Five Facts and One Big Lie: A Closer Look at the Oil Lobby's Keystone XL Jobs Claims
With the 2012 presidential election rapidly approaching, the oil lobby is pushing harder than ever to frame the Keystone XL Pipeline (KXL) as a "job creator." However, TransCanada (the Canadian company behind the pipeline), the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have used massively inflated statistics. In fact, KXL would create few permanent jobs.
BIG LIE: KXL Will Create 20,000-465,000 Jobs
U.S. Chamber Of Commerce: KXL Will Create "Up To 250,000" Jobs. In a Jan. 12, 2012, speech, Thomas J. Donohue, President of the U.S Chamber of Commerce, said: "Labor unions and the business community alike are urging President Obama to act in the best interests of our national security and our workers and approve the pipeline. We can put 20,000 Americans to work right away and up to 250,000 over the life of the project." [Donohue Remarks, 1/12/11, via USChamber.com]
American Petroleum Institute: KXL Will Enable "More Than A Half A Million New U.S. Jobs By 2035." In a Jan. 4, 2012, speech API President Jack Gerard said: "We've seen it in the continued delay of the Keystone XL pipeline - the largest shovel-ready project promising 20,000 construction-related jobs over the next two years, enabling more than half a million new U.S. jobs by 2035." [Gerard Remarks, 1/4/12, via API.org]
TransCanada: KXL Will Create 20,000 Jobs In Construction And Manufacturing And 465,000 Jobs Throughout the U.S Economy. In a Jan. 10, 2012, press release, TransCanada claimed: "The $7 billion oil pipeline is the largest infrastructure project on the books in the U.S. right now. It would create 20,000 jobs: 13,000 in construction, 7,000 in manufacturing. [...] As Keystone XL supports oil sands development, the impact on jobs in America becomes even more pronounced. The Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI) predicts a $521 billion increase in the U.S. gross domestic product and the creation of 465,000 U.S. jobs." [TransCanada, 1/10/12]
FACT 1: Experts Say Those Numbers Are "Meaningless" And "Dead Wrong"
Energy Expert: The Analysis Supporting TransCanada's Claims Is "Dead Wrong." On Oct. 27, 2011, the Council on Foreign Relations' Michael Levi wrote: "The 'economic impact study' [on which the claim of 250,000 permanent jobs is based] in question appears to be a widely cited report by The Perryman Group. ... The Perryman report has been criticized for the claim of 20,000 jobs along the pipeline route. I've seen less criticism of the far more impressive 250,000 number. ... That's a shame, since while the number is being invoked prominently, the analysis upon which it's based is dead wrong. [Council on Foreign Relations, 10/27/11]
Environmental Economist: "These Gross Employment Figures Are Meaningless." On Sept. 9, 2011, environmental economist Andrew Leach wrote: "Sorry, TransCanada—the number which matters and on which decisions should be made is not how many people will be employed building the pipeline and supplying all of the services associated with building it, or the employment tied to the use of the oil transported. These gross employment figures are meaningless. As with GHG's, only net impacts relative to the most likely alternative matter." [Andrew Leach's blog, 9/9/11, emphasis added]
Cornell University Global Labor Institute: TransCanada's Estimate Is "So Opaque As To Make Meaningful Review Impossible." A September 2011 analysis by the Cornell University Global Labor Institute states:
Perryman states that he received this data from TransCanada, but nowhere in the report does he provide the TransCanada input data (for construction expenditures and sourcing of inputs). Perryman does not even present summary detail as to the essentials regarding inputs (such as a breakdown of expenditures into major categories and assumptions regarding whether major inputs such as steel pipe are imported or sourced domestically or imported). Nor does the Perryman report provide adequate detail as to the nature of the job impacts estimated (such as a breakdown between direct, indirect, and induced). In fact, the lack of adequate data and detail render the report so opaque as to make meaningful review impossible. [Cornell University Global Labor Institute, September 2011, emphasis added]
FACT 2: Independent Assessment Found That KXL Jobs Would Create As Few As 50 Permanent Jobs
Cornell University Global Labor Institute: Based On TransCanada's Numbers, "The Project Will Create No More Than 2,500-4,600 Temporary Direct Construction Jobs." From Cornell University Global Labor Institute's report: "A calculation of the direct jobs that might be created by KXL can begin with an examination of the jobs on-site to build and inspect the pipeline. The project will create no more than 2,500-4,650 temporary direct construction jobs for two years, according to TransCanada's own data supplied to the State Department." [Cornell University Global Labor Institute, September 2011]
