Do the environmental consequences of the Keystone XL project outweigh the economic benefits? During today's OnPoint, Jeremy Symons, senior vice president at the National Wildlife Federation, explains why he believes the oil industry will use Keystone XL to raise prices and export supplies outside of the United States. He also discusses the political consequences President Obama faces if he approves the project.
Monica Trauzzi: Hello and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Jeremy Symons, senior vice president of the National Wildlife Federation. Jeremy, thanks for coming back on the show.
Jeremy Symons: Thanks for having me.
Monica Trauzzi: Jeremy, as the countdown on Keystone continues, both sides are lobbying hard for and against the pipeline. There's a big disparity on the number of jobs that Keystone XL might actually create. Disparity aside, however, it does seem like this would be a job creator and an economic boost for the United States. So how can we not consider such a project that could be such a boost for the U.S. economy?
Jeremy Symons: Well, let's consider the source first of all of who says this is an economic boost. It's the oil companies who have only one goal and that's to increase their profits. They don't care about our overall economy or the health of you and me. In fact, they're taking the money from our pockets every day. What we really know about this job -- about this pipeline is that it's a scam. This pipeline is designed to take oil from Canada, bypass Midwest northern refineries and take it down to the Gulf so they can export it. There's no American jobs in taking Canadian oil and selling it to China. We get the pollution, Canada gets the jobs, China is going to get the oil.
Monica Trauzzi: But there are construction projects that would come as a result of this pipeline being built and workers that would be needed for those projects. So there will be net jobs created. Isn't that right?
Jeremy Symons: Well, once they bring all the steel in from overseas, because none of it's being manufactured here, there would be some construction jobs and construction jobs are important. They build America. But, again, let's be clear about what's really going on here. Oil companies are creating -- making up numbers about jobs. If oil companies were really interested in creating jobs in America, they could create a lot of jobs with the $400 million parachutes that they give their CEOs. What's really going on, according to Cornell, a global labor institute, which is the only independent analysis of the pipeline's effect on jobs, is that this is a jobs killer that will, in the end, see far more jobs lost because we're investing in Canadian oil instead of domestic energy here at home that creates permanent jobs.
Monica Trauzzi: Right now voters across the country are focused on the presidential candidates and what they can do for the economy. Do you see Keystone XL emerging as a critical issue in the upcoming presidential election?
Jeremy Symons: Well, one thing that's clear is the oil companies are out to get President Obama and the reason for that is President Obama is the only president who's actually stood up and done anything about our addiction to oil. The fuel economy standards that he's put in place for cars and for trucks, with autoworkers and car companies working together, are going to save 12 billion barrels of oil. That's a big threat to the bottom line of oil companies. And he's also the first president who's gone after the big taxpayer handouts and to the tune of billions dollars every year. So they're going to go after him. They're going to spend that money. Regardless of what happens on the Keystone pipeline and the Keystone pipeline scam, they're going to go after him because they want their allies in Congress to score political points.
Monica Trauzzi: Jack Gerard was just recently on the show saying that they're going to spend significant amounts of cash trying to keep this in the news. How do you fight that? How does the environmental community fight that?
Jeremy Symons: Well, I think that at the end of the day it's a double-edged sword. They have a lot of money. We know where they get that money from. They get it from us and they're going to spend it on politics, but they've already decided that they're going to throw in, they're just using Keystone as the excuse. I think the other side of that equation though is that the opponents to -- or the proponents of the pipeline are playing a very dangerous political game, because they're hanging oil companies and their loyalty to oil companies around their neck and the public is really fed up with that. They're fed up with the fact that a few oil companies are running politics here in Washington and you see something like a payroll tax bill, something important for our economy get held up and almost demolished because oil companies weren't getting their way on their agenda.
Monica Trauzzi: So, you don't see it as a political disadvantage for the president if he disapproves the project?
