Exclusive: Van Jones Slams Misleading Quotes in Flawed New York Times Story on Green Jobs

In an email to Climate Progress, green jobs champion Van Jones explains how the New York Times misrepresented his quotes and his views.

The story in question is “Number of Green Jobs Fails to Live Up to Promises.”  I debunked it here yesterday for completely ignoring the “explosive growth” documented by a recent Brookings study in the clean energy jobs sector —  even though the article cited the study!

I thought that the quotes attributed to Van Jones didn’t sound like the passionate, optimistic green jobs guru I have had the good fortune to get to know at the Center for American Progress:

President Obama once pledged to create five million green jobs over 10 years. Gov. Jerry Brown promised 500,000 clean-technology jobs statewide by the end of the decade. But the results so far suggest such numbers are a pipe dream.

“I won’t say I’m not frustrated,” said Van Jones, an Oakland activist who served briefly as Mr. Obama’s green-jobs czar….


I asked Jones if that’s what he really said, and he replied:

I was quoted in the story as “frustrated.” I am. But not in the way that the story suggests.

“Yes, I said I was frustrated. But I was talking about my frustration with the GOP, not the green jobs movement. The whole thing is ridiculous. Dirty energy backers blocked cap-and-trade, which would have spurred green innovation and enterprise. Now they complain that we have not had more progress regarding green jobs?

That would be like someone tripping a racehorse and then saying, “See, I told you that horse was no good!”

That is the frustration that I was talking about.

What I find inspiring, if not miraculous, is that the green economy continues to blossom — despite everything that has been thrown against it. Thanks for pointing that out in your column.

But it gets better, which is to say, worse.  The Times claims that Jones has scaled-back his projections:

SolFocus’s plans do not much resemble what Mr. Jones, the former Obama administration official, had in mind in his 2008 book, “The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems,” when he described the green economy as “Joe Sixpack with a hard hat and a lunch bucket going off to fix America,” and talked of millions of new jobs.

In an interview last week, though, he seemed to have scaled back. “The green economy as we initially conceived it,” Mr. Jones said, “was never supposed to save the entire global economy.”

Jones sets the record straight again:

Also: contrary to the article, I explicitly told the reporter that I stand beside my prediction that the clean energy sector will create millions of jobs. But I warned him that a majority of those jobs could end up in China soon, unless DC starts acting aggressively. China’s government has been moving quickly to gobble up global enterprises and industries. Meanwhile, DC has been missing in action since the mid-term elections.

Most troubling,  the recession cost us nearly 10 million jobs, and there are an additional 15 million underemployed people in the United States. To fix America’s economy single-handedly, the clean energy sector would have to generate 10-25 million jobs, all by itself. We never said we could create 10-25M US clean energy jobs, under any scenario.

The most enthusiastic backers were debating numbers in the 3-5M range — and that was over a decade or longer, WITH cap and trade securely in place. We can still achieve those numbers — with the right policies, innovations and enterprises. And those are very big numbers, worthy of the effort. But unless we fix our trade policy, get our currency valued properly and reform the financial sector, we will still be short 7-22 million jobs. So, no: the clean energy sector cannot generate enough jobs to erase all of the damage that the Great Recession did to America or the world. Growing this sector is an absolutely necessary, but not ultimately sufficient, part of the solution.

I conveyed all of this at length — in a one-hour interview — but the main quotes that made it through were the ones that reinforced the premise of the article. Thanks for helping to correct the record.

We all wonder sometimes whether it is worth giving extended interviews to reporters, knowing that they may just pick out one or two words or phrases that match their desired narrative.  Fortunately, most get it right.

But right now, with Obama down in the polls and overall job creation slow and the fossil-fuel-funded disinformers pushing lies about clean energy, many in the media want to tell yet another story of how Obama failed.

I’m as critical of Obama as anyone on climate change, but the narrative in the NY Times story is just false.  Clean energy jobs have soared in recent years — thanks in no small part to Obama’s stimulus bill, as well as the business community’s understanding of the threat posed by climate change, something this article is silent on.  The promise of millions of clean energy jobs was always based on the passage of policies that the GOP have so far, successfully torpedoed.  Yes, Obama deserves some blame for the failure of those policies, but I have always said that it is under 10% of the blame.  Some 60%  belongs to the right wing and its disiniformers, with another 30% to the media itself  for failing to tell the story — see “The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 2.”

