Dozens of national and regional groups — Sierra Club, 350.org, the Natural Resources Defense Fund, Greenpeace, Bold Nebraska, Tar Sands Blockade — have been fighting the Keystone XL pipeline, saying it could contaminate groundwater and will ratchet up carbon emissions, hastening climate change.
Some health organizations have weighed in as well. The National Nurses United recently marched against the project (see the video below), arguing that it threatens water and the public health.
But a poll this past weekend by the ABC News and the Washington Post shows that the general public has conflicting views about the 1,700-mile cross-continental project.
The poll of 1002 Americans found that the majority — 65 percent — said they believed the pipeline should be approved.
At the same time, the poll also found that 47 percent believed it “would pose a risk” to the environment, and 44 percent found that it “would not pose a risk” to the environment.
Unfortunately, the poll was not in-depth, and did not tease out these conflicting views, though it suggested that the reason Americans seem willing to incur some environmental damage on behalf of this project lies with the fact that they believe it will create jobs.
Those polled overwhelmingly (85 percent) said they believed that the pipeline will bring “a significant number” of jobs to the United States.
The number of jobs that will be created has been hotly debated however. One study by Cornell University found that the pipeline would produce 2,500 to 4,600 jobs, most of which would be temporary. That study rebutted claims by pipeline supporters, who had been saying that the project would bring 20,000 jobs to the United States.
A few years earlier, when the project was first presented to the public, Keystone supporters had suggested the construction and allied work around the pipeline would create 100,000 American jobs, a big carrot that turned out to be a fiction.
The Cornell study, called “Pipe Dreams: Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained by Construction of Keystone XL”, also noted that pipeline steel was not being manufactured in the U.S. but coming from India and Russia, confining the jobs generated in the U.S. to the laying of the pipeline.
Again, it’s unfortunate that the ABC/Washington Post poll did not define “significant number” of jobs, nor did it ask those polled how many jobs those being queried thought the pipeline would create. So there’s no way to tell if the support for Keystone XL the poll uncovers is based on a realistic estimation or a misperception of its employment/economic benefits.
The Washington Post did report that the segment of those polled that opposed the project were the self-defined “liberal Democrats.” This group told pollsters that they believe the oil carried by Keystone XL would not help the U.S. because it’s destined for foreign markets, and that it would extend the world’s dependence on polluting fossil fuels.
Which leaves us to wonder. Is the American public accurately informed on the topic of the Keystone XL pipeline?
Outside of the poll, a reported 2 million Americans signed petitions opposing Keystone XL. A group called Moms Clean Air Force delivered many of these petitions in boxes to the State Department on Friday, the last day to comment on the project.
About 500,000 have sent petitions in support of the project, according to news reports.
And more than 50,000 comments — pro and con — also are posted online at Regulations.gov, where any citizen could register their opinion.
The Keystone XL pipeline would carry tar sands oil from mines in Alberta, Canada to refineries on the Texas coast, cutting through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, along a 1,700 mile route. That route has been challenged in Nebraska, where opponents fear a leak could contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer, which is tapped for agriculture and drinking water across the US heartland.
The route through Nebraska remains in question after a judge ruled that it the state did not follow its Constitution in quickly approving an alternate route in Jan. 2013.
The project needs a permit from the Obama Administration to go forward, because it crosses an international boundary.