Monday, January 23, 2012

The Book of Jobs

tar sands, keystone xl, whitehouse protest, earth, game over
"One important measure in this provision that I want to highlight is the Keystone pipeline. As you know, this project would create tens of thousands of jobs in our country. This jobs project has broad support in the House and Senate. It is backed by a broad-based coalition, and I hope the President will approve this pipeline to put those Americans to work." --House Speaker John Boehner, 12/22/11

"The president has apparently vetoed the Keystone Pipeline. Look, let me be honest, this is a stunningly stupid thing to do. These people are so out of touch with reality it's as if they were governing Mars. Stupidity number one - we need the jobs." --Newt Gingrich, 01/18/12

For the past few months, a debate has been raging. If the 1700-mile Keystone XL Pipeline were to be built, how many jobs would it create?

According to Ray Perryman, president of an economic research firm hired by energy giant TransCanada, the answer is 250,000 (or "14,400 person years of employment"). Included in this number are jobs related to hotels, restaurants, and all manner of other nearby businesses that would see a rise in patronage if pipeline construction were to begin.

Perryman's number seems wildly inaccurate. Did he, to use a random example, remember to include Porta-Potty manufacturers in his calculation? (Surely many portable toilets would be needed by construction crews.) If he forgot to include them, then his estimate also ignores the jobs created by whatever company produces the chemical brew used in said Pottys, as well as the new demand for toilet paper manufacturers. This is a problem. By forgetting to include even a few things, Perryman artificially stops the near endless chain reaction of "spin-off" jobs, as they're called by professionals, which makes his jobs number grossly inaccurate by way of underestimation.

Or so I thought.

Once I dug a little deeper, I learned that Perryman was a step ahead. He counted jobs for "dancers, choreographers and speech therapists," citing a previous report on the impact of wind farms. Since the Keystone pipeline will lower the cost of oil, he reasons, it will give people more money to spend on entertainment and the arts.

According to Perryman's very own commonsense calculations, here are some other jobs that will be created by the construction of the pipeline:

138 dentists
176 dental hygienists
100 librarians
510 bread bakers
448 clergy
154 stenographers
865 hairdressers
136 manicurists
110 shampooers
65 farmers
1,714 bartenders
898 reporters
98 public relations people

Reading these numbers embarrassed me: How could I have given Perryman so little credit? How could I have been so naive? If there's one thing I could be sure of, it's that Porta-Pottys had definitely been included.

Despite its stunning sensibility and comprehensiveness, this 250,000 jobs number (later changed to 20,000 permanent jobs and 118,000 spin-offs) has been abandoned by all but the most principled Republicans and replaced with the woefully modest "tens of thousands." This isn’t so surprising; after all, most environmentalists have never once stepped inside a shower, let alone a Porta-Potty, so it's no wonder they don't think to account for such things as "spin-off" jobs (or jobs at all, since they've never had one).

The new number is certainly a low-ball, but I think I can understand why it's being used. Politicians need the support of the people, and some people are against the job-creating pipeline. And if those people are against something that’s going to create jobs, then the problem they have must be with the very idea of jobs. So underestimating the number of jobs created must be a ploy to gain the support of these job-hating environmentalists.

It follows that TransCanada has instructed its supporters to concede some jobs numbers so that those opposing the pipeline's construction won't have to worry about losing their best excuse not to work: the bad economy. If hundreds of thousands -- possibly millions -- of new jobs instantly became available, parents of these hippies would be more inclined to kick their children out for choosing to remain unemployed. And this is a prospect that causes vigorous opposition from the environmental movement. If "hundreds of thousands of jobs" is changed to "tens of thousands," however, then the threat of employment isn't as omnipresent and opposition will therefore wane.

keystone, xl, protest, hippy, jobs, pipeline, gingrich, keystone xl jobs numbers
A make-believe crossing guard -- the closest thing this person will ever have to a job

It's kind of strange logic, I admit, but -- like Perryman's original numbers -- it makes perfect sense once you think about it. That said, I still don't like that this is the prevailing strategy because it demonstrates yet another example of hard facts being forced to cave to the lowest common denominator. If you think about it (and please do; this is the second time I've asked), being forced to dishonestly shrink the jobs numbers is basically a form of political correctness. Instead of scaring the laziest among us with the true number of jobs that the pipeline would create, TransCanada's supporters have decided to shrink the number just to gain more support.