Cornell: "Almost All" KXL Jobs Will Be Temporary - Permanent U.S. Jobs Could Be "As Few As 50." From Cornell University Global Labor Institute's report: "[I]t is also important to consider that almost all of the jobs (direct, indirect and induced) associated with Keystone XL will, of course, also be temporary. The operating costs for KXL are very minimal, and based on the figures provided by TransCanada for the Canadian section of the pipeline, the new permanent US pipeline jobs in the US number as few as 50. The other operating expenditures (for materials, supplies, services, electric power, property taxes, etc.) would comprise the bulk of operating expenses and would also have some job impacts. So considering a broad range of spin-offs, operating expenditures would have job impacts in the order of around 1,000 per year." [Cornell University Global Labor Institute, September 2011, internal citations removed]
ThinkProgress Graphic Compares TransCanada's Stats With Independent Figures: The following chart from ThinkProgress compares the high-end estimate of Cornell Global Labor Institute's report and the TransCanada-commissioned Perryman Group's estimate:
FACT 3: TransCanada's Estimates Include Jobs In Other Countries
CNN: TransCanada's Estimates "Include Jobs In Canada." From a December 14 CNNMoney article:
TransCanada numbers count each job on a yearly basis. If the pipeline employs 10,000 people working for two years, that's 20,000 jobs by the company's count.
The estimates also include jobs in Canada, where about a third of the $7 billion pipeline would be constructed. [CNNMoney,12/14/11]
FACT 4: Even TransCanada Acknowledges That Each Construction Job Will Only Last "One Year."
TransCanada's CEO Acknowledges That Each Job Will Only Last "One Year." According to the Washington Post: "[TransCanada chief executive Russ] Girling that the 13,000 figure was "one person, one year," meaning that if the construction jobs lasted two years, the number of people employed in each of the two years would be 6,500." [Washington Post, 11/5/11]
TransCanada VP: Permanent Jobs "In The Hundreds." On the Nov. 11 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, TransCanada Vice President Robert Jones stated: "We will have an integrated operation with the existing pipeline, so, you know, the numbers are literally technicians and such up and down the line. So you're probably looking in the field from Montana to Houston in the hundreds, certainly not in the thousands, because those are construction jobs." [CNN, The Situation Room, 11/11/11]
FACT 5: TransCanada Admitted They Already Purchased Much Of The Equipment
TransCanada CEO Admitted That $1.9 Million Worth Of Pipe And Equipment Has Already Been Manufactured—And Is Sitting In A Warehouse. According to the Washington Post:
TransCanada chief executive Russ Girling said Friday that the three-year review process has already imposed costs on his company, including $1.9 billion on pipe and other equipment stored in warehouses. [...]
As for the 7,000 indirect supply chain jobs, the $1.9 billion already spent by TransCanada would reduce the number of jobs that would be created in the future. The Brixton Group, a firm working with opponents of the project, has argued that many of the indirect supply jobs would be outside the United States because about $1.7 billion worth of steel will be purchased from a Russian-owned mill in Canada. [Washington Post, 11/5/11]
Cornell Analysis: "About 25 percent Of The KXL Budget Has Already Been Expended." From Cornell University Global Labor Institute's report:
Construction has not yet started on KXL, but there have already been several years of activities preparing for possible construction. According to TransCanada's interim financial statement released on July 28, 2011, the capital cost of the larger Keystone project (made up of the segments already completed and KXL) is $13 billion. Of this $13 billion, $7.9 billion had already been invested by June 30, 2011. Of the $7.9 already invested, U.S. $1.7 billion is related to KXL. So prior to any actual construction, about 25 percent of the KXL budget has already been expended for activities including design, permitting, and materials procurement. [...]
Money already spent in the past few years, plus money budgeted for the Canadian part of KXL, should not be presented as though it were part of future U.S.-related spending pending the approval of the project. The money is gone and the work has been done (or soon will be). This spending will lead to few if any new jobs in the US. Likewise, some (and possibly all) of the money committed, but not yet spent, will be spent even if KXL is not built and should therefore not be considered in the analysis of the incremental spending that will occur should the project be approved. [Cornell University Global Labor Institute, September 2011, emphasis added, internal citations removed]
This piece is reposted with permission from PoliticalCorrection.org.
