Growing the Green Economy

By Rachel Cohen
(First posted on the RACblog)
With special thanks to Legislative Assistant Micaela Hellman-Tincher for her contributions to this post.

Last week, Mayor Ron Dellums and Rep. Barbara Lee unveiled the Oakland Green Jobs Corps, a program designed to train young city residents to participate in green industry, which is rapidly expanding throughout California. While the program starts small by giving 40 young adults skills in green construction and solar panel installation, advocates hope that it will become a pilot for green jobs programs around the country. At a time when both jobs and new energy solutions are in high demand, there is clearly fertile ground for such initiatives. Weatherization programs, like the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program, have already provided 8,000 jobs weatherizing homes in low-income communities. These workers not only help communities reduce their carbon footprint, but they also help to lower the cost burden of heating and cooling by an average of 15% for low-income families.

Americans are ready for green jobs, and scholars and advocates alreadyhave plans to put the green economy into action: Van Jones, a seniorfellow at the Center for American Progress and longtime environmental activist, recently wrote The Green Collar Economy,a plan to solve the economic and environmental crises at once byfocusing on creating jobs in the clean energy sector. A recent New York Times Magazinecover story on the new green economy explains how entrepreneurs withmillions to invest have ideas to revolutionize our economy and ourenvironment with everything from plug-in hybrid cars to algae-basedbiofuels. The message is simple: Green is good- not just for ourplanet, but for our national bottom line.

Building the green economy fulfills two of our most important obligations as Jews; to ’till and to tend’ our Earth, and to care for the most vulnerable among us. In fact, Judaism teaches that the highest form of tzedakah is to help another person towards being self-sufficient, and new green jobs are a big step forward for those struggling though our economic and energy crises. The new green economy could cut carbon emissions drastically, putting us on the path to 80% emissions reductions by 2050, the standard recommended by the International Panel on Climate Change. If we build the green economy right, we can also ensure access to productive jobs with competitive wages to Americans currently facing unemployment, unpaid mortgages, and heaps of debt.

We need a massive undertaking to rebuild our transportation infrastructure, retrofit old buildings for greater energy efficiency and water conservation, and build a national network of solar panels and wind turbines to help power our electric grid. This transition will require massive amounts of labor, and as unemployment insurance runs out for thousands across the country, Americans are ready to step up and take these jobs. Finally, economists and environmentalists are realizing that they are allies, not opponents, and that together, we can be the innovative America we want to be.

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One Response to “Growing the Green Economy”

  1. avatar

    Hot Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman is an excellent new book setting out the vital importance of a multifaceted approach to our energy problem, global warming, terrorism and petrodictatorships, and economic leadership. I highly recommend it to everyone. Friedman explains how all these serious problems are interrelated and how action to solve them can not only help mankind survive, but can also create millions of good new jobs in the United States. Tom Friedman applauds the work of T. Boone Pickens. Pickens, is spending tens of millions of dollars on advertising and other efforts to promote American energy independence by developing non-carbon energy sources like wind, solar, geothermal, and nuclear. Pickens, philanthropist in his 80’s who spent a successful career in the oil business, is famous for proclaiming “We can’t drill our way out of this.” Using 25 per cent of the world’s oil, we have about 3 per cent of the reserves left. We would have to be a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia to satisfy our needs, and that’s not going to happen even with offshore and north slope drilling. Besides, oil and coal aggravate the global warming problem which has dire consequences. He has had a favorable response from both Obama and McCain.
    Part of the problem we have had is the lack of political will to develop a new green energy economy. That has limited the amount investors have put at risk in developing new technologies. Success will require a coherent plan at the national level; changing light bulbs is not nearly enough. Whatever country develops the technology, will have something everyone will need, and that should be the U.S., not China or Europe if we want to maintain our economic leadership and strength.

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