It is the realities of global warming and peak oil that ensure the world will generate millions of clean energy jobs in the coming decade — and far more than that in the ensuing decades when we get truly serious.  This remains the story of the decade and the century.


Below are old comments from the earlier Facebook commenting system:

Agree that millions of jobs will come to fruition. And you’re right to say that peak oil will play a big role – something we discussed recently at The On Project, home to discussions surrounding Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion:

Peter S. Mizla · Top Commenter · Vernon, Connecticut

good to see Van defend himself- and expose the NYT for what it is……

remember this the NYT still does not perceive ACC as a threat to human kind- that they twisted & misrepresented Mr. Jones- is not surprising.

Douglas Clark · Boston College

Peter: You may be right, but did the Times run an editorial to this effect? Otherwise, what are you basing this comment on?
Joseph Michael Stancati · New York, New York


It’s based on the fact that in 2010, zero of the 80 biggest headlines on the front page of the New York Times had anything to do with climate change. Joe Romm reported this fact here on Climate Progress:

That fact alone should tell you all you need to know about how seriously the New York Times takes climate change.

16 Responses to Exclusive: Van Jones Slams Misleading Quotes in Flawed New York Times Story on Green Jobs

  1. I never imagined that I would ever associate the concept “yellow Journalism” with the NYT…Wow.

  2. Thank you for going directly to the source, Mr. Van Jones, to clarify that “…frustrated…” attribution in the article, “Green Jobs Predictions Proving a Pipe Dream”, authored by Mr. Aaron Glantz.

    The New York Times is NOT the origin of the above article. They did print it, and then gave readers a link to The Bay Citizen, so we could comment.

    Mr. Aaron Glantz’s “The Bay Citizen” article is rife with erroneous misinterpretations of the Brookings Institute’s excellent, even-handed and generally positive report. Glantz’s article is also rife with statements, taken out of time sequence, that mislead the reader. The report only covers the period 2003 – 2010, but Glantz misconstrues this report to impute his “pipe dream” conclusion regarding Governor Brown’s and President Obama’s 10-year forecasts, ending in 2020 and 2018, respectively.

    I’m writing a rebuttal to Aaron Glantz’s article, which I’ll post in The Bay Citizen’s comment section. Because my “out of context sensor alarm” was signaling loudly, I wanted to find the source of the “…frustrated…” attribution, along with substantiations of other quotes that also trigger my alarm. That effort led me here, to Climate Progress :-)

    To my horror, Glantz’s article has been repeated, quoted and amplified on hundreds of websites. Some quote Glantz’s incorrect “pipe dream” conclusion, while some others amplify it, e.g. “Even New York Times Admits Obama’s Green Jobs Agenda Is a Complete Disaster”.

    And even more amazing, if not horrifying, is that some sites express a celebratory tone that Obama’s Green Jobs agenda is a failure (the Brookings report suggests the opposite)

    See for yourself: Google
    “I won’t say I’m not frustrated” “van jones”.

    My original rebuttal that I wrote after clicking on the New Work Time’s link to The Bay Citizen:

    I then discovered I had entered the comment under the wrong article, so here’s the link
    to all comments, including mine (Steve Heitmann) at

    — and — here’s an excerpt to my last comment entered today (scroll to the very end of all comments when you click on the above link):

    Mr. Glantz’s insipid response seems designed to deflect the reader’s attention from the issue I raised, rather than address it and take responsibility for his significant errors. I was thus motivated to delve deeper and went to the Brookings Institute’s web page, hoping to find the actual report and raw data. The entire report and two summaries are public. Here are the urls:

    Mr. Glantz has misinterpreted the Brookings Institute’s report and drawn woefully incorrect conclusions regarding the growth of the Green Economy, especially vis-à-vis Brown’s and Obama’s 10-year forecasts. As if that’s not egregious enough, Mr. Glantz’s incorrect conclusions are being repeated on hundreds of web sites, from backwater pundits to supposedly reputable news outlets, such as Forbes. Some quote Glantz’s “pipe dream” conclusion, while some others amplify it, e.g. “Even New York Times Admits Obama’s Green Jobs Agenda Is a Complete Disaster”

    This is a good example of possibly creating self-fulfilling prophecy. If anyone was considering getting Green Job training offered by the State of California, after reading that Green Jobs are a “pipe dream”, would they be motivated to enroll? Would investors reconsider? Would Green Economy entrepreneurs move on to something else?