By Matthew J. Landry and Heather Eicher-Miller
When university presidents were surveyed in spring of 2020 about what they felt were the most pressing concerns of COVID-19, college students going hungry didn't rank very high.
Why It Matters<p>This is not just a matter of growling stomachs. This is a straight-up education and health issue.</p><p>When students don't really know if they'll be able to get enough to eat, it can lead to a series of problems that make it harder to stay in school. For instance, it can affect <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1359105318783028" target="_blank">academic performance</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-6943-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">sleep quality</a>. It can also lead to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105318783028" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">poor mental and physical health</a> outcomes for college students.</p><p>Food insecurity can also result in disrupted eating patterns if there is <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6627945/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">not enough food or the variety</a> or <a href="https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-019-6943-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">quality of what someone eats</a> is low.</p>
Campus Food Pantries<p>Previous strategies by <a href="https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/696254.pdf" target="_blank">colleges and universities</a> to fight hunger in their student bodies have varied widely. They include campus food pantries, emergency cash assistance and nutrition education through noncredit classes or workshopse.</p><p>These strategies were put to the test during the spring 2020 semester, when nearly <a href="https://hope4college.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Hopecenter_RealCollegeDuringthePandemic.pdf" target="_blank">three in five students</a> said they had trouble meeting their own basic needs during the pandemic.</p><p>College food pantries saw <a href="https://www.utrgv.edu/newsroom/2020/05/01-utrgv-student-food-pantry-seeing-recent-increase-in-demand-during-covid-19.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">big increases</a> in demand. Others said they <a href="https://www.theprospectordaily.com/2020/09/22/uteps-food-pantry-is-running-out-of-food/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">were getting less donated food</a>. This made it even harder to meet the rising food needs of students.</p><p>Campus food pantries largely rely on local or regional food banks, which have been dealing with <a href="https://www.indystar.com/story/news/local/2020/10/04/indiana-food-banks-call-more-food-stamps-meet-publics-need/3523683001/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">greater demand</a> than they are able to meet during the pandemic.</p><p>The many students who are attending college remotely will, of course, have less access to campus resources like food pantries.</p>
Federal Help<p>Other potential ways to get more food are government programs like the <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/recipient/eligibility" target="_blank">Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program</a>, known as SNAP. Yet the majority of able-bodied students are not eligible. Long-standing restrictions, like the <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/students" target="_blank">college SNAP rule</a>, prevent full-time students from receiving these benefits.</p><p>Such regulatory hurdles were created under the assumption that most students can rely on their parents to get enough to eat. However, college students have vastly different levels of financial support. Some students can rely on their parents for everything and others cannot rely on their parents for anything.</p><p>Decreased reliance on parental financial support is <a href="https://ir.library.louisville.edu/jsfa/vol47/iss3/5/" target="_blank">especially common</a> for first-generation students and students of color, who now make up <a href="https://1xfsu31b52d33idlp13twtos-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Race-and-Ethnicity-in-Higher-Education.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">45% of enrolled college students</a>.</p><p>Under normal circumstances, many college students might rely on part-time jobs to pay for their food.</p>
Short-Term Solutions<p>Universities and colleges can make it a priority to ensure students are aware of all available campus resources and services. They can also potentially help students apply for federal assistance benefits.</p><p>Campus food pantries are not a fully effective and efficacious solution for the scale of college food insecurity, but they can be a good interim solution to increase access to food for students.</p><p>Campuses without food pantries can start one, making use of resources the <a href="https://cufba.org/resources/" target="_blank">College and University Food Bank Alliance</a> provides. Schools with food pantries can try to get them to <a href="https://www.swipehunger.org/5campuspantry/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reach more students</a>.</p><p>Universities and colleges can also lean on one another for support. The <a href="http://wp.auburn.edu/endchildhungeral/alabama-campus-coalition-for-basic-needs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Alabama Campus Coalition for Basic Needs</a> is a great example of this. It brings together 10 universities across the state of Alabama collectively working to address student food insecurity.</p>
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By Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie
Of all the plastic we've ever produced, only 9% has been recycled. So what happened to all that plastic you've put in the recycling bin over the years?
