The agenda of the Blue Green Alliance is brilliant and visionary. Build a “new, clean energy economy in America, and put [people] to work creating the American jobs of the future.” The blue green coalition includes environmentalists and organized labor, and its impressive conference in Washington, DC shows both the promise ahead and the blinkered political reality of today.
Start with the good stuff. The country is turning the corner on the promise of clean energy. We can save the planet, put people to work and end our dependence on foreign oil all at the same time. It’s a win-win-win. The panels at the Blue Green conference explored the angles, from wind turbines to capital markets.
Some suggestions are obvious and practical and should be adopted immediately. A National Infrastructure Bank along the lines proposed by Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) will help arrange financing. The R&D tax credit should be extended to support cutting edge innovation. When American taxpayers pay to retrofit American public buildings for energy efficiency, the parts should be made in America.
But that’s only the beginning. We need new mass transit within metro areas and new high speed rail between them. We need thousands of wind turbines on the land and in the sea, and we need solar cells on urban rooftops. Millions of Americans need work, and loads of work is waiting to be done.
President Obama understands the promise of the clean energy economy. He campaigned on it, and appointed Van Jones as clean energy “czar.” But Obama is running out of gas. Into obstruction, and out of gas. Van Jones is gone, and people talk about high costs not promising new investments. Deficits dominate the headlines. Obama’s energy is not on energy but his new commission on deficit reduction. Few are willing to talk about progressive taxation, financial speculation fees or other ways to pay for the change we need.
Yes, we have a deficit problem. But our obsession with it is obstructing more serious discussion about what do to about it — how to grow the economy, create new jobs and even solve the energy problem — if it costs money in the short run.
The Blue Green conference is proof that what’s lacking is not vision but political will. Our leaders are not conjuring up a new New Deal. Our people are not marching in the streets. We are not burning Wall Street tycoons in effigy with oil that leaked in the Gulf of Mexico.
We know what we need to do. The challenge is not just the clean energy economy. The challenge is to rouse America from its political malaise and see if we can muster the will to get it done.