Issues & Insights

Keystone Jobs A Welcome Alternative To Pink-Slip Economy

When private industry and unions find common ground, people should pay attention. On Aug. 5, TC Energy and four labor and trade unions announced a groundbreaking agreement to complete construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. This accord, which allows more than 10,000 American workers to help construct the pipeline between the United States and Canada, couldn’t have come at a better time for the American economy.

Unfortunately, some in Washington want to ignore this progress and axe this massive project that will create thousands of jobs. Their preferred big government “solutions” would create a pink-slip economy and force taxpayers to foot the bill for wasteful energy projects. Policymakers should reject these “green” boondoggles and allow the Keystone project to create real opportunities for American workers.

After going through an arduous environmental review process, the Keystone XL Pipeline was finally awarded a new presidential permit in 2019. But this permit has significant opponents, including former vice president and presidential candidate Joe Biden. They would stop the project dead in its tracks, jeopardizing the entire workforce of pipefitters, welders and operating engineers, in addition to scores of other specialized professionals.

The setback would be catastrophic to America’s already struggling economy, considering that the project’s union-negotiated wages and benefits are two to six times higher than the average U.S. weekly salary. 

This compensation not only helps the workers involved, but also stimulates the U.S. economy without bilking taxpayers. The estimated $2 billion in construction wages to be paid to American workers on this project seeds economic prosperity throughout communities, allowing for families to spend, save, and invest their hard-earned dollars. If the project is allowed to proceed, these benefits will provide an estimated $3.4 billion bottom-line benefit to U.S. GDP.

Yanking the permit would not only turn off this economic spigot, but also increase the burden on U.S. taxpayers if workers were subsequently laid off and forced to file for unemployment benefits.

And, ironically, this shortsighted approach would also imperil renewable energy sources.

Unions understand that they need to get their workforce trained and ready as investor-owned utilities across the United States make carbon neutral commitments. Labor unions want their workers to be hired to build renewables facilities but often lack the specialized training necessary to attain those jobs. However, this “skills deficit” is addressed in the Keystone XL deal.

Tucked into this project’s labor agreements is an offer by TC Energy to contribute an estimated $10 million toward a new green jobs training program to honor the 10 million hours anticipated worked on the pipeline by union labor. This targeted private sector investment should serve as a model for renewables job training and workforce development that can be replicated in agreements between unions and private sector companies across the United States.

This agreement is a better option than proposed big government “solutions,” such as the so-called Green New Deal, which would cost taxpayers and consumers anywhere from $50 trillion to $90 trillion over 10 years, according to a 2019 American Action Forum analysis. Other, similar proposals floated by lawmakers, talking heads, and presidential candidates contemplate spending trillions of taxpayer dollars to prop up “green” projects heavy on bureaucracy and light on accountability. 

The two pathways to the energy future of the United States are clear. The Keystone XL Pipeline delivers billions of dollars in needed economic benefits today and provides private sector investment for the future. Costly, big government alternatives would impose economic hardships today and stick future generations with a jaw-dropping bill. Policymakers must allow the Keystone project to proceed and reject “green” boondoggles that would create a pink-slip economy.  

David Williams is president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

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