Triangle of Mistruths<p>The myth created around plastic recycling has been one of simplicity. We look for the familiar triangle arrows, then pop the waste in the recycling bin so it can be reused.</p><p>But the true purpose of those triangles has been misunderstood by the general public ever since their invention in the 1980s.</p><p>These triangles were actually created by the plastics industry and, according to a report provided to them in July 1993, <a href="https://www.npr.org/transcripts/912150085" target="_blank">were creating "unrealistic expectations"</a> about what could be recycled. But they decided to keep using the codes.</p><p>Which is why many people still believe that these triangular symbols (also known as a <a href="https://sustainablepackaging.org/101-resin-identification-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">resin identifier code</a> or RIC) means something is recyclable.</p><p>But according to the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) – which controls the RIC system – the numbered triangles "<a href="https://www.astm.org/Standards/D7611.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are not recycle codes</a>." In fact, they weren't created for the general public at all. They were made for the post-consumer plastic industry.</p><p>In other words, the symbols make it easier to sort the different types of plastics, some of which cannot be recycled – <a href="https://www.ecobin.com.au/understand-recycling-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">depending on the recycling facility</a>.</p><p>"Unfortunately, just placing your plastic into the recycling bin doesn't mean it will get recycled," says Lara Camilla Pinho. She is an architect and lecturer at the UWA School of Design who is researching novel uses of plastic waste.</p><p>"The recycling system is complicated and often dictated by market demand. Not all plastic is recyclable. We cannot recycle plastic bags or straws for example."</p>
Behind the Scenes<p>So, what makes recycling plastics so difficult?</p><p>"Essentially, there are two types of plastics – thermoplastics and thermosets. While thermoplastics can be re-melted and re-molded, thermosets contain cross-linked polymers that cannot be separated meaning they cannot be recycled," says Lara.</p><p>"Even thermoplastics have a limit to the amount of times we can recycle them, as each time they are recycled they downgrade in quality."</p><p>Even when plastics are recyclable, it is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/13/war-on-plastic-waste-faces-setback-as-cost-of-recycled-material-soars" target="_blank">often more costly</a> than simply making new plastics.</p>
Sugar, Seaweed and Mushrooms<p>If the conventional recycling system isn't working, what else can we do with all the plastic we've created?</p><p>Lara is looking for ways to add value to recycled plastics such as using it in the design and development of architectural products. She hopes to use these architectural products to help underserved communities that are disproportionately affected by plastic waste.</p><p>In addition to recycling, we also need to find ways to reduce our use of virgin petroleum-based plastics.</p><p>Bioplastic is one such product that has been getting a lot of hype over the last few years. And although they're better than petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics also come with their own <a href="https://phys.org/news/2017-12-truth-bioplastics.html" target="_blank">set of challenges</a>.</p><p>"There are already a lot of bio-based alternatives to plastic, such as bagasse – a byproduct of sugar cane processing," says Lara.</p><p><a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-mycelium-revolution-is-upon-us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mycelium</a>, a type of fungi we most often associate with mushrooms, are also providing an interesting plastic alternative.</p><p>"In the field of architecture, mycelium is starting to be used as an alternative to plastic insulation, but also as compostable packaging and bricks," says Lara.</p><p>"The bricks take around five days to make and are strong, durable, water resistant and compostable at the end of their use."</p><p><a href="https://www.arup.com/news-and-events/hyfi-reinvents-the-brick" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hy-Fi Tower</a>, created by <a href="http://www.thelivingnewyork.com/living_about.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Living</a>, is an example of a building made from these bricks.</p><p>And finally, there's seaweed.</p><p>"[Seaweed is] cheap and can reproduce itself quickly without fertilizers. In architecture, there is use for seaweed as an alternative to plastic insulation but also as cladding," says Lara.</p>
More Money, More Problems<p>While all these alternatives are great, the main cause of our plastic dilemma is not scientific or technological, but economic.</p><p>As long as it remains <a href="https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-is-it-cheaper-to-make-new-plastic-bottles-than-to-recycle-old-ones/" target="_blank">cheaper to create new plastics</a> from fossil fuels rather than from bioplastics or from recycling, we're going to be stuck with plastic garbage islands floating in our oceans.</p><p>The true cost to our health and our environment has yet to be included in the equation. But once it is, maybe that is when the real shift will happen.</p>
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