    I’m preparing an extensive response to Mr Glantz’ unprofessional and irresponsible article, “Green Jobs Predictions Proving a Pipe Dream”.


    You have my email address. I’d appreciate your contacting me, so we can discuss this problem privately.

  3. While I agree with Van Jones, given the current administration, an administration that makes Jeff Immelt its jobs consultant czar, why did he think Obama would ever try to prevent outsourcing these jobs?

    On carbon, c’mon, cap and trade won’t cut it. We need carbon taxes PLUS carbon tariffs. If I understand the WTO correctly, we CAN charge tariffs if we have the taxes in place first.

  4. PeterM says:

    David- neither would I.

  5. As mentioned in my comment below, but well-worth reaffirming, the NY Times apparently “partners” with The Bay Citizen. Although the article by Aaron Glantz was published in the NY Times, it originated in The Bay Citizen, where Glantz works:

    Yes, the NY Times has gotten a black-eye, not for yellow journalism, but for not doing their due diligence and fact-check before publishing “partner” articles. Gee… with partners like The Bay Citizen, the NY Times has no need for enemies…

  6. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Yes.Green Jobs will be in great numbers both in USA and in other countries promoting Renewables.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
    Wind Energy Expert

  7. Dan Borroff says:

    Something very suspicious is happening. The same thing was done by the Seattle PI to Michael Woo, the director of Got Green. The “message” was identical:

    But more than a year later, Seattle’s numbers are lackluster. As of last week, only three homes had been retrofitted and just 14 new jobs have emerged from the program. Many of the jobs are administrative, and not the entry-level pathways once dreamed of for low-income workers. Some people wonder if the original goals are now achievable.

    “The jobs haven’t surfaced yet,” said Michael Woo, director of Got Green, a Seattle community organizing group focused on the environment and social justice.

    Read more:

    The program they’re referring to has just gotten started. I have many friends who have signed up, had the energy audit, and are waiting for financing. By this time next year there should be 2,000 homes retrofitted and more on the way.

    The story was picked up by local conservative voice John Carlson and spread across the internet. Threats were coming in from the Tea Party.

    Who decided to attack these programs? Who decided the ‘glass half full’ approach would be effective? Who’s providing the money to attack these progressive programs at the local level?

  8. Addendum:

    I’m writing to notify you of a matter that urgently requires your corrective response.

    Last Thursday, August, 24th, 2011, an article, “Green Jobs Predictions Proving a Pipe Dream”, was published in The New York Times, which linked the article to its origin, The Bay Citizen and authored by Mr. Aaron Glantz, employed by The Bay Citizen.

    This article misinterprets and misconstrues an excellent, even-handed and positive Green Economy report produced by the Brookings Institute. The article concludes, as the title implies, that Governor Brown’s and President Obama’s 10-year Green Jobs forecast are mere pipe dreams.

    The Brookings report is based on data from 2003 thru 2010. Mr. Glantz misleads the reader by applying selected information from the report to the period 2011 thru 2020, for which there’s no data, and to the period 2009 thru 2018, for which there is data overlapping two years with the Brookings report. He concludes, erroneously, that the 10-year Green Jobs forecasts are mere pipe dreams.

    Mr. Glantz’s article is destructive, as it has been repeated, quoted and amplified on hundreds of websites. Some quote Glantz’s incorrect “pipe dream” conclusion, while some others amplify it, e.g. “Even New York Times Admits Obama’s Green Jobs Agenda Is a Complete Disaster”.

    Here are links to The Bay Citizen, where you can read the article, and my comments.
    — My original rebuttal that I wrote after clicking on the New Work Time’s link to The Bay Citizen:

    After submitting the above rebuttal, I discovered I had entered the comment under the wrong article, so here’s the link to the actual article in question, all comments, including mine (Steve Heitmann). To see my comments most relevant to this letter, please scroll down to the end of the comment section:

    Late this afternoon, August, 24th, 2011, I entered this comment in The Bay Citizen comment section for the above-named article, calling for Mr. Glantz’s resignation, if he’s unwilling to take appropriate corrective actions:

    I’m fact-checking Mr. Glantz’s various assertions and quotes.

