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Keystone XL would've created few jobs

Bob Deans

The U.S. Senate, on Tuesday, rejected a bill that would greenlight the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. This was the right move, and the proposal should remain defeated if it comes up again.

The Keystone XL would carry heavy tar sands crude across our border from Canada to Nebraska, where it would be forwarded to Gulf Coast refineries and turned into fuels, largely to be shipped overseas.

It would turbocharge one of the most destructive industrial practices ever devised: strip mining and steam reaming tar sands from one of the last truly wild places on Earth, the boreal forest of Canada.

Already, tar sands production has laid waste to enough of this forest to cover Detroit nearly twice. Toxic waste lies in tailings lakes large enough to swamp our nation's capital with effluent that leaks an estimated 2.9 million gallons a day into the Athabasca River and watershed, endangering the food and health of indigenous people.

Proponents claim the pipeline would create jobs. That's true. It would create 35 permanent American jobs, roughly half the staff of the typical Michigan McDonald's.

That's what the TransCanada Corp., the company that wants to build the pipeline, told the State Department when applying to build the pipeline across international borders.

The real jobs on the line in this proposal are those supported by the 110,000 ranches and farms in the three states where pipeline construction would be focused: Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

Those states employ hundreds of thousands of workers to produce food that was worth $41.6 billion in 2012 alone.

That food and the jobs it supports depend, absolutely, on clean air, water and lands. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would put all that at risk.

No one knows better than the people of Michigan, where the Kalamazoo River is still reeling from a pipeline blowout that put more than a million gallons of tar sands crude in the water, polluting the river for 38 miles.

Instead of anchoring our future to the dirty fossil fuels of the past, let's develop the clean energy solutions of tomorrow, and let's invest in efficiency, so we can do more with less waste.

Michigan is already leading the way, with investments of hundreds of millions of dollars to build the next generation of fuel-efficient cars, like the diesel-powered Chevy Cruze, the hybrid Buick Regal and the all-electric Ford Focus, which gets the electric equivalent of 110 miles per gallon.

Let's face it. The Keystone XL proposal is a plan to pipe some of the dirtiest oil on the planet across the breadbasket of America to be refined on the Gulf Coast into fuels that would mostly be shipped overseas. It would create fewer jobs than your local McDonald's. It would anchor our future to the dirty fuels of the past. It would accelerate the destruction of one of the last wild places on Earth. To offset the climate-disrupting pollution it would cause, we would have to park every car in Michigan. Permanently.

That's not a plan to help our country. It's about big profits for big oil, and big pollution for the rest of us.

Bob Deans is the director of editorial content for the Natural Resources Defense Council.