This approach to the truth was recently demonstrated by the State Department, which put out a report saying that the pipeline would only create only 5,000-6,000 new jobs, almost all of which would go away after construction ends. I get the strategy, and it’s certainly better than risking outright rejection of the project. But the State Department number is far too low -- it must remain at at least "tens of thousands," or TransCanada risks losing the support of everyday, hardworking Americans.

And speaking of hardworking Americans, some on the extreme left are even trying to turn them against the pipeline. The liberal network CNN actually had the nerve to cite a study from someone named "Cornell" (they neglected to include a last name, obviously trying to hide the fact that it was written by the Marxist professor Cornel West [also why they spelled it wrong]), which said that the pipeline "could actually cost jobs by hurting the development of alternative energy and allowing for the export of oil from the Midwest, driving up the cost of gasoline in that region." I don't know for sure who wrote that, but whoever it was is certainly an idiot. Q.E.D.

keystone, xl, protest, hippy, jobs, pipeline, gingrich, november, obama, transcanada, capitalism, occupy, keystone xl jobs numbers, dirty+hippy
keystone, xl, protest, hippy, jobs, pipeline, gingrich, november, obama, transcanada, capitalism, occupy, keystone+xl+jobs+numbers, dirty hippy
The Tube Boobs

"President Obama was elected by appealing to global warming alarmists, among other groups on the left. Will he cave in to their demands to leave untouched the vast oil sand deposits in Alberta that could provide millions of barrels of oil to fuel economic growth in both countries for decades to come? Development of Alberta's energy sector would be led by U.S. companies, too, thereby boosting growth on both sides of the border." --James M. Roberts and Ray Walser, The Heritage Foundation [X]

But let's go back for a moment to hard facts being forced to cave to the lowest common denominator. One of the most egregious examples of the media kowtowing to this kind of politically correct BS happened during the infamous BP oil-rig bonanza of 2010. During that time we saw tons of heavily politicized headlines like, "Families Bid Farewell To 11 Killed In Gulf Rig Explosion," and "Deepwater Horizon's 11 Dead Remembered." Such headlines were much more common than the unvarnished but much more to the point "Eleven Jobs Lost in Oil Rig Explosion." I understand that the latter headline is much more tragic, but at some point the media has to stop treating us like babies. We can handle it!

Still, there were a few people out there astute and bold enough to write proper headlines, like: BP Spill Is 'Opportunity in Disguise' for Rig Makers Keppel, Samsung Heavy (from Bloomberg). In an article titled BP Oil Spill Fuels Government Contracting, someone observed: "Others can still look to take advantage of opportunities at the prime contracting level in such industries as manufacturing, construction, maintenance and technical services, information technology, even coastal restoration." And an insurance company pointed out that life was actually better for the fisherman in the region after the spill: "More than 46,000 people - and nearly 7,000 boats - are now employed in the response. While fishing business was struggling before the disaster, fishermen are now making $1,200 - $3,000 a day laying floating booms that contain oil once it rises to the surface."

This leads me to wonder how different things might still be in the Gulf had BP not been pressured by Big Government to cap the well. Only an idiot would have failed to see the silver lining! Even the eleven jobs lost in the rig explosion provided an opportunity. Sure, the unemployment rate must have risen a fraction of a decimal point as a result, but look at it this way: eleven new job opportunities instantly became available!

keystone, xl, protest, hippy, jobs, pipeline, gingrich, november, obama, transcanada, capitalism, occupy, keystone xl jobs numbers, dirty hippy, jobless, Tobey Maguire
I still haven't read this guy's sign... (I only took the picture because I thought it was Tobey Maguire)

Since the media was so biased about the BP spill, I want to highlight some more of the spin-off jobs the spill was (and will be) responsible for. According to my calculations, the oil spill created a demand for:

13,568 new doctors to treat people for chemical exposure over the next few decades
3 new hospitals (approximately 18,000 jobs)
6 new rehabilitation centers (thousands more jobs)
2 more schools to train all the specialists (thousands more jobs)
11,967 new scientists working to genetically engineer new kinds of sea-life that can live in toxic water yet still be (relatively) safe to eat
56,094 engineers to build new robot-fishing machines after long-term, low-dose chemical exposure -- as well as the annihilation of the fishing industry -- forces people to move from the coast (I'm tempted to count the 767,894+ employees who'll be building the fishing-robots, but they won't be Americans. Still, we should find joy and happiness in imagining the opportunity for employment this will provide for many poor jobless people across the globe)
And let's not forget 4,256 new Porta-Potty's to line the streets for people on the Gulf Coast who can no longer walk more than 500 feet without shitting themselves, as well as 1 new toilet paper plant and 1 new chemical formula plant (thousands of jobs)

And that’s not even including the huge boon to the company that supplied the dispersant!

