Don’t Believe The Hype: Media Fail To Catch Campaign Lies On Keystone XL Jobs Numbers

The political battle over the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has died down a bit since its peak last fall. But the pipeline is still a major campaign issue — and supporters of the project continue to put forward grossly inflated jobs numbers that were corrected long ago.

According to two separate reports from the U.S. State Department and Cornell University, constructing Keystone XL would only create around 6,000 jobs. TransCanada, the company building the pipeline, has also backed up those analyses by saying that there would be no more than 6,000 jobs on “any given day.” By comparison, oil and gas jobs increased by 75,000 from 2009 to 2011 under the Obama Administration — 69,000 more than would be created by Keystone XL.

But supporters continue to push the Keystone XL figures upward, with some politicians and pundits falsely claiming the pipeline would create one million jobs. (To see how absurd the claims have gotten, check out this video compilation called “To Infinity And Beyond” from Media Matters).

These wildly inflated numbers have been debunked by independent analysts, the State Department, and TransCanada itself. But they are still sneaking by prominent members of the press who should be catching them. That’s what happened this past Sunday on Meet the Press, when Romney surrogate Carly Fiorina’s false jobs number went unchallenged by host David Gregory:

MS. CARLY FIORINA:  Yes, but let’s talk about a very specific difference.  I actually find this critique that Romney hasn’t put forward any specifics wrong.  Whether it’s the Wall Street Journal or someone else and example, President Obama talks about an all of the above energy strategy and then stands in the way of the pipeline.

GREGORY: The Keystone Pipeline.

MS. FIORINA:  The Keystone Pipeline.  Romney talks about an all of the above energy policy and lays out crisp specifics.  And one of those is to approve immediately the Keystone Pipeline.  Most people estimate that would produce over a million jobs right there. Is twelve million a big number?  Yes.  Is it a reasonable and achievable number? If the tax code is dramatically simplified and every rate is lowered, certainly, if the pipeline is approved, certainly, if states are given more control over their energy policy, certainly.

And there you have it: Fiorina explained that a huge portion of Romney’s plan for 12 million jobs is based on construction of the Keystone XL pipeline — a project that would only bring around 6,000 jobs. The numbers don’t come close to adding up. But policymakers and pundits who make these bogus claims keep getting a free pass.

Politicians on both sides catch flak for inflating jobs numbers. In 2008, Obama set a goal of getting one million jobs from renewable energy and energy efficiency. That figure was based upon a having a national renewable energy standard and a strong carbon pricing mechanism in place. But when Congress failed to pass either of those policies, the jobs numbers fell short of the original target. Even though the stimulus supported tens of thousands of jobs in clean energy and doubled production of renewable electricity, Obama is still getting hammered by opponents who are using green jobs as a political weapon.

Saying you’re going to create one million jobs when you’re only going to produce about 6,000 is in an entirely different realm, however. So the campaign better watch out: Romney may the political price if his supporters keep throwing these ridiculously inflated numbers around.

Will journalists catch them in the act?

NOTE: On the question of journalists calling out campaign lies, be sure to catch Dave Roberts’ excellent post at Grist, “As Romney and Ryan lie with abandon, how should journalists navigate post-truth politics?”


15 Responses to Don’t Believe The Hype: Media Fail To Catch Campaign Lies On Keystone XL Jobs Numbers

  1. Lore says:

    Who says that the 6,000 jobs will be U.S. workers?. The last pipeline TransCanada installed, only 11% were hired domestically, the rest were Canadians. Most all of those state side workers were in low paying positions.

    Once the line is done it will take, at most, only several dozen workers to manage it.

    Don’t count on many workers being hired at the refineries in the GOM either. It’s all pretty much automated.

    Lastly, let’s not forget that this is an export pipeline. The only reason for it to exist is so Canadians can export refined products off the N.A. continent.

    Romney would do better to promote two new Walmart Super Stores here in the U.S., which would employ people over a longer term, then advocate this pipeline.

  2. DonB says:

    The only reason that the employment numbers will be higher would be to clean up the spilled oil that this company has a track record of creating; see the Kalamazoo spill that is not nearly cleaned up after two years and miles of river contaminated.

  3. DonB says:

    The 12 million jobs that Romney and Ryan are claiming their policies will create are common to most economists who predict a similar number NO MATTER WHICH candidate wins.


  4. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    I have heard Mulga telling us how the main stream media is a tool of the one percent. I did not expect the MSM to prove it so convincingly.

