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So, what'd you get for Christmas?

By Bob Hooper
Opinion | December 28, 2011

BOGUE, Kan. - Here's a three-part essay about gifts: wildly exaggerated, sadly expensive, and stupid.

Part Ikeystone-pipeline-map.jpg

You probably won't remember, but a couple of columns back I wrote that estimates of new jobs promised by the Keystone XL pipeline carrying tar sands oil varied wildly. Last week, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) claimed 20,000. So where'd he get that?
CNNMoney took a closer look. The 20,000 estimate comes from TransCanada, the corporation who would build the pipeline. They figured 13,000 construction jobs plus 7,000 manufacturing jobs making pipe, etc. But, whoa.

In 'TransCanada-speak' 20,000 means 10,000 jobs lasting for the two years of construction. Using the same formula, one job lasting 5 years would be 5 jobs.

Up to a third of the project is in Canada. So (calculators out) of the actual ten thousand temporary jobs maybe 3,333 jobs would be Canadian, 6,666 jobs here. That's assuming the Canuck workers stay on their side of the border.

CNN says the U.S. State Department says it's closer to 5,000 U.S jobs for two years. TransCanada's own estimate is that permanent jobs would be "in the hundreds." You probably won't remember, but a couple of columns back I wrote that estimates of new jobs promised by the Keystone XL pipeline carrying tar sands oil varied wildly. Last week, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) claimed 20,000. So where'd he get that?

The pipeline would add about 4 percent to our annual oil supply (if it all stayed here rather than being sold abroad to the highest bidder). The project would also devastate vast areas in Canada, and create significant risk of expensive leaks.

keystone-canada-pipeline.jpgNation Magazine had this to say: "Beyond spills, there's also the issue of greenhouse gas emissions, which the Environmental Protection Agency estimates to be over 80 percent higher for tar sands than normal crude oils. While the State Department report acknowledges that 'current projections suggest that the amount of energy required to extract all crude oils is projected to increase over time,' it also says the greenhouse gas emissions from the tar sands might stay flat or even decrease over time" IF the petroleum industry can deliver on its promise to develop more efficient refining techniques. (I encourage readers to access The Nation link for much more.)

Bottom line Keystone is no job bonanza. Given environmental consequences, there are better ways to go -- including research and development of alternative energies, real effort at efficiencies, and modernizing infrastructure..

Part II

I'm guessing a lot of stuff you got, or bought, for Christmas, said "Made in China." (Not just Christmas, you say?)

Earlier this month The Guardian -- a British paper -- ran a story, Revealed: true cost of the Christmas toys we buy from China's factories. The following is a typical scenario from one of the factories studied. I've shown British Pounds are shown in U.S. dollar equivalents:

"The researcher spent three weeks in the factory and found workers put in up to 140 hours of overtime every month, nearly four times the 36 hours a month legal limit. Basic pay is [$172.00] a month, but wages were paid a month late, in breach of labour law. During the peak summer season workers could make up to [$375] a month, including overtime, but that falls to [$219] during low season.

"A typical working day during the peak season starts at 8am and does not end until 10pm. Workers routinely put in six-day weeks, but if the factory is busy there are no days off. Workers complained that they were banned from talking to one another on the production line and were fined up to [$7.80] if they went to the toilet without applying for an 'off-duty' permit. They reported regular burns from soldering irons and electric shocks from old hair dryers used to set glue, along with concerns about the effect on their health of unmarked chemicals they have to work with. The law requires the chemicals to be identified and for workers to be instructed in what to do in case of an accident. Up to 10 workers share each 20 square metres dormitory room (about 15x15 ft.) which is fitted with bunk beds. Dozens share the toilet and the outside of the building is piled deep with rubbish, which is home to rats."

Companies who sell Chinese products here make a dandy profit. Maybe you can begin to understand why.

Part III

If you happened to get an email from a persistent Woodston lady about "76 year old Bill Cosby" putting out right-wing propaganda, just delete it. Cosby says on his own website: "I did not write the email. I did not send the email. I'm not 76, and I don't subscribe to the ugly views expressed in the email."

Another forward has President Obama saying he met former Chicago mayor Blagojevich just once (at a football game) but photos "prove" Obama lied. Baloney. Both politicians were Chicagoans and met several times at Democratic functions. There's no record President Obama ever claimed otherwise. Let's hope Santa sent the lady a BS detector, and she learns to use it.]

Happy New Year!


6 Comments

There's also the little inconvenience about the "energy independence" argument. Most of the oil sluiced down to the Gulf will be for export.

Oops.


Bob, thanks for the summary on jobs created (not). It's difficult to follow all the estimates, and this is a helpful overview.

Just a note, possibly about difficulties in posting: I see the XL jobs information repeated, on the page as I am seeing it. Also, the comments on China seem a separate post, perhaps in response to Alan's on China? Certainly seems a relevant response to the China post, anyway.


David, thank you for the editing! Let me know if we've fixed it. Good catch!

Though Bob may have not tied in the pipeline story directly to the toys from China comments, I can make a tie-in. That oil is destined to be shipped to China (not used in the U.S.) and perhaps he meant to suggest that our dependence on Chinese goods leads us to allow environmental dangers, such as the construction of the pipeline so that Canada can sell its oil to China.

Thanks again for the editing! Please keep it up. We need all hands on deck!


David/Pamela -

The column/blog was written as a "three-parter" and in the original a "division character" separated the parts. I should have inserted something.

The parts do have a loose tie, under "Christmas gifts."

(1) The XL pipeline gift of 20,000 jobs is an exaggeration/misrepresentation.(2) the gift of Chinese products, here specifically toys, comes at a bigger price than most know, and (3) the "gift" of right-wing emails is PIA BS, all too common these days (Translation of PIA BS on request).

I hadn't seen the double-post of Keystone XL information. I'm not sure how that might have happened Sorry if I goofed in that regard.


How's the new presentation? (Confusion is one of my dependable attributes.)


Bob, I like it. Though "less is often more" when it comes to making fonts bigger or bolder, so I did tone the big bold down just a tad. By the way, it's wonderful that you are writing!


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This page contains just one story published on December 28, 2011. The one written previous to this is titled "Is Kansas Free Press Relevant?" and the story published right after this one is "What China's Progress Means"

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