Van Jones Forecasts Green Job Revolution White and blue collar jobs need to make room: Green jobs are showing promise. But are they practical? Where will these jobs be located, and who will get them? NPR's Tony Cox speaks with eco-activist Van Jones, author of The Green Collar Economy.
NPR logo

Van Jones Forecasts Green Job Revolution

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Van Jones Forecasts Green Job Revolution

Van Jones Forecasts Green Job Revolution

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


From NPR News, this is News and Notes. I'm Farai Chideya.

The incoming president hopes green-collar jobs can lift up the economy and give us some long-term solutions to environmental issues. During his campaign, President-elect Barack Obama promised to invest $150 billion over 10 years to create five million new green-collar jobs. As president-elect, he's gone further. The stimulus proposal includes money to develop eco-friendly technologies.

In November, host Tony Cox talked to Van Jones, author of "The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems." In this 2008 listener favorite, Tony started by asking Van Jones to explain just want a green-collar job is.

Mr. VAN JONES (Author, "The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems"): Well, a green-collar job is really a blue-collar job that's been upgraded to better respect the environment. So you want to think about not the PhDs, but the Ph-Do's, you know, the skilled laborers, the people who are putting up those solar panels, people who are manufacturing wind turbines, weatherizing and retrofitting buildings so they don't leak so much energy. You know, people who are involved in water conservation, urban gardening. All of the hard and skilled and smart work that is required to help beat global warming.

The good thing about a green-collar job is, everything that is good for the environment, that's good for energy independence, that's good for the fight against global warming, is a job. Solar panels don't put themselves up. And so the same things that can be used to beat global warming can also be used to power our way through the recession.

TONY COX: So green jobs would include things that require brain power as well as brawn power.

Mr. JONES: Exactly. You're talking about restoring the dignity of work, of skilled labor. You know, we built this country with, you know, smart, skilled workers, and then we sent all those old blue-collar jobs overseas. Well, the good thing about a lot of these green-collar jobs is that many of them cannot be outsourced. If you got to put up a solar panel or if you've got to weatherize a house, you can't send that building over to China or to Asia and have them do it on the cheap, bring that building back over here.

Wind turbines are so heavy, they have 8,000 finely machined parts. Wind towers are 20 tons of steel. So it's better to make them close to where they're going to be put up, say in our plains states. So you could put Detroit back to work. You talk about a bailout. You could put Detroit back to work, not making SUVs that would destroy the world, but making wind turbines and solar panels that would help save the world, bail out the people and the planet.

There are many more jobs that are available. For instance, there's something that came out called "The Green Recovery Report" from the Center for American Progress, where I am a senior fellow. And that report shows that for a hundred billion dollars of investment, you could create two million jobs in the United States in the next two years.

Now we're not talking about 20 years from now, we're not talking about some space-age fantasy. We mean in the next two years you could create two million jobs weatherizing buildings, retrofitting buildings, deploying existing technologies like caulk guns, you know, as well as solar panels to help us conserve energy, at the same time, set us up to go from being the world leader in environmental pollution to being the world leader in environmental solutions as a country.

COX: Let me follow up that point with this. Just after the election, we saw some infighting among Democrats in Congress. Representative Henry Waxman of California, for example, challenged Representative John Dingell of Michigan for chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Waxman won that battle, and he is reportedly more eco-minded than Dingell. Does this signal in your mind a change happening on Capitol Hill when it comes to environmental issues?

Mr. JONES: I think it signals Capitol Hill's finally catching up to the rest of the country. If you look at the polling data, Americans are very, very committed to a clean energy future, to energy independence. Riding the bucking bronco of gas prices, you know, creates a lot of uncertainty. Even when prices are down, you don't know how long they're going to be down. Americans want energy independence.

Unfortunately, you know, we've allowed Detroit, which is really the heart of our industrial capacity, to stay wed to a very outdated set of strategies, and now we have an opportunity. I think if we move forward, we can put this country back to work building the energy infrastructure to harness our clean energy power centers and connect them to our population centers.

We have a Saudi Arabia of wind in this country, we should never forget that, in our plain states. We have a Saudi Arabia of solar in this country in the Sunbelt. Our challenge is just to build all the things that we need to build to connect those clean energy power centers to our population centers, and begin to lead the world again in clean energy.

COX: Here's my final question for you, and I have less than a minute for you to respond. The president-elect's vision for a green economy. His stimulus packet plans to include funds for new environmental technologies. Do you have any sense of what the details of that are going to look like?

Mr. JONES: Well, you know, my hope is that he will, you know, set standards and let technologists figure out the technology. But I think that there's a - there is a strong interest in smart bio-fuels, advanced geothermal, certainly advanced solar. And the good thing is that, you know, low income people, and people of color, who maybe did not have good opportunities in the pollution-based economy will have many more opportunities in this economy.

COX: That's an interesting point. Van, thank you very much.

Mr. JONES: Thank you very much.

COX: Van Jones is the author of "The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems."

CHIDEYA: And that was NPR's Tony Cox.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.