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Ryan Zinke: Wrong on State of the Union, Wrong on Keystone XL

Today, no doubt hoping to appear to be a conservative, Congressional candidate Ryan Zinke offered a critique of President Obama’s State of the Union address that ignored the substance of the President’s remarks and badly misstated the facts about the Keystone XL pipeline, claiming that its development would create “tens of thousands of jobs in Montana.”

That, of course, is pure fantasy. Keystone won’t create anything like that number of jobs in Montana, as CBS News explained last year:

But subsequent analysis suggests that Keystone’s job-creating potential is more modest. The U.S. State Department calculated last year that the undergroundpipeline would add 5,000 to 6,000 U.S. jobs. One independent review of Keystone puts that number even lower, with the Cornell University Global Labor Institutefinding that the pipeline would add only 500 to 1,400 temporary construction jobs. The authors of the September report also said that much of the new employment stemming from Keystone would be outside the U.S.

Transcanada itself cast doubt on its employment forecast when a vice president for the company told CNN last fall that the 20,000 jobs Keystone would create were temporary and that the project would likely yield only "hundreds" of permanent positions.

Worse yet, Keystone XL will actually increase prices at the pump for Montanans:

But in the case of the Keystone pipeline, it turns out there’s a special twist. At the moment, there’s an oversupply of tarsands crude in the Midwest, which has depressed gas prices there. If the pipeline gets built so that crude can easily be sent overseas, that excess will immediately disappear and gas prices for 15 states across the middle of the country will suddenly rise. Says who? Says the companies trying to build the thing. Transcanada Pipeline’s rationale for investors, and their testimony to Canadian officials, included precisely this point: removing the “oversupply’ and the resulting “price discount” would raise their returns by $2 to $4 billion a year.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, that would translate to about $3 for an average 15-gallon fill-up—as independent energy economist Philip Verleger put it, with Keystone the industry “will be able to use its market power to raise the heavy crude price to Midwest refiners above the level that would prevail in a competitive market.”

And let’s not even get started on the potential environmental impacts of the pipeline.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • See, when one plays a wee bit too much football without a helmet, that makes for a good navy seal but NOT necessarily for a well informed politician! I’m thinkin’ that the Barking Seal reached his level of competence in the SEALS. He really does not shine in the intellect department. He ain’t no Jesse Ventura! No critical thinking skills.

  • All of Montana’s congressional delegation and John Walsh support the XL pipeline. Recently Brian Schweitzer said this.

    REGINA — On a Tuesday in early 2005, Brian Schweitzer was sworn in as governor of Montana.

    Next day, he was bundled into a National Guard helicopter and flown to the state’s northwest for the funeral of an 18-year-old reservist killed in Iraq.

    He couldn’t tell the soldier’s parents what politicians like to say: that their son had died helping to keep the country free.

    But Schweitzer couldn’t — because his analysis, refined at dozens of funerals over eight years in office, was that the soldier died in oil-rich Iraq “because we didn’t have our own energy supply … we needed that oil in North America.”

    And that’s one of the reasons why Schweitzer became “the biggest advocate in the U.S.” of the Keystone pipeline, which would send crude oil from the Bakken oilfield and Alberta’s oilsands to refineries on the U.S. gulf coast.

    “I never sent a single member of the Montana National Guard to the Canadian border — and we never will have to because we’re friends and we’re neighbours,” Schweitzer told the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership’s Tapping Opportunity in the Bakken conference Monday.

    As to the issue of jobs, construction jobs only last as long as the project is being built. Always been that way. Seem to recall similar jobs claims about the green energy economy by political advocates.

  • Keystone XL is a disaster waiting to happen for the midwest and republicans like ZInke know it. This oil is going directly to China. In fact China has already paid the Oil sands Companies in Canada over 8 billion dollars to destroy its ecology, pollute, its water and air… they seem happy to pay more as well.

    Its in no way going to help our economy, and the Canadian companies cannot even promise it can sell any extra to the U.S….

    I will tell you this, Montanas Headwaters are in grave danger of heavy metal pollutants seeping into our water supply very soon, if we don’t stand strong with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples and stop this oilsand madness. Might as well be defecating in our drinking water, if we continue to allowthese corporations to ride heard over the pockets of Montana politicians.

  • My mistake Norma for leaving out Steve Bullock supporting the pipeline. Let’s see we have Dem gov. Bullock, Dem Lt. gov. Walsh, Dem senator Tester, and Dem senator Baucus all supporting the pipeline. Are you trying to say they aren’t as smart as republicans if as you say, “Keystone XL is a disaster waiting to happen for the midwest and republicans like ZInke know it?” Now if these leading Montana Dems do have such knowledge, what does that say about them and their support of the pipeline??????