Now, I'm not as smart as Mr. Perryman, so I can't think of everything. The countless other job opportunities that will become available after families lose their breadwinners to cancer and poisoning is a figure too complicated for me to even begin to calculate, but let me assure you, it'll be


keystone, xl, protest, hippy, jobs, pipeline, gingrich, november, obama, transcanada, capitalism, occupy, polar bear, keystone xl jobs numbers, dirty hippy, clueless hippy
Leave it to a clueless hippy to bring a live polar bear to a protest. I ended up watching this poor woman die right
before my eyes. (Note: I'm just assuming she was poor)

keystone, xl, protest, hippy, jobs, pipeline, gingrich, november, obama, transcanada, capitalism, occupy, 99%, keystone xl jobs numbers, dirty hippy
More animal cruelty! The nerve of them making their dog wear that vest (I couldn't stop kicking it!)

This makes me think that maybe Perryman's numbers weren’t as close to the truth as I thought. After all, they don't account for any of the thousands of new jobs -- and millions of "spin-off" jobs -- that would instantly be created should there happen to be a Keystone XL spill. Perryman also failed to include the everyday, normal activities of tar sands production, which is known to pollute rivers and streams (more jobs).

keystone, xl, protest, hippy, jobs, pipeline, gingrich, november, obama, transcanada, capitalism, occupy, hypocrite, dirty hippy, keystone xl jobs numbers, lazy
A schmuck, sure, but at least he's not a hypocrite like everyone who drove to the protest

This kind of logic, crass as it might seem to extremist hippies and tree huggers, can be applied to almost any situation. Take the Holocaust, for example. If only Goebbels had had enough confidence in the German people, he could've cast Hitler's plan in the cold hard logic of common sense and skipped all of the obscuring, dishonest propaganda. Something like:

"Unemployed? Looking for work? Worried about the economy? The Nazi Party has your answer.* We promise to provide tens of thousands of new jobs, among them:

738 dentists
4,673 doctors
154 stenographers
865 hairdressers
110 shampooers
109 book burners
18,956 Zyklon B factory employees
691,714 bartenders
401 architects
898 reporters
98,775 public relations people
553 lampshade artisans

"This is sure to lift us out of our economic depression. But, if that wasn't enough, we also promise to instantly create six million additional jobs!"

* All solutions final.

Let's face it: Hitler brought his country out of a horrible depression and provided endless work opportunities for (almost) everyone. Under his leadership, the German economy was booming, and a lot more than 6 or 10 million jobs would have been lost to poverty had he never come to power. Sure, he's not without fault (who isn't?), but must we continue to have complainers and naysayers constantly dwelling on every little negative aspect whenever we try to take a step in the right direction?


Tyler said...

Note: Joseph Stiglitz recently used the title "The Book of Jobs" in in an article he wrote for Vanity Fair. Had my post not been sitting around in various incarnations since mid-November (and read by various friends), I'd have changed the title to lessen confusion and possible thoughts of theft.

Much of the inspiration for this post came from the Keystone protest I attended in D.C. on November 6th (where the above pictures were taken). It was there that Roger Toussaint summed up the situation: "We want jobs, but not jobs as gravediggers of the planet."

My aim was to weigh in on the Keystone debate by trying to highlight just how funny and absurd the entire market driven ethos is. But I also wanted to highlight a mistake being made (and continuously repeated) by many of those who oppose the pipeline. Spending time and effort trying to debunk or debate the jobs numbers implies that there is indeed some magical number of jobs that would make the project worthwhile. It's buying into the ethos of the market and then trying to argue a way out of it, which is a losing proposition.