Jeremy Symons: No, I think we've seen clearly along the way that every time the president stood up to oil companies, American public has responded because they're tired of these kinds of gimmicks that oil companies do. They're usually behind the scenes. They don't get this kind of exposure. But, at the end of the day, we always end up paying more at the pump. That's exactly what this is about. Independent analyses have shown that this is going to raise our prices at the pump and it's good for president Obama to stand up for it and it's also good for our economy.
Monica Trauzzi: It's been said that the environmental community is a small voice in this discussion that's making a lot of noise. Do you believe that you represent what the majority of Americans are feeling and thinking right now?
Jeremy Symons: Oh, yeah, National Wildlife Federation represents 4 million Americans across the political spectrum across the country and we've seen hundreds of thousands of Americans speak out against this pipeline. We've never seen that kind of uprising. This was really a groundswell because when the sunshine was shined on this pipeline scam, people were outraged and they want to see the president stand up and make a difference. What's at stake on this pipeline is the ability of landowners to protect their land and their clean water. We know this pipeline is going to spill. We don't know where. They haven't even picked a route. But at the end of the day, you can't let oil companies come and strip Americans of the right by using eminent domain, which is what they really want to get at.
Monica Trauzzi: So TransCanada has indicated that they're going to be releasing a new route in the coming weeks. Would that make it more palatable to you if they did change the route that they currently have suggested?
Jeremy Symons: Well, here's what we know about the environmental impacts. The State Department analysis of the old pipeline route, before TransCanada said it was going to change it, was that it will spill over 50 times over its lifetime and it said major spills. These spills could be up to 2 million gallons or more. This is a particularly corrosive and dangerous tar sands oil from Canada. And we've seen in Michigan where it spilled that a year later the river is still closed down, because it's worse even than conventional oil. We can't put our clean water at risk for that. We can't drink clean water. So I think that at the end of the day, wherever this pipeline is situated, the people along that route who will have to give up their land and potentially their clean water have a right to know what's going to happen.
Monica Trauzzi: Do you think that the global warming consequences of this project have sort of been pushed off the radar in favor of some of the other discussions that we're seeing?
Jeremy Symons: Well, we initially thought that this was a big global warming fight in some respects because tar sands is such a big source and a growing source of carbon pollution. There's no question about for the long-term there are global warming implications here and we can't grow our addiction to tar sands. But what we found out is over the next 10, 15, 20 years this pipeline really matters. It isn't about increasing tar sands. This pipeline is about moving tar sands oil already coming into the nation from America's Midwest overseas. So it's turned into much more of an economic fight and more about the route. Why are we crossing 1700 miles across America's heartland? Because that's what they need to do to get it to the port. That's the only reason that a sacrifice is being asked of all these landowners along the way and all the agriculture along way.
Monica Trauzzi: How much of a game changer do you think threats from Iran are that they're going to block the Strait of Hormuz? Does that sort of put extra pressure on the president to approve this pipeline so we can have some more domestic sources of energy?
Jeremy Symons: Well, I think the opportunity here is for a real debate on what's going on with oil and Iran provides that opportunity, because right now we've had sort of these superficial bumper stickers coming from oil companies. But when you dig into it, it's really clear that the worst thing you could do to deal with -- to help our energy security, is take the oil we're already getting, build this pipeline and send it overseas. And Congressman Markey pushed TransCanada, the company building it, very hard in his committee and they absolutely refused to say that they would keep the oil in the United States, because everybody knows it's going overseas. That's what the shippers, the big oil companies, Valero and others have said they want to do. In fact, these refineries they're going to are owned by Saudi Arabia, owned by Venezuela and owned by other countries.
Monica Trauzzi: All right, we're going to end up there on that note.
Jeremy Symons: Thank you.
Monica Trauzzi: Big debate here.
Jeremy Symons: Yeah.
Monica Trauzzi: Thanks for coming on the show.
Jeremy Symons: Thank you very much.
Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.
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