Obama picks Van Jones to be green jobs adviser

The AP reports:

Author and activist Van Jones will be a special adviser for green jobs, enterprise and innovation in the Obama administration.

Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said in a release Monday that Jones will start work next week to help direct the administration’s efforts to create jobs and help the environment. Sutley said Jones will work on “vulnerable communities.”

Jones founded Green for All, a national organization that promises environmentally friendly jobs to help lift people out of poverty. He wrote the New York Times best-seller The Green Collar Economy.

I have already been interviewed by Greenwire and The American Prospect about this appointment, and certainly endorse it wholeheartedly.

Jones has been a (fellow) senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, and I am a big fan of him and his work:

One of the key elements of this kind of job is the bully pulpit, to inspire change both inside the administration and outside. Jones is obviously world-class in this regard.

You also need a huge amount of enthusiasm and persistence to succeed in moving the bureaucracy — Jones has that.

I was asked whether such a position is needed at all, when we have a green jobs leader running the Department of Labor, Hilda Solis. The answer is definitely yes, since Labor Secretary can’t tell any other Cabinet officer or agency what to do — so if you want to coordinate a crosscutting initiative that affects so many different departments, including energy, EPA, Commerce, and so on — you need to do this out of the White House.


Only one thing — Let’s not call this a green jobs czar, as no doubt some will be inclined to do. The president has a great many special assistants and we don’t call them czars. Jones is going to be a special advisor in the White House and that job is hard enough without loading on more expectations.

UPDATE: Greenwire article (with quotes from me) reprinted below:

Author and activist Van Jones will serve as a special White House adviser for “green” jobs, enterprise and innovation.

Jones, 40, will work within the Council on Environmental Quality, which coordinates President Obama’s climate, energy and other environmental policy initiatives with federal agencies.

“Van Jones has been a strong voice for green jobs, and we look forward to having him work with departments and agencies to advance the president’s agenda of creating 21st century jobs that improve energy efficiency and utilize renewable resources,” CEQ Chairwoman Nancy Sutley said in a written statement last night.

Van Jones, 40, will advise President Obama on jobs, energy and environmental issues. Photo courtesy of Experience Life.Jones, a Yale Law School graduate and veteran human rights and environmental activist, participated last month in the first meeting of the White House Task Force on Middle-Class Working Families. The panel, convened by Vice President Joe Biden, focused on how the public sector can create “green-collar” jobs such as installing solar panels and retrofitting inefficient buildings (E&ENews PM, Feb. 27).

Jones urged Biden and other administration officials who participated in the Philadelphia panel to use the $787 billion economic stimulus to provide training for such jobs, which cannot be outsourced. Economically depressed areas should be a priority, he underscored.

“Let’s green the ghetto first,” Jones said to applause.

Jones will now help shape the administration’s energy and climate initiatives, with special emphasis on improvements and economic opportunities in vulnerable communities, CEQ officials said.

Jones, who could not be reached for comment, is the author of the 2008 book “The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems” and the co-founder of the Oakland, Calif.-based Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. Most recently, he served as a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress, an influential think tank in Washington, D.C.

Joe Romm, a current Center for American Progress senior fellow and former assistant energy secretary during the Clinton administration, called Jones a “tireless” advocate for green-collar jobs in inner cities.“He pushed this issue when no one was interested in it,” Romm added.Jones’ candor and talent for firing up audiences will help in his new job, Romm posited.“A big part of these bully pulpit jobs is selling ideas inside and outside of the administration,” he said. “Selling is one of his strong suits.”

Jones, who does not need Senate confirmation, will start his new job March 16, a CEQ spokeswoman said.