Now, I don't mean to say that facts and correctives are irrelevant (though they almost are since the media reports and weighs all claims without discrimination, treating everything as if it were just one side of a debate where nothing is true or verifiable). All I'm saying is, if the debate stays on jobs (which is more thoroughly cemented even when being debunked), then the pipeline is as good as built. In order to ensure that construction never begins, the paradigm must be shifted.

The crux of what should be the real debate comes from Dr. James Hansen, head of the NASA Institute for Space Studies:

"An overwhelming objection [to the Keystone Pipeline] is that exploitation of tar sands would make it implausible to stabilize climate and avoid disastrous global climate impacts. The tar sands are estimated (e.g., see IPCC Fourth Assessment Report) to contain at least 400 GtC (equivalent to about 200 ppm CO2). Easily available reserves of conventional oil and gas are enough to take atmospheric CO2 well above 400 ppm, which is unsafe for life on earth. However, if emissions from coal are phased out over the next few decades and if unconventional fossil fuels including tar sands are left in the ground, it is conceivable to stabilize earth's climate. Phase out of emissions from coal is itself an enormous challenge. However, if the tar sands are thrown into the mix, it is essentially game over."

Tyler said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention the ridiculous Romney campaign ad that criticized Gingrich for having previously supported "job-killing climate change legislation."

Paul said...

Interesting blog, came here from the Ray Carney story and been reading through the blog the last couple of days.

As someone from Alberta with an interest in energy issues, I find the quote from James Hansen in your comment questionable. The 400 GtC in the IPCC report represents the total amount of carbon locked up in all of the oil sands. The amount of oil that is thought to be recoverable is about 10% of the oil sands (175 billion barrels of oil from a total of 1.75 trillion barrels), which would be 40 GtC.

To put the Keystone XL in perspective, it is estimated to have a flow rate of 700,000 barrels per day. It would take 685 years of uninterrupted flow to move 175 billion barrels of oil through the Keystone XL.

This is not to say that your arguments against the pipeline are invalid. I am ambivalent about the oil sands myself. Though I do believe that when it comes to this pipeline (and all energy issues) we must not play fast and loose with the numbers in order to advance an argument.

Tyler said...

Thanks for reading! I can't say with certainty whether I still vouch for anything written back in the early years -- beware!


No one has played more fast and lose with the numbers than has TransCanada and those representing the oil industry. Perryman's specific jobs numbers -- hairdressers, librarians, etc., which I didn't make up -- show the level of absurdity to which the industry has taken things.

My satirical post was merely an attempt at showing how ridiculous it is to focus on economics as the sole reason for whether or not something should be done. Last night in the Presidential debates here in the United States, Mitt Romney challenged President Obama on his energy policy, criticizing him for not having green lit every conceivable opportunity for producing more oil, gas, and coal. And Obama didn't respond by giving any indication that there should be other factors involved in such decisions outside of reducing the price of gasoline and the creation of jobs; he knew he'd look foolish even bringing such things up. He was forced (politically speaking) to respond in a way that showed that either his policies were mistakes, or that they were distortions on the part of Romney and the truth was that he never saw a pro-oil or gas bill he didn't like. It could not be correct on any level to have stood against the onward march of oil and gas. For all his talk about clean energy, Obama didn't stick up for the most compelling reasons why such policies are needed; he only stuck up for a "why" when the terms were economic and/or geopolitical (reduce dependance on foreign oil). Except in general sweeping statements ("our children's future"), most of the world's leaders don't frame the issue as though there are legitimate things worth considering that might trump profit, because the paradigm we're living in does not allow for it (money trumps all). Everything is about jobs and economic growth. That climate change, environmental degradation, and pollution are not brought up as arguments to be seriously studied or even considered shows just how insane our thinking has become.

Yes, my post was focused on the Keystone Pipeline specifically, but James Hansen's comments were not; he was talking about the entirety of Alberta's oil sands. And although your point about the amount of time it would take to remove the available oil from the tar sands via Keystone puts some perspective on the issue, you're making the assumption that what's projected to pass through the Keystone Pipeline (should it be built) represents the totality of the amount of oil that is, and will be, extracted on a daily basis -- which isn't true. For one thing, various other countries will begin extracting their own oil in Alberta. From Bloomberg: "South of town, Statoil ASA (STL), Norway’s largest energy company, aims to produce 200,000 barrels of crude a day by 2020." Not to mention China (written about in the same article), a country that has invested billions in Alberta's oil industry and is spearheading the creation of a pipeline to the Pacific. Also: "Enbridge [Canada’s largest oil pipeline company] may ... extend its U.S. network from Superior, Wisconsin, to the Gulf. On Nov. 16, Enbridge bought a stake in a pipeline called Seaway. The company plans to use it to ship as many as 400,000 barrels of crude a day from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Gulf Coast."

