by Max Brantley
The Republican talking point factory has constructed a new message machine around the Keystone pipeline. Here's an outline of the next congressional thrust to put President Obama in a corner on the issue. U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin — who doesn't care who it pollutes and who, including Nebraska Republicans, oppose it — is already making social media mileage of the GOP plan.
Careful study isn't necessary for those bent on political messaging, I know. Still, you might find this report on the issue enlightening. The vaunted western route to ship to China is no certainty in Canada. People there care about their environment, believe it or not. Even if an alternate route is approved it would still require pipe. It's worth remembering when Tiny Tim begins his barrage of talking points about the temporary layoff of 60 part-time workers (in a workforce of hundreds) at the Welspun plant in Little Rock.
I point you again to the Cornell study that has debunked the exaggerated job claims on this project, including claims of domestic jobs for steel and pipe production. For example:
It therefore seems likely that the rest of the pipe needed for KXL will probably be manufactured in Welspun’s Indian plants and then shipped to the U.S for final processing (double jointing and coating) or manufactured in Welspun’s Arkansas plant, which imports raw coiled steel and other production inputs (notably from India and South Korea.)
These arrangements allow TransCanada to state that “approximately 75% of the pipe for the US portion of the proposed project would be purchased from North American pipe manufacturing facilities.” This claim is misleading
on two levels. Firstly, it is possible to purchase from a North American facility, but this does not necessarily mean that the steel was produced in those facilities. Secondly, the jobs created in Canada-while important to the Canadian economy—should not then be pitched as “American jobs” to the media and the American public.
Dr. No Boozman is on the case, with a news release that includes the erroneous statement that the steel for the pipeline was produced in Arkansas.
I talked with Dave Delie, president of the Welspun plant in Little Rock, and he confirmed for me that they're producing no steel and primarily using steel from foreign sources. He said about 500 people remain at work in Little Rock. They are completing the order for the Keystone pipeline and working on another TransCanada project. All the Keystone pipe has been made, but it still must be coated, he said. Some 60 part-time workers remain laid off, but will be called back to work when it's time to ship the pipe. That time will come sooner or later, Delie said, because TransCanada has bought the pipe regardless of the outcome of the route debate in the U.S. It would take 60 people about a year's worth of work to ship the 500 miles of pipe already made. They are not permanent employees, but hired as needed. The problem for Welspun is that the end of the U.S. route, even with an alternate Canadian route, will reduce the amount of pipe TransCanada needs, Delie said. So the excess pipe will either reduce TransCanada's needs on other projects or force it to sell the surplus on the open market and create a low-cost competitor for Welspun. Should that happen, Delie said, he wouldn't call the 60 back to work but would use production workers in the shipping process. By the way: An alternate route in the U.S. to avoid a sensitive aquifer in Nebraska would add 40 miles to the project and, thus, more work for Little Rock.