Thousands gathered near the White House on Sunday to say no to the Keystone oil pipeline. The human chain the protesters formed symbolized unity among environmentalists, youth, indigenous groups and other communities, all calling for decisive political action against climate change and fossil fuels.
But the emergent coalition has encountered fissures between environmental and economic goals. Pipeline boosters have controversially claimed that some 20,000 jobs are at stake in the project, which would channel notoriously dirty tar sands oil from Alberta to Texas. Activists have challenged and debunked the fuzzy math surrounding the projections of new jobs and “energy security,” and say environmental destruction shouldn’t trump narrow economic arguments, anyway. But tell that to struggling construction workers and others frustrated at Washington’s failure to alleviate the jobs crisis–some of the same folks you might find nearby at an Occupy DC rally.
Though environmentalists have united in broad opposition to Keystone XL, the project reveals tensions on labor issues, which illustrate the polarity between two visions of economic development. As we’ve reported before, several unions support Keystone XL as a possible source of jobs. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Laborers’ International Union of North America are already gunning for contracts to help build the pipeline, while other unions have remained neutral. (For the company behind the project, TransCanada, peddling the job-genie rhetoric helps paper over the profit motives driving its extensive lobbying efforts and apparent ties to the infamous Koch dynasty. The State Department is now planning an inquiry into how the pipeline permit process was handled.) Read the rest of this entry →