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.

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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.

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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?”