That way people buy less of it.

      If you want to help young and unskilled workers, you raise the price of hiring them. That way employers will hire more laborers.

      It all makes sense if you don’t think about it.

      1. Sadly, there are a good number of people who understand that, but still want a high minimum wage. Because it’s better to pay people not to work than for people to suffer the indignity of getting paid what their labor is actually worth.

        Which I guess ultimately comes back to feelings, like you always say. Even people who can understand the economic arguments and accept that they are true would rather go with the policy that feels good to them.

    2. Re: Marty Comanche,

      NYT excoriated Shimkus for insulting her intelligence, but since when does anyone believe that demand for energy is perfectly inelastic?

      I’ve sparred with a few nitwits on the web regarding the so-called elasticity of demand, informing my committed audience that the term is misleading. What one is witnessing is simply the difference between marginal utility and opportunity cost, which may be higher for fuel than for other things like, let’s say, refrigerators. Slight changes in fuel price is NOT going to suddenly change the opportunity cost schedule of most users, but that does not mean demand is “inelastic.”

      I always ask people who talk about price stickiness and demand elasticity why is it that when the government increases the taxes on cigarettes, the consumers continue to buy cigarettes? They reply to me that the demand for cigarettes is “inelastic”. I tell them that the prices are not THINGS that can hold on to dear life. What is going on is that the marginal utility of a pack of cigarettes is still high enough for the people who like to smoke cigarettes. What BAD economists are looking at is the flat demand curve between two discrete price points, making them think that demand is “inelastic”. But there will be a price point where the opportunity cost of buying a pack of cigarettes will be high enough to entice consumers to use their money on something different.

      1. But there will be a price point where the opportunity cost of buying a pack of cigarettes will be high enough to entice consumers to use their money on something different.

        Or simply turn to a black market.

        1. Re: LynchPin1477,

          Or simply turn to a black market.

          Indeed, but only in the case of an artificial arbitrage (e.g. a prohibition, consumption taxes or sin taxes, etc.)

  13. Let’s also not forget; those super awesome heavy infrastructure projects (like ten lane bridges over the Mississippi River) will somehow be done by out of work kitchen cabinet installers.

  14. Dammit, temp work on HSR is good! Temp work on a pipeline is bad!
    It has been so ruled.

    1. What about a high speed rail/oil pipeline combo line?

      1. Why would you put a pipeline on a high speed train? I’m not following.

  15. Granted, about 1,950 construction jobs will be created, but those jobs — while important — disappear after the pipe goes in the ground.

    It’s not fair; those people should have paychecks in perpetuity, just like government paper shufflers.

  16. Kind of OT, but do tar sands contain much in the way of useful fractions (gasoline, diesel, kerosene, etc.)? I’ve been scouting the intertubez but I can’t find an answer which doesn’t involve some sort of engineering degree to properly comprehend.

    1. This may be helpful:

      “They argued that by 2010, NERs (net energy returns) from oil sands mining and in situ operations had become significantly more energy efficient since 1970 although the NER remained significantly less efficient than conventional oil production. NERs from the oil sands, grew from “1.0 GJ/GJ in 1970 (entirely from the Suncor mining operation) to 2.95 GJ/GJ in 1990 and then to 5.23 GJ/GJ in 2010.” [13]

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E…..#Oil_sands

      If I understand that page properly, oil sands are getting better and better over time, but it’s still nowhere as good as it is with other sources by a long shot.

      I suspect if you included transportation efficiencies in your net extraction and cost model, something like the Keystone pipeline would serve to effectively improve the overall efficiency of those things from those oil sands.

      1. It is very helpful. Thanks 🙂

  17. “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”.

    Dog-in-the-Manger-ism. “If we cannot capture the entirety of the economic benefits of this, it’s not worth doing.”

    And yet, our Tonys and Shreeeks squeal in outrage when anybody suggests forcible government profit sharing plans might provide a disincentive to economic activity.

  18. I for one blame public schools.

    On this, we can all agree.

  19. I’m happy to have that conversation

    Just so long as he sets the terms of the conversation before hand.

    1. He did that long ago. The terms are simple: He talks, you nod in agreement.

  20. Just so long as he sets the terms of the conversation before hand.

    He talks. We hear and obey.

  21. Yeah, the jobs are temporary. They’ll finish building the pipeline, or the road, or the bridge. And then they’ll just go home and curl up in a ball?!?

    No, they’ll go on to build something else. In an increasingly prosperous society, there will be new things to build.

    You know how to make not just these projects, but these people’s employment, truly temporary? Make society less prosperous. By, oh, I don’t know, refusing to let people build stuff that other people need. Like an oil pipeline, for example.

  22. It’s all Gruber(*), anyway.

    (*)B.S.

  23. Awesome; the mentally unhinged left is now having to resort to the argument that production and exports don’t do anything for economic growth. Good luck selling mainstream America on that brilliant fucking argument there.

    Oh, and I love the phrasing of his statement, implying that oil just goes through a pipeline and gets loaded on a ship. What the dictatorial dipshit conveniently leaves out is that that oil has to be refined at all those heavy crude refineries in Port Arthur, Texas first, and refining oil definitely creates long-term jobs.

