Green Jobs

Few Americans have heard of Van Jones, founder of Green for All, an organization promoting green-collar jobs and opportunities for the disadvantaged.   On Thursday, January 15th, the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming devoted its first hearing of the 111th Congress to creating jobs and stimulating our economy through renewable energy and efficiency programs.

The economic stimulus package being worked on by Congress and President-elect Barack Obama presents an opportunity for America to take a step forward by investing in renewable technology and infrastructure that will put people to work while transitioning our nation to a clean energy economy and Jones’ testimony challenged the committee to lead the way toward building a green economy keyed to production, not consumption.

Mr. Chairman, other committee members, I’m just happy to be here and I appreciate the opportunity to talk. I was here in 2007 when the term “green collar job” was very rarely heard anywhere. This may have been the first place it was heard in Congress.

And now it is everywhere, and that reflects something. It reflects a hunger and desire on the part of the American people to solve the two biggest crises possibly ever to face this country: an economic catastrophe and a climate crisis, both of which could undermine our nation’s security, our economy, not just now but for decades into the future.

Here are excerpts from his testimony. Pay close attention to the “three principles” he identifies. IMHO these principles should frame our national dialogue as we consider what ought to be included in an economic stimulus plan.

Given Idaho’s current economic woes, our politicians should be at the forefront of the move to green jobs.

In recent years, Idaho led the nation in economic growth, but Mike Ferguson, chief economist for Gov. Butch Otter, said Idaho is now actually leading the nation in the current recession. Our unemployment rate, which was third in the nation in January of 2008, was 18th in November. We’ve seen “a pretty dramatic deterioration in our employment growth over the course of the year,” he told the lawmakers on the panel. Bob Fick of the Idaho Department of Labor told the committee, “The recession has hit every part of the state.” Overall, Idaho lost 17,600 jobs from November of 2007 to November of 2008 and 19,500 fewer people were working. Manufacturing, construction and financial services jobs are disappearing, and while health care and education are growing, those jobs pay less. “Overall, Idaho’s job situation will continue to decline and the unemployment rate rise through much of 2009 before finding bottom,” Fick said.

There is no doubt that Idaho entrepreneurs are thinking green, but it is less certain that members of the Idaho Legislature have gotten the message.  We need to put pressure on them, individually, or by supporting enlightened organizations like the Idaho Conservation League.

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