Obama’s New Green Jobs Program Brings Immediate Relief AND Long-term Benefits

On Friday, President Obama announced the award of $2.3 billion for new clean energy manufacturing jobs. The White House expects the program to generate more than 17,000 new jobs.

These jobs will bring immediate relief to American families. But they will help also revive our ailing manufacturing base and establish our nation’s leadership in the fastest growing global economy of the 21st century. In the process, all Americans will feel the benefits of a stronger economy and a cleaner, safer energy future.

But this new program does something even more critical. It makes jobs available now when American workers need them most. The projects included in the Recovery Act Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit program must get up and running by 2014, but about 30 percent have to be completed by the end of this year.

This means new jobs for workers in Louisiana who will produce special tire treads that makes cars get more miles per gallon. It means new jobs for workers in South Carolina who will manufacture the smart meters that help homeowners reduce their electricity use. And it means new jobs for workers in Nebraska who will build the next generation of wind turbine blades.

These kinds of fast-moving, on-the-ground opportunities offer good news on a day when we also learned that December’s unemployment rates remained struck around 10 percent. Obama’s program offers a powerful antidote and shows that investing in clean energy generates jobs.

I welcome this new program with open arms, but I know we can do more. Much more.

And we do it by passing a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill. The House of Representatives passed a climate bill in June that could generate nearly 2 million new jobs, according to economists at the University of California.

Now our senators should seize this opportunity and pass their own version. Yes, the bill will help us confront global warming, but it will also put Americans back to work.

That’s why so many labor organizations support a clean energy and climate bill. A few months ago, I traveled to a union hall in the midst of Gary, Indiana’s ailing industrial parks to talk with steelworkers.

Tom Conway, the international vice president of the United Steelworkers, told the crowd that it takes more than 250,000 tons of steel to make just 1 single wind turbine. Gary is a steel town, and a shift to renewable energy means jobs security for local workers.

“This is about jobs, jobs, jobs,” he said. “And this is about leaving a clean environment for our kids.”

President Obama’s new program will help bring those jobs--and that brighter future--to thousands of American families. But we shouldn’t stop here. A national clean energy and climate law will do much more.