    Of course, to him Texans are just a bunch bitter clinger enemies, so they can all go fuck themselves as far as he’s concerned.

  24. I’m interested in extending Obama’s logic to other areas.

    Let’s say that he is correct, that world oil prices are indifferent as to whether the oil comes through the US on its way to market, or goes through a Canadian pipeline. And that the benefits of building infrastructure are so temporary that they aren’t worth talking about.

    I take it, then, that he has no problem with US companies offshoring their production. After all, the global price for the stuff is probably affected about the same either way, and the benefits of building the infrastructure here are so temporary they aren’t worth talking about.

    If offshoring our energy transport and production is a good idea, why isn’t offshoring everything a good idea?

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

    Same when they suddenly notice that weather is not Climate.

  26. That pipeline.

    We didn’t build that.

  27. They sell us THEIR bananas. Their coffee. Their cocoa.
    My Republican friends should be working we me on a government program so we can grow these things right here in the good old USA.

    1. Hey, if you want to grow tropical crops in the US, maybe you should rethink the whole “global warming” thing.

      1. You don’t have to be a climatologist to know that it’s kind of tough to grow bananas and cocoa beans in six foot blizzards.

  28. Well, I’ll have to call bullshit on your “bullshit.”

    Environmentalists have been talking about the 50 or so permanent jobs that Keystone XL would provide for years. Just because your dense writer wasn’t aware of that (or is pretending he wasn’t aware) doesn’t mean that it is not factual.

    Keystone is a method for getting the incredibly dirty Koch oil sands bitumen production, refined at the Koch plant in Hardisty, Alberta, to the Koch export facility at its refinery in Port Arthur, Texas.

    It is planned to go straight through tribal reservations that want no part of it.

    No one in the U.S. needs it.

    Oil sands production will contribute immensely to global warming. Because the Kochs insist on Reason maintaining the fiction that there’s some sort of a scientific “controversy” about that, is still more bullshit.

    David of course is on the Reason board and has been supporting it financially for decades.

    Bullshit.

    But I repeat myself.

    1. “Environmentalists have been talking about the 50 or so permanent jobs that Keystone XL would provide for years.”

      I’m not sure you understand what’s being criticized here.

      Remember when the stimulus was supposed to revive the economy? It was going to cause a cascade of prosperity as we went skipping down the Keynesian Candy Cane Highway–lifting us right out of the recession.

      Obama spent $831 billion on such stimulus by way of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

      A Reason survey showed that the results of the ARRA were abyssal.

      https://reason.com/archives/201…..obs-vanish

      Meanwhile, Timothy Conley of the University of Western Ontario and Bill Dupor of the Ohio State University estimated that ARRA created 450 thousand government jobs–but it destroyed or forestalled 1 million private sector jobs.

      http://web.econ.ohio-state.edu….._may11.pdf

      The point is that the Democrats have been cooing about how many jobs their supposed infrastructure bills create, and now they’re turning around and admitting that infrastructure bills like Keystone actually create very few jobs.

      When they want the project–look at all the jobs it will create!

      When they don’t want the project–nah, it won’t create any jobs at all.

      Why take them seriously on that issue ever again?

      1. You missed Diogenes’ point entirely.

        He posited that Keystone XL is entirely a Koch project.

        At that point, you were supposed to curl up and admit his moral superiority.

        You were not supposed to talk back.

        I trust that’s clear.

        1. We all gotta start somewhere.

          Some of our regulars first logged in here just to tell us stuff like this.

          …and not just the regular trolls either.

      2. Shopping for studies is like shopping for clothes. You should try to find some that don’t fall apart quickly or you could embarass yourself.
        Your study criticized ARRA not because it didn’t save/create jobs. It criticized ARRA because a high percentage of the funds were used to create/preserve public sector jobs by backfilling state revenues that had fallen. And the “finding” of negative job production in the private sector “uggests the possibility that,
        in absence of the ARRA, many government workers (on average relatively well-educated) would
        have found private-sector employment had their jobs not been saved.” In short, if those government employees had lost their jobs, the study authors suggest that, heck, they *probably* would have found another. That’s a deeply flawed assumption, leading to the very real possibility that the only reason for your liking it is that it supported your preconceived notion (although not very well).

    2. I think mother Gaia is doing a pretty good job herself to stoke the controversy, don’t you?

  29. Well, you sure told libruls, huh?
    Except, you didn’t. Liberals haven’t been promoting infrastructure projects simply because they create jobs. We’ve been promoting infrastructure projects because we need frickin’ infrastructure. Oh, and they create jobs, too. Temporary? Sure, but if your smugness had not prevented you from actually thinking about the issue, and you’d done, say, five minutes of looking into infrastructure needs in this country, you’d have learned that we have enough infrastructure needs to keep companies and people busy for decades. Each individual project only provides employment for 1-10 years (based on the size of the project). And then the company constructing that job, and its employees, move on to another job. And another. And another. The total benefit is that people get employment for years, and the public gets much-needed infrastructure. With Keystone, there are temporary jobs that create a structure that does not create the same net benefit. Oh, and it’s just one project, not decades’ worth, as infrastructure projects most definitely could be.

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