Build Back Better ... Now
Posted November 6, 2020
Building new pipelines means jobs. Good jobs. That’s the takeaway from a recent announcement that $1.6 billion in contracts have been awarded to six U.S. union contractors to build 800 miles of the Keystone XL pipeline in three states.
TC Energy, the pipeline’s builder, said the awards represent more than 7,000 union jobs in 2021, with additional 2021 contracts to be announced that will push the jobs number north of 8,000. KXL President Richard Prior:
“With construction activities well underway in both the U.S. and Canada, Keystone XL is already playing a critical role in contributing to North America's economic recovery. The selection of our U.S. construction contractors for 2021 is an important next step in employing thousands more American union workers and delivering tangible benefits to local communities and businesses.”
KXL is being built across parts of Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, linking oil production in Alberta, Canada, with the existing Keystone pipeline system that ultimately delivers Canadian crude oil to U.S. refineries along the Gulf Coast and in the Midwest. Below, the dotted line shows KXL’s route; the solid line is the Keystone pipeline, which already is operating:
KXL basics, according to a U.S. State Department review, which found the project will not significantly affect the environment or climate:
- Safe delivery of 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day
- Tens of thousands of total jobs supported during construction phase
- $2 billion in earnings for U.S. workers
Hiring locally will be emphasized, TC Energy said. The project will prioritize engaging local and indigenous-owned businesses. James T. Callahan, general president of the International Union of Operating Engineers:
“The awarding of 2021 U.S. construction contracts shows the continued momentum behind Keystone XL. The dedicated members of the Operating Engineers are eager and ready to build this critical piece of modern North American energy infrastructure to the highest quality standards. The 8,000 American union jobs that come with 2021 construction is welcome news and irreplaceable as the U.S. continues our economic recovery.”
This is good work for American workers who value employment associated with the natural gas and oil industry. North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) recently released studies showing how much union and non-union tradespeople value the attributes of jobs associated with our industry because of what they pay, how long they last and the opportunities they provide. NABTU President Sean McGarvey:
“[T]oday’s oil and natural gas jobs are better for energy construction workers across the country in both the short and long term. The research confirms what our members tell us: the career opportunities for renewables are nowhere near what they are in gas and oil, and domestic energy workers highly value the safety, reliable duration and compensation of oil and gas construction jobs.”
The KXL pipeline, long delayed by political wrangling, is important to the United States’ energy security in that it strengthens this country’s energy relationship with Canada, our No. 1 source of imported oil. More specifically, it would deliver heavy crude oil that many Gulf Coast refiners need – especially important because heavy crude imports from Venezuela and Mexico have decreased.
Because of increased domestic oil production, U.S. net petroleum imports in 2019 were the lowest since 1954, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Even so, the U.S. still imported 6.8 million barrels of oil per day last year. Canada supplied 56% of that.
Building the KXL pipeline is in the United States’ long-range, strategic interest because, looking to the future, we want oil supply relationships with friends and allies vs. regimes that don’t share our values.
These points – not political agendas – should guide the way we look at this important piece of energy infrastructure.
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and six grandchildren.