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To commemorate Earth Day, the op-ed below on green jobs and energy independence by Secretaries Steven Chu and Hilda Solis ran in the following papers yesterday and today:
Omaha World Herald
Building the American Clean Energy Economy
By Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis
Today, Americans will join with people around the world in celebrating Earth Day, raising awareness about the plight of our natural resources and taking action to preserve our planet for future generations.
For decades, while Americans have worked to make a difference in their communities, some politicians in both parties have failed to adequately address the energy crisis, which imperils our economy, our security and our planet. Now, we have a unique and critical opportunity to attack the energy crisis head on and create a comprehensive energy policy that will bolster our economy, end our dependence on foreign oil and reduce the threat of deadly pollution that could devastate our climate.
During his first months in office, President Obama has taken important first steps toward those goals through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which includes billions of dollars for cities and states across the country - to strengthen our clean energy industries, reduce our energy use, and create good jobs that can't be outsourced.
The greening of our economy will bring significant changes to the American workplace and will require workers to acquire new and different skills. Both the Department of Labor and Department of Energy have begun to coordinate their work to forge unique efforts that ensure the connection between investments in infrastructure and research.
We are supporting work-force investment activities by retraining dislocated workers, women and minorities. We are also investing in summer employment for youth, and community service employment for low-income seniors.
Recently, we visited the Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania, where workers are being trained for green jobs like the ones the Recovery Act is creating. These jobs range from the construction of new green buildings to the installation of energy-efficient street lights to conducting energy audits and upgrading older buildings.
By providing the training that will turn 20th century blue-collar jobs into secure 21st century green-collar jobs, we are paving a pathway out of poverty; strengthening urban and rural communities; rebuilding a strong middle class; and protecting the health of our citizens and planet.
This investment in our work force will not only jumpstart our economy today but will lay the foundation for America's long-term competitiveness. With the eventual depletion of the world's oil reserves and growing disruption of our climate, we know that the development of clean, renewable sources of energy is the growth industry of the 21st century. The question is who will lead the world in making the fuel-efficient vehicles, wind turbines, solar panels and other technologies of tomorrow.
American workers must lead this green revolution. That is why we are investing these dollars here at home in American jobs and American innovation. By making strategic choices now, we will restore our country's role as a global leader in the clean energy industry. We will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and begin to make America truly energy independent. That's not just an economic and environmental issue, it's also a national security imperative.
As part of this comprehensive energy strategy, we must continue to crack down on corporations that pollute the water we drink and the air we breathe. And because of what we now know about global warming, we must begin to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that have begun to change our climate. We can protect the health of our children and their children, while finally tackling global warming and its potentially catastrophic effects.
The path before us is clear, but it will not be easy. To create entire new industries of clean energy jobs, break the stranglehold of foreign oil on our economy and punish the polluters who are devastating our natural resources, we have to be honest about the difficult tasks and hard choices ahead. Our goal must be a clean energy future that works for all Americans, so that we can pass on to our children and grandchildren not just a stronger economy but a cleaner planet.