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More Jobs from Renewables than from the XL Pipeline




More jobs would be created by putting an equivalent amount of money into renewable energies than would be created by the XL pipeline.

The Keystone XL Pipeline, or just the XL Pipeline, is a proposed extension to a pipeline system that would transport synthetic crude oil from Canada to refineries in the United States. For a comprehensive introduction to issues with the pipeline, see HERE.

XL pipeline proponents have attempted to frame the debate over whether the pipeline should be constructed in terms of whether it will be economically good for the American people. (They have no argument for how it will affect the environment; environmental impacts will unquestionably be severe.) Their arguments in this frame of mind have taken on two forms: they claim that the pipeline will reduce American dependence on foreign oil, and that the pipeline will create jobs to bolster the American economy. This article will look specifically at the jobs argument.

A study by oil industry analysts (the Perryman group) suggests the number of new jobs created by the XL pipeline will be as many as 20,000. The U.S. State department puts the figure at 6,000. A Cornell University study brings both of these figures into question, saying that neither methodology accounted for the number of jobs that would be lost if the pipeline were to be constructed

Let us now assume that the $7 billion that the XL pipeline is expected to cost is instead to be invested in renewable energy. How will the jobs created by this much investment compare? It is impossible to answer this definitively, as estimates for job creation vary widely depending on the sector of renewable energy and by who the estimate is by, so I will use averages here as well.

A part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act known as the 48C Manufacturing Tax Credits produced 17,000 jobs in the clean energy industry for $2.3 billion. This translates to 52,000 jobs for $7 billion.

A summary of recent research done by UC Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory shows that the solar and wind industries produce an average of 5.7 jobs per million dollars invested. Scaled up, this translates to 40,000 jobs for $7 billion.

Averaging these numbers, we see that a government investment of $7 billion in renewable energy would be expected to produce approximately 46,000 jobs. This is over 3.5 times as much as the average of the XL pipeline figures. In fact, in the best case for the XL pipeline, nearly twice as many jobs would be created by a similar investment in renewable energy, and in the worst case, over 8.5 times as many jobs would go to the renewable energy industry. 

From a jobs perspective, it is very clear that the XL pipeline is a bad idea.


Picture at top: Nellis Solar Power Plant in the United States, one of the largest photovoltaic power plants in North America. (wikipedia)

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Dash, R. (2011). More Jobs from Renewables than from the XL Pipeline. Retrieved from


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