October 4, 2008

Investment in ‘Green-Collar’ Jobs Urged

By Chris Amico

SAN LEANDRO -- Advocates of a new "green" economy -- based on environmentally friendly technologies and practices -- launched a nationwide campaign here Saturday, calling for America to invest $500 billion in the creation of "green-collar" jobs over the next 10 years.

Members of the Apollo Alliance aim to bring together environmental, business, labor and community leaders to push for job training, new infrastructure and cleaner forms of energy.

The group likens its plan to the 1960s Apollo space program that put American astronauts on the moon.

Former state treasurer Phil Angelides, chairman of the Apollo Alliance, said 75 percent of all buildings in the U.S. will need major renovation, retrofits or rebuilding over the next quarter- century. This will be an opportunity, he said, to push for greener construction standards and better energy efficiency.

When asked how he'd pay for such investments, given the sluggish economy and massive government intervention in the financial sector, he said it's a matter of priorities.

"If we can afford to spend $85 billion to bail out AIG, we can spend $50 billion a year on clean jobs," he said, referring to American International Group, the insurance giant that was rescued from bankruptcy last month.

He also cited the Iraq war as a misplaced priority for U.S. tax dollars.

Meanwhile, a national emissions cap-and-trade system, in which businesses would buy and swap pollution "credits," would generate $50 billion to $300 billion a year for the government, and increased energy efficiency could save another $20 billion annually, Angelides said.

"If we're serious, we can finance this," he said.

Saturday's panel -- held at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers' Electrical Training Center in San Leandro -- focused as much on making the green economy fair as on making it work. More than one speaker stressed the need to spread economic benefits to workers and communities.

Ian Kim of the Oakland-based Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, said the current dialog about the environment needs to change.

Chants of "Drill, baby, drill," encouraging energy exploration in the U.S. wilderness and along its coasts, emerge because people are "thirsty for solutions," to dependence on foreign oil.

"But they're not thirsty for toxic solutions," he added. "If the Apollo Alliance offers a green way out, that's a game-changer."

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, who headlined the event, spent much of her time defending her vote for the controversial $700 billion bailout bill that passed Congress, saying California would suffer without it.

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer has warned that state coffers are running dry, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Friday the state may need $7 billion in short-term loans from the federal Treasury Department just to keep the government functioning.

"That's jobs," Boxer said.

Boxer cheered the inclusion of $128 billion in tax credits for solar energy in the federal bailout, which were added in the Senate after the House of Representatives initially rejected a slimmer package that focused mainly on Wall Street.

"After all is said and done, I did what I felt I had to do," the senator said. "I would stand up alone if I had to."

Originally published by Chris Amico, correspondent.

(c) 2008 Oakland Tribune. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.