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TransCanada sticks by its numbers after Obama challenges Keystone job estimates

CALGARY - TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) insists that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline will create about 20,000 jobs, despite suggestions by U.S. president Barack Obama that those estimates might be unrealistic.

In an interview with The New York Times this weekend, Obama said that based on "the most realistic estimates" the project might create "maybe 2,000 jobs" during the construction of the pipeline.

"...and then after that we're talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in an economy of 150 million working people," he said.

But a spokesman for Trans-Canada noted that Obama's comments were aimed at his Republican opponents, who have used the economic benefits as one of their major arguments for the project.

"I wouldn't think the president would come out externally and in the media and actually agree with the Republicans regardless of what he might think in private," James Millar said in an interview Sunday.

"I attribute those comments more to being political rather than how he might truly believe on a project."

Millar, however, couldn't account for the discrepancy between Obama's estimates and those provided by TransCanada.

"There is no reason for us to overinflate our numbers, we have to answer to our board, we have to answer to our shareholders," Millar said.

Obama has the final say on the future of the pipeline project _ which will give final approval to the pipeline that would stretch from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast _ that could come sometime this fall.

He is facing intense pressure from both sides of the debate. Keystone has become a symbol for environmentalists on both sides of the border they've waged a fierce public relations battle against the project.

Obama told the Times that he was open to ways to ease concerns about any environmental risks and has said before he will only approve the project if it doesn't increase carbon pollution.

The U.S. State Department, which is reviewing the project because it crosses an international border, issued a draft report earlier this year that suggested Keystone XL's impact on greenhouse gas emissions would be minimal. A final report is expected to be completed this fall.

Obama rejected the $7.6-billion project last year, but invited TransCanada to file a new application with a different route that would address environmental concerns in the state of Nebraska.

Despite the pressure on Obama to reject the project, TransCanada is confident Keystone XL will still be approved, Millar said.

"Even though there is politics involved, we believe that the decision will ultimately be made from a business standpoint of what makes the most sense."

Note to readers: Fixes spelling of TransCanada spokesman


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