    • Democratic senate hopeful Dirk Adams opposes the Keystone pipeline, which would move tar sands crude to Houston. A pipeline for Bakken crude (which would be much safer than shipping that low flash point oil by rail) probably would move it to the midwest.

    • I dont think you understand Craig. I am not with corporations, Republicans, Or Democrats on this, Period.

      All environmental research on Tar sands says that this is all just a horrible Idea: Digging the sands up, sucking up clean water, destroying Woodland habitats, the Heavy metal pollution associated with the tar sand themselves, the fact that we might transport this sick crap in pipelines made of East Indian steel, that is thinner than EPA regulation standards through the heartland of America… and Lastly the Tar Sands companies won’t use the latest technology to monitor the pipes.

      I’m not for any of it… none of it.

      Us Democrats don’t agree all the time. So on this issue I consider all of them just flat wrong about the Tar Sands, right along with you!

        • Why in any saints name would we allow other countries to dictate our energy needs, when we can build solar and wind farms that create more American Jobs regarding those new tech industries — than all the tar sands companies of of Canada could ever promise us.
          Clean energy jobs that cant ever be taken away from America?

      • Nuts! You pointed a political finger (“… republicans like ZInke know it…”) and have no response as to why those of your stripe support the pipeline. Now they are either as smart as the R’s you accuse of knowing the downside, or they are dumber than a rock. Which is it? Can’t have it both ways.

  • Keystone XL terminates in Port Arthur, Texas, at the Motiva refinery complex , which is 50-50 owned by Royal Dutch Shell and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
    The Saudis have already gotten the U.S. to fight three wars for them since 1991 (on the taxpayers’ dime and our soldiers’ blood) and the payback to the Republican party is just kind of an Islamic reach-around for the good-old-boys.

  • As an conservative Republican I’ve had a change of heart when it comes to the completion of the XL, for 2 reasons.

    First anyone with a room temperature IQ knows that the chances of derailments far exceed any pipeline bursts.

    But more importantly pipelines merely cross watersheds while railroads, more importantly MT railroads, parallel the Yellowstone, Missouri, and Clarks Fork as they wind their way across the state.

    So like all conservatives we revel in the increased possibility that our major rivers will flow with Bakken tainted waters.

  • I believe the best answer is far less oil and more solar and wind. Here in Beaverhead county our calm days still blow at 6-10 miles an hour continually, always a breeze. The Giant Mega watt windmills only need 6 to work, and our county has over 300 days of sunshine a year. the answer isn’t oil and gas the answer is the aforementioned free energy.

    I am with Thomas Edison on this: In 1931, not long before he died, the [Edison] told his friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone: “Id put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”

     Edison was also a pioneer in renewable energy and green technology. He experimented with home-based wind turbines to generate electricity and provide homeowners with an independent source of power, and he teamed up with his friend Henry Ford to develop an electric car that would run on rechargeable batteries.

  • Grain of salt, but a friend in the biz in Montana told me that it is hard to justify a Bakken pipeline as the wells immediately go into steep decline, which I have heard elsewhere too. Typical of an oil boom, most of the money is made promoting the wells, and investors will get a very slow payout, of ever.

  • Also, maybe I’m not up to speed, but the pipeline is a done deal, right? You can debate all you want, but the people you elected have other constituents they have to please first.

  • I the to admit it, but Montana’s Democratic leaders are afraid of Big Oil and Big Coal money. They won’t oppose them unless they’re sure they won’t pay a price politically. The only thing that will give them courage to stand up for the environment is a huge show of public support.

    There’s no use pretending this is a partisan issue.

    • damn straight, Turner. and the public won’t know enough about this issue because their media, like their preferred Democrat politicians, lie to them.

      • 1) Its not our media Lizzie, the majority of Media in the USA is owned by Conservatives not Democrats.

        2)G eorge Mason University’s Center for Media and Public Affairs studied 100 PolitiFact fact-checks during President Obama’s second term. The organization “rated Republican claims as false three times as often as Democratic claims,” a press release says.

        PolitiFact rated 32% of Republican claims as “false” or “pants on fire,” compared to 11% of Democratic claims – a 3 to 1 margin. Conversely, Politifact rated 22% of Democratic claims as “entirely true” compared to 11% of Republican claims – a 2 to 1 margin.
        A majority of Democratic statements (54%) were rated as mostly or entirely true, compared to only 18% of Republican statements. Conversely, a majority of Republican statements (52%) were rated as mostly or entirely false, compared to only 24% of Democratic statements.

        3) Its not the messenger– its were the messenger gets his message from.

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