A ferocious storm provided an electrifying backdrop for the recent kick-off of the Made in America Jobs Tour, the first of 22 rallies across the country to promote the job creating potential of a new clean energy economy.
This tour offers an opportunity for people to tell a new story- and hit back on those "opponents of change" who are trying to block progress for America. Over the past several weeks, we have heard too much fear-mongering and misinformation sponsored by front groups of big oil and coal associations. Now, it's time for a new story about how we can create good-paying jobs through clean energy investments in Cleveland and across the country.
The quick moving storm did not dampen the enthusiasm of the rally near the Cleveland Science Center. As lightening bolts danced off Lake Erie, the rally shifted to the center's parking garage. Outside, the center's iconic 150 foot wind turbine provided a fitting image for a new clean energy future in the job hungry rust belt.
Speakers from all walks of the labor, business, education and environmental communities came forward to talk about how the clean energy economy can help American workers.
Speakers like United Steelworkers metal greaser Lee Geisse, who builds titanium hubs for wind turbines in Louisville, Ohio. Lee, wearing her union hard hat, said: "I'm lucky enough to have worked in a place that worked all through the downturn. My company had the foresight to invest in the clean energy economy."
I had a few minutes after the rally to talk with Lee. When I asked her about the response she gets when she talks to her colleagues about clean energy, she said my question is a fairly typical one from the "green" world. But she added that union members completely understand. "The workers know we need to move to clean energy," she said. "We're smarter than they think."
You can see Lee in short video clip, here:
Lee understands that clean energy policies can create good-paying jobs in Cleveland and across the country. According to the Political Economic Research Institute (PERI), we can create over a million and a half jobs across America by investing in clean energy. In the Cleveland metropolitan area, investment in clean energy would produce more than 10,000 jobs-and more than half of them would go to people with a high-school degrees or less.
Investing in clean energy will have additional benefits, like weatherizing homes so people in Cleveland save money -- up to 4 percent of their income-- on heating and cooling bills. And these investments will improve access to public transportation so that people can save money -- 1-4 percent of their income -- getting to work.
Tom Conway, the international Steelworker's Union vice president, was emphatic about the growth potential from clean energy technologies in Ohio, where turbines are being build in abandoned and converted steel mills. As he said: "When you think about green jobs, green jobs are just a lot of regular, traditional jobs that help reduce the carbon footprint and help our planet be cleaner...it's work that we know we can do, that Americans can do. This is the way to move forward and rebuild manufacturing that we need so importantly in this nation."
By the time the rally came to an end, the sun was peaking through the crowds, glinting off the powerful turbine blades nearby. Mother Nature had demonstrated that she is nothing to tamper with.
There's no doubt that people like Tom and Lee get it. And I know they are not alone. Across America people understand that we can make our air safer and our communities stronger by moving to clean energy. We don't have to choose between good jobs and the environment- we can have more good jobs and a safer environment.
The Made in America Jobs Tour, organized by the Alliance for Climate Protection and the Blue Green Alliance, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, will sponsor more than 50 events in 22 states, including St. Louis, Missouri; Detroit, Michigan; Gary, Indiana; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Check the website www.repoweramerica.org/tour for more information about when a rally will be coming to a community near you.