Last week President Obama solidified his growing opposition to the Keystone Pipeline by asserting that the long-delayed project would only be producing “about 2,000 construction jobs and maybe 150 permanent jobs.”
Think about that a minute. The section of the pipeline that remains to be built from Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska is 835 miles long. Does President Obama really think this monumental edifice is going to be built by 2-1/2 construction workers per mile? Compare that to the fifteen employees of the Department of Public Works -- half of them sipping coffee -- who take three weeks to repair 100 yards of pavement on the local highway.
Construction of the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline, which is almost exactly the same length, employed tens of thousands of construction workers. The population of Valdez alone, the southern terminus, increased by 7,000 in the three years it took to do the job.
The current arguments over how to build out the nation’s infrastructure and put people back to work have long gone far past the point of absurdity. It really has nothing to do with what kind of energy we’re going to use, what facilities will be built or where they will be located. The whole tug-of-war is whether the job will be done by government or private enterprise.
President Obama is wedded to the idea that nothing can be of any promise or value unless it is done by the government. Listen to the litany of job descriptions that comes with his promises to “restore the middle class.” It’s always teachers, firemen, first responders, bridge and road repairs performed by state and local governments employing unionized employees under the Davis-Bacon Act -- government employees all. If a Canadian company wants to come south of the border and hire tends of thousands of construction workers -- the State Department estimated 42,000 -- well that’s just all “greed” and “private profit” and they’ll probably ruin the environment in the offing.
Take a look at the map sometime of how much land the federal government still owns west of the Rockies. It’s frightening. Between them, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Forest Service still hang on to 60 percent of what’s out there. This isn’t National Parks or geological monuments but forests that need culling or scrubland that’s used for virtually nothing. There are probably huge gas and oil reserves out there, plus mineral wealth, but who knows? All other resources development is being swept aside by the Obama administration’s solar barrage.
The administration has just donated 450 square miles in five states to put up thousands of highly polished solar panels, with another 300,000 square miles held in reserve. The first phase will generate as much electricity as you could get from six coal or nuclear plants sitting on eight square miles. The solar installations will require more than a thousand miles of new transmission wires and the electricity will probably cost four to five times what you pay today. But it’s the government that doing it, right? That means no greed, no profits.
Someone should send the president a copy of Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, published in 1946 and still as relevant as ever today. On the first page it reads, "The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups."
Say there are only 2,000 construction workers actually welding together the Keystone at one time. What would it take to feed and house those workers? Why is McDonald’s paying $14 an hour in the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota and still finding no takers? Who would be manufacturing the pipeline? How would the parts be transported all over the Midwest? What would happen when the oil finally reached those half-idle Texas refineries? Would America be able to export refined oil products to pay for some of the manufactured goods we buy from abroad? Would some of those products supply American industries with cheaper energy? What about a manufacturing renaissance here?
The whole thing wouldn’t cost the government a penny. Instead of donating away thousands of square miles of land and then having to subsidize the whole thing, the government could just sit back and collect taxes, maybe paying down some of our $16 trillion national debt in the process.
As long as President Obama sticks with his credo that the government is the only source of wealth and private enterprise is about private profit and private greed, we will continue to languish in the throes of 7.9 percent unemployment while our economy plods along at a pathetic 1.9 percent growth per year.