The Keystone Pipeline is a huge route for oil transportation, beginning in Hardisty, Alberta and extending all the way to Steele City, Nebraska—a total of 1,179 miles (1,897km.) It’s an attractive option to many people, as it’ll strengthen the American and Canadian economies, promote job growth, and reduce American reliance on foreign oil. But how many people will really benefit from the pipeline once/if it’s completed?
Keystone Pipeline Details
The pipeline is mostly completed and consists of four phases, stretching a total length of 2,151 miles (3,462km) once finished: the first two make up the Keystone Pipeline, the third phase is the Keystone Gulf Coast Expansion, and the last—the leg that measures 1,179 miles and would maximize production from the Alberta Tar Sands—would be the Keystone XL Pipeline Project. The third phase was just finished last month and Phase IV, the one that would link Hardisty to Steele City, is still up in the air due to environmental concerns.
Pause of Phase IV
The biggest concerns holding up the completion of the Keystone pipeline are oil spills along the pipeline, which could greatly harm the environment, and an increase in greenhouse gases that would come from harvesting the oil. Normally, an oil spill in itself is bad enough, but add in the fact that the pipeline would cross Nebraska’s Sandhills wetland ecosystem and the Ogallala Aquifer (one of the largest freshwater reserves in the world.)
Another issue that hasn’t managed to grab as much of the spotlight is that regarding indigenous people, as the pipeline currently cuts through 100 miles of American reservations and sits 31 miles away from over 150 communities in Canada. The latter especially poses a problem because TransCanada Corporation has occupied a dozen First Nations reserves with their equipment.
Increase of Jobs
Proponents of the pipeline point to the simple fact that it would create many jobs, and well-paying ones at that—a step in the direction of promoting job growth in the United States and rebuilding the middle class. But depending on who you ask, the pipeline would create anywhere from 2,000 (Obama, last July) to 5,000-6,000 (State Department) to 50,000 (TransCanada) construction jobs.
It’s not entirely clear why there’s such a disparity in the number of predicted jobs, and it’s not even certain how beneficial the pipeline will be to both countries. The whole project will cost about $5.3 billion to build and would be expected to transport 830,000 barrels of crude oil daily, but is also expected to boost the economy greatly.
However, the biggest reason these jobs haven’t appeared just yet is because the Obama administration is so concerned about the environmental risks. While President Obama is usually criticized for taking a long time to make up his mind—especially in comparison with his grab-the-bull-by-the-horns predecessor—the ramifications of the decision, both financial and environmental, mean that the pipeline should should be thought about carefully.
With three out of four phases of the Keystone Pipeline already built, there’s a wait-and-see approach needed to find out just how many jobs will be added if/when the pipeline is completed.