Green Jobs to Meet America's Economic, Energy and Environmental Challenges

I had the pleasure of speaking at the national Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference in Washington, D.C. yesterday. This was a truly remarkable event that brought together thousands of people -- from steelworkers to business leaders to students to environmentalists.

The green jobs movement seeks jobs that can both provide a dignified life and a decent wage and protect our health and climate. This effort is the most recent of those inspiring moments when ordinary people, with extraordinary commitments to making the world a better place, succeeded. These movements of ordinary people drove the affirmation and expansion of civil rights; the rights of workers to organize and bargain collectively; and the cleanup of dangerous pollution in our neighborhoods.

One feature of these pivotal moments is that they brought together many different people who nonetheless share common goals, common challenges, and common opportunities. This moment, as the earlier ones, also is in part sparked by a crisis.  Today a new President and a new Congress face an economy in crisis, a planet in peril, and an outdated energy infrastructure that cannot meet the demand for the future.  

These challenges also bring us an opportunity. The opportunity to come together and make a reality of our vision of an economy powered by clean efficient energy, mobilized by clean efficient transportation systems, and employing tens of millions of people with good-paying jobs.

The economic system and the world eco-system are linked. What happens in and to our system deeply affects the other.  Both are sending us strong signals that we cannot delay action to save our planet.

While almost everyone agrees that global warming is real and man-made, there are still those who are fighting to stop action on the environment. These are groups who say that climate policy is too costly for business or that the economic downturn means that we cannot take on a climate bill at this time.

But, we say this is our time and we cannot afford to delay.

The last eight years have been about delays and now it is time for action. A comprehensive federal climate policy that is fair, flexible and far-sighted is essential to meeting these goals.

Dollar for dollar, investing in clean energy creates more jobs than investing in traditional energy like oil and gas. In fact, investing in clean energy would create four times as many jobs as would result from spending the same amount of money within the oil industry.

Investing in public transportation projects and highway repairs will also maximize job creation and avoid wasting taxpayer dollars. For every $1.25 billion invested in public transportation projects, 51,300 people are employed. Investments in public transportation create 19% more jobs per dollar than building new roads or bridges. Investments in road and bridge repair create 9% more jobs than building new roads or bridges.

There is a lot of work ahead to build the political will needed to generate the momentum for this vision. We believe that by working together- with our partners in government, labor, business, and environmentalists-we can rebuild America and transform our nation with a new clean energy future. Americans have the ingenuity, skills and determination to make this future a reality -- and we can do it together by starting today.

We cannot get to these solutions piecemeal. We need a comprehensive global warming policy. That's why we need to work together to create the political will to move forward on broad climate change legislation this year.