    Hundred’s of sites have repeated Mr. Glantz’s article, rife with errors, out-of-context quotes, and woefully incorrect conclusion, not even dimly reflected by the Brookings’ report. Consequently, it’s difficult to find sources, obscured by all the noise Mr. Glantz has created.

    With much effort, I discovered Mr. Joe Romm’s Climate Progress site and article, “Exclusive: Van Jones Slams Misleading Quotes in Flawed New York Times Story on Green Jobs”, i.e. this article, Mr. Aaron Glantz’s The Bay Citizen article, also published by The New York Times:

    Mr. Glantz (and by association, The Bay Citizen) is beginning to appear to be a first-class purveyor of modern Yellow Journalism.

    Mr. Glantz needs to make the extraordinary effort to recant, via hundreds of sites, his entire article and its damaging conclusions; he needs to contact Google and request that search indices to his article be deleted; he needs to contact the Executive and Managing Editors at NY Times, profusely apologize, and request that they publish an extensive correction to his article; he needs to apologize to Mr. Van Jones for misrepresenting him; and he needs to apologize to Mr. Muro and the Brookings Institute for the abuse and misrepresentation of their excellent, even-handed and positive report.

    If Mr. Glantz is unwilling to do this, then I call for his resignation, based on his irresponsible and unprofessional Yellow Dog “journalism”, which undermines many people, working to create a clean, vibrant, new economy that promotes the health of the planet and all its lifeforms.

    Kind regards,
    Steve Heitmann

    White House
    Governor Brown
    U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi
    U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer
    Executive and Managing Editors, The New York Times
    Mr. Mark Muro, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institute
    Mother Jones, investigative, political, and social justice reporting

  9. Jake says:

    We can comment normally again? A good change. Have all the old comments that were deleted when the Facebook commenting system change took place been restored?

  10. Joe Romm says:

    Yes — they were never deleted, just hiding!

  11. I’m optimistically hopeful that no one is attacking these progressive programs. Is it possible the programs just haven’t been advertised to the extent most everyone would be aware of them? A case in point is “me”. I’m a voracious reader, yet, until recently, I was unaware of California’s Green Job training program.

  12. Richard Brenne says:


  13. dick smith says:

    Outstanding work by both you and Joe.

  14. Explorer says:

    I am appreciative that this site published Van Jones’ response to the NYT article. It’s good to set the record straight, even if the rightwing echo chamber is anything but self-correcting.

    Although I am in general agreement with his view on this, I don’t agree with his view on cap and trade. That was never a vehicle to get us where we need to go. It was terribly flawed and had loopholes you could drive a truck through and unacceptable opportunites for financial manipulation that would never have met it’s goals. I am happy it was defeated.

    A carbon tax at the source is a far better way to go. Less complicated and much more straightforward. Until a tax of any kind for anything ceases to be a dirty word and sucessfull rallying cry for the willfully ignorant, nothing is going to progress at the pace and time frame needed.

  15. Addendum:

    Below, a new comment added today to The Bay Citizen’s article, “Green Jobs Predictions Proving A Pipe Dream”.

    This 50+ page research report, published March 2011, forecasts a growing Green Economy in the Bay Area–it further invalidates Mr. Glantz’s “pipe dream” conclusion:

    “Emerging Industry and Technology Sectors in Silicon Valley’s Green Economy: Workforce Implications”

    As indicated by this summary statement on page 1 of the report, the Bay Area’s near-future Green Economy looks bright.

    “These strong hiring expectations equate to a far-above-average job growth rate among green employers over the next 12 months: Green employers expect a 9.2 percent employment growth rate versus California’s overall projected 2011 employment growth rate of 1.6 percent. Emerging green employers expect an even faster growth rate of 11.6 percent in the next 12 months.”

  16. Addendum:

    Curtis Brainard. Gamey Green Jobs Coverage. Columbia Journalism Review, August 26, 2011.

    [JR: Saw it. Some good parts, some false equivalence.]