Tyler said...

Your numbers also assume that the oil production in Alberta will remain steady in terms of efficiency, though in reality the process continues to get more and more efficient, which not only means that more oil can be extracted per day, it also means that what's currently thought recoverable might be a low estimate by future standards.

"Daily oil-sands output will double to 3 million barrels by 2020. [...] Environment Canada, the government agency that protects human health and the environment, says carbon dioxide emissions from the oil sands may triple by 2020, putting the country further behind on its Copenhagen Accord commitments to slow global warming."

As Far as Hansen's comments, here's his clarification:

SolveClimate News: Can you explain why you have said it's "game over" on the climate front if the Keystone XL pipeline is built?

James Hansen:: President George W. Bush said that the U.S. was addicted to oil. So what will the U.S. response to this situation be? Will it entail phasing out fossil fuels and moving to clean energy or borrowing the dirtiest needle from a fellow addict? That is the question facing President Obama.

If he chooses the dirty needle it is game over because it will confirm that Obama was just greenwashing, like the other well-oiled coal-fired politicians with no real intention of solving the addiction. Canada is going to sell its dope, if it can find a buyer. So if the United States is buying the dirtiest stuff, it also surely will be going after oil in the deepest ocean, the Arctic, and shale deposits; and harvesting coal via mountaintop removal and long-wall mining. Obama will have decided he is a hopeless addict.

SolveClimate News: You have referred to Keystone XL as the "fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet." What actual effect would it have on the amount of carbon dioxide in the air?

James Hansen: If released all at once, the known tar sands resource is equivalent to 150 parts per million. As is the case with other fossil fuel sources, the amount in the air declines to about 20 percent after 1,000 years. Of course, only a small fraction of the resource is economically recoverable at the moment. But if you decide you are going to continue your addiction and build a big pipeline to Texas, the economically extractable oil will steadily grow over time. Moreover the known resources would grow because there is plenty more to be discovered.

Every seller will tell you his pile of pollution is small compared to the total pile on Earth, and that is correct. What makes tar sands particularly odious is that the energy you get out in the end, per unit carbon dioxide, is poor. It's equivalent to burning coal in your automobile. We simply cannot be that stupid if we want to preserve a planet for our children and grandchildren.

Paul said...

Thanks for the reply.

Fair enough about TransCanada and their jobs numbers. I am with you on how inadequate our current growth based economics is dealing with ecology and sustainability.

I understand the core of what Hansen is arguing, is that the oil sands creates a large amount of inertia. That this is a single battle in a much larger fight and that there are tactical reasons to be in this fight. The clarification does put his statement in a better light.

Though I do disagree with the importance/priority that Hansen places on the Keystone XL. I am in the camp that believes that all efforts should be aimed at systemic solutions first. That the environmental movement is over investing in the battle over Keystone XL to the detriment of pursing a carbon tax. That targeting the Keystone XL without a carbon tax in place could lead to the market securing oil from worse sources such as coal to liquids (or have a marginal impacts if consumption moves to other light and heavy crudes). That targeting electrical generation could yield far better reductions to GHG emission than targeting transport fuels (energy density, energy storage, and behavioral issues all play in the favor of prioritizing electrical generation over transport).

With that being said, I can understand how the lack traction in pursuing a price on carbon for the last 25 years has lead Hansen and much of the environmental movement to target high profile projects such as the Keystone XL over systemic solutions.

Paul said...

Noticed quite a few grammatical errors in my post, hopefully they are not too distracting.

Tyler said...

"[T]he other part of transitioning to a new world is contesting the legitimacy of the old one. That means taking assumptions, institutions, and technologies that have a presumptive social warrant — that are assumed necessary, legitimate, and worthwhile by default — and, God help me for using this word, problematizing them."

Good article: What critics of the Keystone campaign misunderstand about climate activism

the curator said...

Glad you linked to this post again! This might be the funniest thing you've ever written.