Van Jones Talks Up Green Jobs

Van Jones isn’t one to mince words.

Speaking to a roomful of clean-energy advocates the former Obama Administration staffer and green jobs promoter said, "You have a tough year ahead of you."

Jones was in Portland Tuesday, delivering a speech at the University of Oregon's White Stag building that coincided with President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. Before that he met with some 30 business leaders, elected officials and renewable energy advocates to share his perspective on policy and the political environment as it pertains to clean energy.

His hosts for the roundtable were Climate Solutions and the Oregon Environmental Council, two organizations backing energy efficiency in Oregon as a path to green jobs and better energy management.

Jones, author of the 2008 book "The Green Collar Economy," said the end of stimulus spending and the rocky economy combine to make imperative to create jobs by supporting energy efficiency even more urgent.

"If not now, when?" Jones asked. "We all love Martin Luther King this time of year. I think we should build a green economy that Dr. King would be proud of."

The onetime special adviser to Obama on green jobs, Jones resigned in September, 2009 after controversy arose over his past political activities.

It's not difficult to see that Jones can be controversial. On Tuesday afternoon, he took on the environmental movement’s elitism — pointing out that Whole Foods is known as "Whole Paycheck" and pointing out that sustainable living shouldn't be reserved for those who can afford it — and taking on the regulation-laden and subsidy supported energy market.

"Every American should be able to be an energy producer, should be able to produce energy for themselves or with their community rather than be an energy serf," Jones said.

Looking ahead at a policy environment in which cap-and-trade has been left behind like so much road kill, Jones predicted that a national goal for clean energy production and a green bank to finance renewable energy investments would likely be the next move by the Obama administration to combat climate change.

Hours later in his State of the Union speech, Jones' former boss gave voice to a new clean energy goal saying that by 2035, 80 percent of the nation's electricity should come from clean sources.

The proposal is viewed as a step back from comprehensive climate change policy such as cap-and-trade.

Still: "It's a fight worth having," Jones said of the push for a national standard and the capital to finance it. "Clean energy companies have gone down because banks are sitting on their money. … We've got to be able to bring the private capital into play."

See the original post on Sustainable Business Oregon. By Christina Williams. January 26, 2011.