TransCanada, the company proposing the 1,600-mile Keystone XL pipeline, and officials in the U.S. and Canada reacted furiously Monday to skeptical comments from President Obama on the economic impact for jobs and U.S. gas prices from the long-delayed project.
Alberta-based TransCanada disputed Mr. Obama’s claim that the project’s jobs creation would be “a blip relative to the need,” pointing to research by the administration showing that Keystone could create more than 40,000 jobs.
For that reason, Keystone has been touted by divisions of the AFL-CIO and other labor groups, key constituencies of the president.
Mr. Obama’s seemingly low jobs figures have led some critics to question whether he is familiar with his administration’s data on Keystone.
“Has President Obama read his own State Department‘s” report? said a blog posted Monday on the Oil Sands Fact Check website. The organization is supported by energy companies, chambers of commerce, manufacturers and others and describes itself as devoted to “checking facts and providing the proper context” with regard to Canadian oil sands.
“President Obama should rely on the data from the experts at the State Department who have been studying this project for nearly five years instead of opponents whose goal in life is to shut down the energy development that creates thousands of jobs, fuels our economy and keeps gas prices low,” the blog said.
Just a month after hinting that he would approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, Mr. Obama told The New York Times that the $7 billion project won’t carry the economic benefits or create the thousands of jobs its supporters suggest. He also said it’s unlikely to lower U.S. gas prices.
“Republicans have said that this would be a big jobs generator. There is no evidence that’s true,” Mr. Obama said over the weekend. “The most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline, which might take a year or two, and then after that we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in an economy of 150 million working people.”
He added that 2,000 jobs were “a blip relative to the need.”
The interview marked the latest chapter in the ongoing Keystone debate, which has dragged on since the president came into office into 2009.
House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, and a growing bipartisan coalition on Capitol Hill are ardent supporters of the project, and several members of Congress wasted little time in pouncing on the president’s comments.
“What will it take for our president to focus on job creation and not job killing?” said Rep. Lee Terry, Nebraska Republican. If built, the Canada-to-Texas pipeline would run through his state.
“President Obama needs to spend more time working with Republicans in Congress rather than traveling around the country reciting the environmental left’s talking points and giving speeches that don’t hire,” Mr. Terry added.
Mr. Obama’s remarks added more confusion to the debate surrounding Keystone, one in which Mr. Obama seemingly has moved the goal posts.
In his widely hyped speech on climate change last month, the president said the pipeline — which would carry Canadian oil sands through the U.S. heartland en route to Gulf Coast refineries — should be approved only if it doesn’t exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.