President Donald Trump signed two memorandums today signaling his support for the advancement of construction on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines -- two projects halted by former President Barack Obama.
Obama's move was greeted at the time with cheers from environmental advocates and Native American rights activists concerned with the pipelines' potential impact on the environment and possible infringement upon the land and resources of Native American tribes.
However, the benefits of the pipelines, Trump said, will be two-fold. First, the construction of promised “vital energy infrastructure” that will transport hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil throughout the United States each day. Second -- and perhaps most notably to Trump, who made it a pledge at almost every campaign speech he gave -- is jobs.
“A lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs,” Trump said today of the potential economic impact of the pipelines. “Great construction jobs."
Trump’s comments, however, contrast with conclusions drawn by researchers who have looked into the economic impact of the pipelines. While it is true that a large number of workers are required for construction, the jobs -- and the money spent by these contractors locally -- are temporary, researchers have noted, with only a small number of employees staying behind for permanent operations positions.
It is unclear where Trump’s 28,000 number comes from. Dakota Access LLC and TransCanada, the companies operating and developing the two pipelines, have cited 12,000 and 42,000 jobs, respectively. A 2014 State Department report agreed with TransCanada on the Keystone XL number but in a far narrower sense.
“Construction spending would support a combined total of approximately 42,100 jobs throughout the United States for the up to 2-year construction period,” the report states, but notes that approximately 26,000 of the positions would result from spending on goods and services by contractors and employees, and last only the duration of the project, up to two years.
These jobs could comprise everything from fast food workers at establishments serving the communities in which construction takes place, to cashiers at local stores.
Of the remaining 16,100 positions, only 3,900 (or 1,950 per year, if the construction lasts two years) would be “construction jobs,” as described by Trump today, and all but 50 would be temporary, with those 50 workers engaged in the ongoing operation of the Keystone XL once it is completed.
Similarly, the Dakota Access Pipeline would employ the vast majority of its workers on a temporary basis until construction is complete. The company's calculation of 12,000 jobs also includes those indirect, non-construction roles at businesses in the region that expect an increase in activity during the short-term period of construction on the pipeline.
The Brookings Institution estimates just 40 full-time permanent positions will remain upon the conclusion of construction on the DAPL.
Trump said today that he also wants it to be a requirement for the materials used in the pipeline to be manufactured in the United States, possibly contributing to additional work for supporting industries.
"If we are going to build pipelines in the United States, the pipes should be built in the United States," Trump said. "We build the pipelines, we want to build the pipe, going to put a lot of workers, lot of steelworkers back to work.”
However, there is currently no law that would require the domestic manufacture of such supplies and materials. And, as for-profit companies, both TransCanada and Dakota Access LLC will likely seek sources that will allow for the construction of the pipelines in the most cost-effective fashion possible.
Previously, Trump himself was invested, literally, in the success of the pipeline. In his most recent financial disclosure in May 2016, the president has owned between $15,000 and $50,000 in shares of Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access LLC and between $100,000 and $250,000 of Phillips 66, which has a 25 percent stake in the pipeline. Since then, both Trump and his aides have said he has sold all of his stocks, though they have not provided evidence to support the claim.