Throughout the history of its big pipeline project, Vermont Gas has been its own worst enemy — alienating landowners, indulging in ham-fisted PR, and repeatedly raising its cost estimates for pipeline construction.
Nonetheless, the odds are still in VG’s favor. Well-meaning protests notwithstanding, if VG can make a plausible economic case, the thing’s gonna get built.
And who’s helping them build a plausible economic case, according to VTDigger?
The construction of the project will create as many as 444 direct and indirect jobs, according to a report by the Vermont consulting firm, Northern Economic Consulting, Inc.
That’s the consulting firm co-owned by our least-favorite economist Art Woolf, he of the reliably awful “How We’re Doing” column in the Burlington Free Press.
Yes, Art’s a professor at UVM, but I suspect he makes a lot more money from NEC than he does for his academic work. His consulting firm has a number of revenue streams:
— Consulting to a variety of high-paying clients, mostly of the corporate persuasion.
— Providing expert witness services for civil suits of all kinds. (“Have you been hurt in a slip and fall accident? Dial 1-800-CALL-ART for expert testimony on your financial losses.”)
— Running an annual Vermont Economic Outlook Conference. The most recent conference was a five-hour affair, with admission priced at a cool $170/person.
— Publishing a monthly Vermont Economy Newsletter, subscription a mere $150/year.
In short, Woolf is more hired gun than objective expert. Which might explain why his weekly columns, more often than not, come across like they were written on behalf of the Associated Industries of Vermont. George W. Bush once told a roomful of wealthy supporters that they were his base; well, the Vermont business sector is Woolf’s base.
So, about his rosy estimate of the pipeline’s economic impact. Without doubt, the vast majority of those 444 “direct and indirect jobs” are temporary, construction-related jobs.
TransCanada has claimed that the Keystone Xl pipeline would create tens of thousands of jobs. But almost all of those are temporary, appearing and disappearing during the projected two-year construction cycle. Operating the pipeline, once it’s built, would take about 50 workers.
As far as I can tell, nobody’s asked Woolf about the quality or duration of those 444 pipeline jobs. But if his math is similar to Keystone’s, then we should expect no more than a handful of permanent positions at Vermont Gas.
Don’t blame Woolf; he’s only doing what bespoke experts do for their money: putting forth the best possible case for his client.
One more thing. The identifier that accompanies Woolf’s column in the Freeploid mentions only that he’s a faculty member at UVM. Nothing about his corporate clients, nothing about the subscriber base for his costly publication. Considering how many business interests are paying Woolf, how often do you suppose there’s been a direct or indirect conflict of interest that’s gone conveniently undisclosed?
Oh, one more one more thing. There’s a typo in the title of last Thursday’s “How We’re Doing.” In the TITLE, for God’s sake. It’s spelled “minuscule,” not “miniscule.” Any copy editors left at the Freeps?