State Dept., Media Fact-Checkers Debunk Obama's Keystone Job Estimates

By Curtis Houck | August 6, 2013 | 10:45 AM EDT

President Obama speaks in Chattanooga, Tenn. (AP)

( - President Barack Obama claims that the number of jobs created by the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would be "maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction" and "between 50 and 100” [permanent] jobs after it’s built.

But the president's estimates are way off, according to Obama's own State Department and fact-checkers in the media.

Speaking at an Amazon plant in Tennessee on July 30, Obama said: "They [Keystone supporters] keep on talking about this – an oil pipeline coming down from Canada that’s estimated to create about 50 permanent jobs. That’s not a jobs plan."

In an earlier July 24 interview with The New York Times, Obama insisted that “there is no evidence” that the Keystone pipeline “would be a big jobs generator.”

"My hope would be that any reporter who is looking at the facts would take the time to confirm that 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 a economy of 150 million working people," the president said.

But a recent update to a report issued by the State Department puts the total number of Keystone XL construction jobs in the U.S. at 10,400 over two years- or five times more than Obama estimated.

President Obama and the State Department agree that only 50 permanent positions will be created to operate the pipeline, which will carry oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast, once it is built. But Obama’s estimate does not take into account the “indirect or residual” jobs needed to support the project. Page seven of the most recent State Department report puts that number at 42,100 nationwide “in construction, trade, professional services, lodging, and food services.”

TransCanada has likewise estimated that the 1,179-mile pipeline requires 9,000 construction-related jobs. According to its website, 7,000 additional U.S. jobs would be needed to support the project through manufacturing parts. TransCanada explains that 4,000 Americans are already employed in constructing a 485-mile pipeline that would connect Keystone to the Gulf of Mexico.

Members of the media have also lined up in recent days to correct the president's estimate. Glenn Kessler, fact-checker at The Washington Post, gave Obama's "low-ball" estimate "Two Pinocchios" out of a possible four. The website Politi-Fact also labeled Obama's claim as ”false”.

On Thursday, the Associated Press (AP) said it had conducted a fact-check of its own and found the president’s estimate off as well, noting that "it's not clear where Obama came up with the 2,000-jobs figure."

Even though these higher estimates would amount to just .02 percent of total U.S. employment, the administration’s labor supporters have come out in favor of the $7 billion pipeline.

In a letter to Congress, International Brotherhood of Teamsters President James P. Hoffa  said his union "believes that the Keystone XL pipeline will contribute to enhanced energy security, economic prosperity and, of critical importance, the creation of good paying jobs."

"If the pipeline is not built, important socioeconomic benefits will not be realized - the positive impacts of local, state and federal revenue, spending by construction workers, and spending on construction good and services. Building the Keystone XL Pipeline will enhance U.S. energy and economic security," Hoffa noted

The Building and Construction Trades Department at AFL-CIO also supports the project. President Sean McGarvey noted in a letter that the construction business in America has "suffered greatly" during the recession with an unemployment rate of over 13 percent. He said that the pipeline project provides "in the most literal sense, a life line" to workers in their union who are "struggling to put food on the table."