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Fact-checkers: Obama’s Keystone jobs claim ‘false’

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

A fact-checking website has called President Obama’s remarks about the economic benefits of the Keystone XL pipeline “false,” saying the White House failed to supply any evidence backing up its claims.

“Obama said the Keystone XL pipeline might produce about 2,000 jobs during construction, based on the most reliable estimates,” Politifact said. “The White House provided no supporting evidence and the administration’s own State Department predicted that while the pipeline would produce few permanent jobs, the construction process itself would create nearly twice as many jobs as the president said. We rate the statement False.”

President Obama has taken criticism from the right and left over claims he made in a New York Times interview about the number of jobs that would be created by finishing the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Republicans have said that this would be a big jobs generator. There is no evidence that that’s true,” Obama said. “Any reporter who is looking at the facts would take the time to confirm that the most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline — which might take a year or two — and then after that we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in a economy of 150 million working people.”

However, the White House never offered any evidence to back up this claim, ignoring requests for comment by the Hill newspaper and The Daily Caller News Foundation earlier this week. When Politifact asked, the White House issued a vague response.

“There are a range of estimates out there about the economic impact of the pipeline,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. “What the president is interested in doing is draining the politics out of this debate and evaluating this project on the merits.”

The State Department reported that the pipeline would directly create 3,900 jobs per year, and 42,100 jobs if indirect jobs are included. Even the Sierra Club, one of the leading groups campaigning against the pipeline cites the 3,900 jobs figure — higher than the president’s unsupported numbers.

The only estimate that even comes close to what President Obama claimed was one done by the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations Global Labor Institute, which opposes the pipeline.

The think tank’s assistant director Lara Skinner, who co-wrote a report critical of the pipeline, argued that the State Department’s 3,900 jobs figure represented two years and should be divided in half.

“That’s where the 2,000 job figure comes from,” said Skinner.

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