Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
A short film released Tuesday by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) dissects the oil industry's claims of how America will benefit from the Keystone XL project.
"PipeLIES Exposed" takes aim at the main arguments Keystone proponents proffer in the press, particularly the wildly inflated number of jobs they claim the project will create. Far from the 100,000 jobs often cited, the film explains that Keystone XL is expected to create only about 3,900 short-term jobs and 50 long-term jobs.
The film also targets the State Department's environmental analysis, which was carried out by a third-party contractor linked to the oil industry. The contractor claimed that building the pipeline will not affect the climate, which the film points out was based on the assumption that Canada's tar sands will be tapped regardless.
On the contrary, "PipeLIES Exposed" reminds viewers of an assessment by longtime NASA climate scientist James Hansen, who warned in 2012 that tapping the one of the largest pools of carbon on the planet "will be game over for the climate" due to the elevated concentration of carbon dioxide in the tar sands. "If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now," Hansen wrote in a New York Times op-ed.
The film also explores the consequences of tar sands spills, which are much more difficult to clean up than conventional oil. To make matters worse, tar sands is an "unconventional oil," which means TransCanada does not have to pay into the government's Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, leaving taxpayers on the hook if there's a major spill. Even more ominous: If the pipeline is built, it will cross the Ogallala Aquifer, America's largest fresh water supply.
"We made this film and investigated the public relations campaign for the Keystone XL pipeline because the fake 'facts' about jobs and energy security peddled by industry-funded politicians and uncritical pundits have left too many Americans deeply misinformed," Lisa Graves, CMD's executive director, said in an advisory.
CMD added that the film was timed to launch just ahead of the government's March 7 deadline for public comment on the pipeline proposal.
"The Keystone XL pipeline is a phenomenally bad idea," the film's director, Emmy-winning journalist Dave Saldana, said in an advisory. "I looked at the claims as a lawyer: What did the evidence show me? The evidence shows that its job creation claims are grossly inflated; that better, greener alternatives would aid America's energy independence and put more Americans to work for a longer time than the pipeline; and that the pumping of tar sands oil across the U.S. primarily for export to foreign countries poses enormous risks to America's water supply, food supply, and air quality. And that's before you even get to what it does to climate change."
For more about the film, its arguments and its creators, visit pipeliesexposed.org.