“We have a Saudi Arabia of wind energy right here in this country, and a large portion in Texas. A Saudi Arabia of solar energy here, both at the Sun Belt and on roof tops coast to coast. The problem lies with our inability to connect our resources to the people.”
–Van Jones, president of Green for All and New York Times bestselling author
Civil rights lawyer Van Jones, named one of the Heroes of the Environment by TIME magazine in 2008, spoke at the Texas Energy Future Conference in Austin in February, where he effectively turned the eco-chic philosophy into an everyman philosophy.
Across the country, an estimated four to eight million private sector jobs could be created by leveraging our solar, wind, and energy efficiency resources and developing green technology. Here in Texas, with its vast capacity for wind technology, renewable jobs are increasing by forty-four percent. Aside from being “engines in the sky,” wind turbines not only have the capability to power the majority of homes, but the potential to put people trained in the auto industry back to work. “Not [by] making SUV’s that cook the planet but making turbines that could save it,” he added.
Building efficiency and solar and wind technologies are the front lines of the green movement. After all, solar panels and wind turbines don’t build themselves. Turbines, which have eight thousand finely tuned parts, require twenty tons of steel to be held up.
According to Jones, there are “three fallacies” keeping Americans from economic posterity—an economy built on consumption rather than production; credit, borrowing, and debt; and ecological destruction as opposed to restoration. The reverse of the collapsed grey economy is the green economy.
Jones’s dream economy is in alignment with President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan, where job creation, the economy, and the environment are intertwined, with initiatives such as making federal buildings more energy-efficient. “Everything that needs to be done to retrofit, re-power, reboot us…is a career, an entrepreneurial opportunity, it’s a contract,” Jones said.
Last year, Jones received $250,000 from the Oakland City Council to launch the country’s first green collar job corps, which trains low-income youth in renewable energy, organic foods, and green construction industries. This broke the mold for his advocacy organization Green for All, with its goal to receive one billion dollars in federal funding by 2012 for green collar programs.
“As a fiscal conservative, I want every dollar that the government spends to do a lot of work,” Jones said. “I want that same dollar that is used to cut green house gas emissions to also cut unemployment, and people’s energy bills, cut the crime rate by putting people back to work, cut the asthma rate by cleaning up the air and green jobs let you do that.”