Tomorrow, over four thousand union members, community activists, business leaders, and environmentalists will converge on Washington DC for the nation’s leading clean energy jobs summit. The 2010 Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference will highlight the urgency of building a clean energy economy that lays a foundation of good jobs for working families and invests in strong communities.
The Center for American Progress is honored to join these thousands of workers and organizers along with national leaders such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu, Senator John Kerry, and others at this years Green Jobs summit. Together, we are calling for a comprehensive national energy strategy, that not only reigns in runaway carbon emissions, but establishes the greening of America as an engine of reinvestment, competitiveness, and economic renewal.
This is a jobs summit with a difference. It is built on the notion that economic recovery will come best and fastest, by facing our greatest challenges with equally bold solutions.
This years Conference unfolds against the backdrop of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that is rapidly turning into one of the worst environmental disasters in our nation’s history, and only weeks after the deadliest mine accident in forty years tragically unfolded at a Massey Energy mine in West Virginia. These horrific events profoundly underscore how closely our energy choices are tied to our jobs, our economic prosperity, to our health and safety, and environmental security. Today, jobs and the environment are inextricably linked.
As we look ahead at comprehensive energy reform, it is critical to understand the powerful roll of investment in paving the way for new markets and innovative energy solutions. A green economy can create more jobs and better jobs, but we need to make good on this promise with smart, well-crafted legislation that places a priority on investment.
Recent health care reform, had the foresight not only to deal with long-term problems in the health care industry, but also immediately offered tax credits for small businesses, expanded coverage for young adults, and provided relief to cash strapped states. So too, when workers come to Washington tomorrow, they will be looking for a plan that not only limits carbon emissions, but that provides fast, tangible benefits to millions of Americans.
Comprehensive energy policy can lower energy bills through incentives that make energy efficient appliances and whole home energy retrofits more affordable and simpler to access. New energy legislation can make financing more available too, through new grant and loan programs, better tax treatment, and even smart regulations that provide certainty in the market. New financing will mean breaking ground on new clean energy construction projects, retooling assembly lines, and new investment in local infrastructure. In short, it will mean more jobs.
Clean energy jobs will be in the construction sector, which is currently experiencing a one industry depression with a 25 percent unemployment rate, as the need for skilled workers to perform retrofit work rapidly increases. They will be in manufacturing advanced technology on retooled assembly lines and in tangential sectors such as in sales, operations, design, and engineering. During a visit to a Siemens wind turbine blade manufacturing plant in Fort Madison, Iowa last week, President Obama highlighted how ramping up clean energy manufacturing quickly creates jobs and transforms communities right here in America:
“It’s even more remarkable when you consider that just a few short years ago, this facility was dark, it was quiet, nothing was going on. And today, it’s alive and humming with more than 600 employees, almost two-thirds of whom found themselves unemployed before they were here… And each new wind farm has the potential to create hundreds of construction jobs, and dozens of permanent local jobs in communities just like Fort Madison”¦ Who’s catering the food here at the factory? That’s suddenly a whole bunch of business for the local grocers. The folks who are installing the electricity here — additional work. So there’s a ripple effect that occurs.”
Truly comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation will reap long term benefits for millions of Americans and the communities in which they live. Farmers struggling today to make a living off the land will be able to bring in three new paychecks: one for growing energy crops, one for leasing land for turbines, and one for sequestering carbon under the soil. Low-income and underrepresented communities will have access to job training to make them ready to enter the workforce as demand for skilled workers increases. Children will breathe cleaner air in more economically sound and safer communities. New entrepreneurs and small businesses will have opportunities to thrive as market demands shift and spur the need for new products and services.
Taking action to mitigate climate change and transition to a clean energy economy has never been as important as it is today. In addition to the urgent need to curb global warming pollution and reduce America’s dependence on oil from unstable nations, climate and clean energy legislation is necessary to drive much needed job creation, investment in clean energy technologies, and investment in communities. If done right, climate and clean energy legislation will help to revitalize the American economy both by putting a price on global warming pollution and by taking steps to quickly produce real and tangible benefits for real people.
There is a fight going on in Washington today over climate and clean energy legislation. While Big Oil and other special interests perpetuate skewed messages, would like to scare American’s out of imagining a more economically vibrant country, others like the 4,000 workers turning out for the Good jobs, Green Jobs Conference, would rather get to work building the lasting benefits that come with a clean energy economy.
Tomorrow’s convening of leaders in government, business, labor, and the environmental community at the 2010 Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference will send a signal to Congress that now is the time for action, not talk, on mitigating climate change and building a safer, more stable America, clean energy economy.
As Leo Gerard, President of the United Steel Workers has said, “We will have good jobs in a clean energy economy, or we will have neither.” Let’s get to work.