The GOP Obsession With Keystone Explained

Here’s something I initially did not understand— the GOP’s fixation with the Keystone XL pipeline, especially why they made it the first thing they chose to address in 2015 right out if the gate, out of the myriad urgent issues from which they could have chosen.145009_600

Even more befuddling was that they followed that idiotic exercise in uselessness with inviting terrorists into the United States by threatening to shut down the Homeland Security department over a superfluous immigration debate! But that’s a completely separate issue so I’ll try to stay on point.

First, they’ve continued to frame Keystone as a jobs bill, which is, and always has been, utter horse shit.

Then they tried energy security? Now, help me out here, is that to promote friendly relations with Canada or do you think it’s merely a political payoff to Koch Industries, which may very well be the largest leaseholder in the Canadian Tar Sands region?

Maybe it’s supposed to be a gesture to Saudi Arabia that its days of using OPEC as a world-wide bludgeon are over? Any of those would make sense, although a bit tougher to explain on Twitter<gasp>.

But a jobs bill? In a country the size of the United States, where literally hundreds of thousands of jobs are created every single month? In January alone, more than 250,000 jobs were added in the U.S., according to labor reports.

Keystone, during ut’s entire construction, would create 42,000 temporary construction jobs (most likely consisting of Canadian workers, and only lasting roughly 19 weeks). After it’s built, all of those jobs go away (except for a few dozen along the route); excluding the inevitable cataclysimic damage to the country’s largest aquifer. The only real, permanent jobs will be maintaining the pipeline linked to TransCanada and leaseholders like Koch Industries in Canada.

That leaves only one possible reason GOP leaders in Washington talk about Keystone XL as a jobs bill. It’s because they talk about everything as a jobs or economy measure – and have for the past two decades–since Bill Clinton thumped then-President Bush in his 1992 re-election bid with the oft-repeated, “it’s the economy, stupid.”

It appears that the GOP leadership never wants to forget that ass-whooping of a political lesson. They never ever want to be seen again as not being proper key holders of the domestic economy. So now, everything is about jobs for the GOP – even when, like Keystone, the issue has nothing whatsoever to do with “jobs.”

Even immigration reform, often veers into an “American jobs” subtext from GOP leaders when they justify the need for that political fight; which is more utter nonsense—immigrants just don’t fit the demographics needed for their re-election stratagem.

The Keystone fight is now surreal in ways that are nearly impossible for any objective observer to comprehend. And yet the GOP leadership will continue to bring it up at every turn, whenever possible, and describe it as a “jobs” bill.

I fully expect that another government shutdown is in the future over a Keystone XL rider to something as unrelated, or possible even more so, than funding DHS.

Any of which would be patently absurd. The real energy jobs that are now being created, across the globe, not just in America – and will only accelerate exponentially in the next 10-15 years – have nothing at all to do with Keystone or Tar Sands oil.

The jobs are in the solar energy disruption that every utility executive in America now understands and is either fighting or embracing. Solar PV (photovoltaics) – whether in residential or commercial applications – is a disrupting business force that makes Keystone almost irrelevant; especially in the long term.

Right now, in moves that largely go unreported and unnoticed, homeowners and businesses are replacing their energy needs with vastly cheaper solar energy (see Germany: Fifty Percent of the Energy Produced is Solar—A New Record) that is only going to continue to drop in price.

Leading business school experts are starting to predict that solar PV could thoroughly disrupt the utility sector business model in a decade or so – and create literally hundreds of thousands of new job opportunities in this new solar economy.

“Should solar continue on its exponential trajectory, the energy infrastructure will be 100 percent solar by 2030,” Stanford business school lecturer Tony Seba writes in his new book, “Clean Disruption.”

“This statement, that the world will be 100 percent solar, usually generates the same befuddled looks I used to get when I forecasted a billion Internet nodes 20 years ago,” Seba wrote. “The question is:  Can solar keep growing at this exponential rate for another 10 or 20 years? The answer is that the solar growth rate could actually accelerate. As a rule, when a technology product achieves critical mass (the point of no return), its market growth actually accelerates.”

That sort of energy disruption and the hundreds of thousands of new jobs that will follow in its wake dwarfs Keystone – and yet GOP leaders almost universally ignore or disdain this emerging energy economy.

Solar City and every other company entering the space now can build home systems for about $10,000, creating jobs (and cheap, renewable energy peace of mind) in every corner of the United States. It’s a lot like the satellite TV disruption that occurred when direcTV and DISH started to compete with cable television. More choices for consumers emerged, and a whole lot of new jobs were created.

Keystone has been merely a proposal for almost six years now. Of course in the GOP-retro—regressive universe, the only jobs it’s created in the U.S. have been multi-million dollar lobbying jobs for a handful of public relations, legal and government affairs shops in DC.

Meanwhile, the solar industry will complete its one millionth solar installation in America some time in 2015. A third of all new electric generation in 2014 came from solar. A new solar installation or project now occurs somewhere in the U.S. – built by a team of American workers employed in the fastest growing energy sector in the world – every three minutes.

There are now 174,000 solar workers in the U.S – and that number grew by 20 percent last year over the previous year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The solar energy disruption is creating tens of thousands of new jobs in leaps and bounds. These are good American jobs, in a growing industry that will eventually make cheap energy available to all in nearly every corner of America.

Yet the GOP leadership ignores these new hundreds of thousands of jobs inside an innovative, game-changing, clean energy sector that is about to sweep across the country it so self-servingly leads – in favor of a vanishingly small number of mythical Keystone “jobs” that would never stand a chance of materializing were it not for the abject self-serving desires of the USA’s most militant and historically anti-American billionaires, Charles and David Koch, and the GOP politicians who have prostituted themselves out to them.

Harvey A. Gold