By Richard TewLong mired in controversy, the Keystone Pipeline, once fully approved for permitting looks to provide immediate and long-term jobs and economic growth throughout the many states (and one country) it will traverse.In short, the Keystone Pipeline is a project that once completed, would allow efficient crude oil transport from oil-rich fields in Canada through the middle of the United States through its 36 inch pipes into southeast Texas near the city of Beaumont. “It’s literally a conduit for us to bring crude oil reserves to the Gulf Coast where we are the experts at refining and manufacturing,” said the Economic Alliance Houston Port Region’s CEO Chad Burke. The project is estimated to cost $5.3 billion and is the largest infrastructure project currently underway in the United States.The pipeline will have the capacity to transport some 830,000 barrels of oil-per-day to Gulf Coast and Midwest refineries. In exchange for the investment, the projected economic impact would add an estimated $20 billion during the construction and development stages of the project and $172 billion to the United States Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2035. According to the Economic Alliance, Gulf Coast municipalities could receive some $99 million in revenue while the state would see $486 million during the Keystone and related pipeline construction projects. Burke says the Keystone project is an effort of getting more energy independence in North America by exploiting native sources of oil instead of being dependent on other sources of oil. “Do we want to take advantage of North American oil reserves or do we want to let Canada sell that to China?” said Burke.According to Burke, traditionally, the United States has always imported oil from other countries like Central and South America, along with Middle Eastern countries. That crude oil is a different “flavor,” than crude that comes from other sources like the oil that comes from Canada, he says. Burke also says refineries are gearing up for the influx of this Canadian crude oil but making changes to their existing refining process to be able to refine this type of “Sweet Crude.” “We’ve got two of the nation’s largest refineries right here along the Houston Ship Channel,” said Burke. He says the ship channel refiners close to 25 percent of the nation’s gas and almost all of the nation’s jet fuel. The impact to the workforce along the communities that border the planned pipeline will be significant. Burke says reports he has seen indicate that for every one direct job would equate into at least another seven indirect jobs such as those in the pipeline service industry, manufacturing, etc. A flyer obtained from the Economic Alliance states “Construction of the 1,179 mile pipeline will require 9,000 skilled American workers, which includes welders, mechanics, electricians, pipefitters, laborers, safely coordinators, heavy equipment operators and other workers. In addition to these direct construction jobs will be another 7,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector. Burke says that in addition to the increase in jobs, the obvious benefit to our region is a continuous supply (of crude oil) at stable prices which lets them (industry) forecast, plan and build and operate their facilities in such a way that they can project out stability and prices. Opponents of the project cite potential environmental issues such as pipe breaks and leaks, Burke belays these concerns by saying pipelines are one of the safest methods currently in use for transporting products like chemicals and petroleum.Currently, different sections of the pipeline have been permitted and construction has begun, but there are legal and political snags like that in Nebraska where the permit approval is now up to that state’s supreme court.