    The bias is so complete and not at all subtle

  5. Lore says:

    The record on job predictions by economists has been pretty poor of late. The demographics of an aging baby boomer population, automation, globalization of jobs and resource depletion as well as a plethora of other converging problems make the possibility of a 12M job recovery highly suspect.

    Romney’s five point plan lacks a fundamental understanding of the energy crisis we face now and for the foreseeable future. Specially when it’s one based solely on the dependency of fossil fuels and the discovery and production there of. Drilling and fracking our way to a new nirvana bubble is not on the horizon.

  6. Mike Roddy says:

    All reporters are Humpty Dumpty now: “The truth is what I say it is, nothing more and nothing less”. We need to fix the press, but there is some inner rot that needs to be addressed, too.

  7. Ralf says:

    I keep wondering what the Keystone XL pipeline would do to gas prices in the US. You can say that it might decrease them because it would be cheaper to get syncrude to refineries in the East, but I’ve also seen the opinion that the depressed WTI price due to the glut in Cushing leads to lower gas prices.
    Joe, maybe you can get some expert opinion on this?

  8. EcoSystemDown says:

    The primary market for Canadian tarsand oil is the United States, specifically the midwest region as most major CDN pipelines go there. US demand for oil has gone down while US production of tight shale (fracked) oil has gone up, resulting in a glut of tarsand oil in the Midwest, artificially lowering the price of gas. Canada needs to expand their market in order to obtain better pricing – this is all explained in Transcanada’s paperwork to the State Department. Keystone XL would provide access to overseas markets, reducing the glut, and resulting in higher gas prices.

  9. Bill Walker says:

    TransCanada’s own filings say that KXL would INCREASE gasoline prices in the US midwest, because tar sands oil now going there would be able to bypass the midwest for more lucrative markets.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    When capitalists say ‘jobs’ they mean ‘profits’. They do not ‘provide jobs’, they exploit labour, and having long rejected Henry Ford’s insight that paying decent wages leads to increased demand, they pay as little as union-busting and setting workers against each other and the burgeoning reserve army of unemployed and underemployed will allow. And they automate and off-shore and import cheap labour as well. In any case the continued growth of the economy, profits and consumption has already set in train the collapse of the ecological systems that sustain our civilization and existence, so this and every other huge project is simply another step to oblivion. And we seem to be actively, frantically, seeking that Nirvana.

  11. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    They, ie Obama and Romney and their masters, the capitalist elect, do not want low unemployment. The reserve army of unemployed and underemployed puts downward pressure on the wages of the employed, thereby increasing profits and delivering subtle psychological rewards to those who despise other people. With hundreds of millions of eager, low paid, competition in China, India and the rest of the non-Western world, capital can migrate to where the serfs are most downtrodden and compliant. If the Masters decide to keep Obama on, as a result of his good services rendered unto them so far, then the MSM won’t make a fuss over unemployment. If they prefer one of their own, Romney, rather than a servant, a big fuss will be made. Either way the era of decent wages for the great American middle class ended in 1980 or thereabouts, thanks to Uncle Ronny, and they ain’t coming back.

  12. DonB says:

    My ONLY purpose in citing the article was to show that Romney’s “boast” was not that exceptional or due to some special aspect of his policies.

    Beyond that point there is a HUGE display of ignorance here as to where the limits on economic policy to spur recover come from: mainly Republican obstruction. But read Paul Krugman’s blog if you need to learn about government and Federal Reserve measures to improve the economy now.

  13. Zimzone says:

    Republican new math:

    6,000 = 1,000,000

  14. Chris Winter says:

    “Most people estimate that [Keystone XL] would produce over a million jobs right there. Is twelve million a big number? Yes. Is it a reasonable and achievable number?”

    No, Ms. Fiorina, it is neither reasonable nor achievable. The Cornell University report and TransCanada’s own executives make this clear. In fact, turning away from the Keystone XL project and toward expanding renewable energy projects would almost certainly create many more jobs in the U.S.

    But then, creating U.S. jobs is not your primary concern, is it?

    My concern with your words is how “one million” suddenly became “12 million.”

    Of course I know where the “12 million” number comes from. Both Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney promised it during the GOP convention. It happens to be the number of jobs that most economists think will be created over the next four years no matter who wins the White House.

    But by juxtaposing the two numbers as you did, you make it appear you think they are identical. Shall I be charitable and assume that was just a spur-of-the moment misstatement? Or are you really that innumerate or inattentive?

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    As long as economies, production, consumption and waste production do, and it is held as divine revelation that they must, grow, then ecological doom is simply a matter of time. Growth is poison, unchecked it is cancer, and until we renounce it we are on a one-way trip to Polluterville.