Since it was proposed in 2008, the
)-owned Keystone Pipeline project has faced fierce opposition from
environmentalists, who say that in addition to creating a whole
host of environmental worries, the pipeline's greenhouse gas
emissions will push climate change past the point of no return.
"If Canada proceeds [with Keystone], and we do nothing, it will be
game over for the climate," wrote NASA scientist James Hansen in a
New York Times
op-ed last year.
Typically a solid voting bloc for the Democratic Party,
environmentalists are hoping that they carry enough political clout
to influence President Obama to reject the pipeline project, which
would ferry over 700,000 barrels of crude oil from Canadian tar
sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.
The proposed Keystone route map. Source: TransCanada [Click to
But green activists face stiff opposition from oil and gas
interests. The fact that energy giants like
Royal Dutch Shell
) are in support of Keystone XL is not surprising, of course. But
what environmentalists might not have expected is the pro-pipeline
stance of their traditional allies on the Left, labor unions.
Citing the abundance of jobs the pipeline would create -- a 2010
TransCanada Study said Keystone would create over 100,000 jobs,
while a State Department report from March said 42,100 jobs would
be created -- the AFL-CIO, the country's largest federation of
unions, came out in support of Keystone in February.
"Pipelines are a low carbon emissions method of transporting oil
and gas... [They] lower the cost of fuel they carry compared with
other forms of transportation," said the AFL-CIO in a statement,
with federation president Richard Trumka adding that "there's
nothing environmentally unsound about the pipeline."
"The AFL-CIO supports the expansion of our pipeline infrastructure
and a much more aggressive approach to the repair of our more than
2.5 million miles of existing pipelines. Repair and buildout of the
natural gas pipeline system alone has been estimated by the INGAA
Foundation as likely to create, on average, 125,000 jobs a year
between now and 2035," affirmed the AFL-CIO to
Mint Press News
The decision of many labor unions to back the Keystone project is
understandable, given the nation's sluggish job growth numbers, but
it is the wrong one, says Shel Horowitz, a green marketing expert
"who is also a proud member of the UAW [United Auto Workers] and
National Writers Union."
"Common ground with labor can be found on supporting jobs that are
both safe for the workers and safe for the environment. Keystone is
neither," Horowitz tells Minyanville.
Like many environmentalists, Horowitz believes that the labor and
environmental movements can work together to lobby for the
government to create an infrastructure-rebuilding jobs program.
Some of the ideas Horowitz proposes include "constructing deeply
green new buildings, conducting deep-energy retrofits and putting
green roofs on millions of existing buildings wherever it is
feasible, manufacturing solar panels, wind turbines, [and] in-line
hydro machines, [and] digging geothermal wells."
"If you're a laborer or pipe fitter in the Midwest, you want to
build [the Keystone] pipeline because it's good work. But you would
be just as happy rebuilding the water infrastructure [of the US],"
Joe Uehlein, executive director of the Labor Network for
The American Prospect
But some critics argue that environmentalists are fighting a losing
battle with Keystone. Combine the lobbying efforts of the oil and
gas industry and the support of the unions, which is a key
Democratic donor base, it's more than likely that President Obama
will put his stamp of approval on the project.
Environmentalists should accept that and focus on establishing
stringent safety standards for the pipeline instead.
"If environmentalists had made safety, not emissions, the
centerpiece of their political charge against KXL they might have
prodded the White House into promoting meaningful new regulations
for all oil and gas pipeline operators [in the US]," wrote Elana
Pablo Solomon, a designer and green activist, concurred, telling
Minyanville, "Environmentalists should be spending money on
research in cooperation with the oil, gas, and coal industries to
make extraction safer and to make transportation of fuels safer."