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Green Jobs Key to Obama Administration's Middle Class Task Force

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, February 27, 2009 (ENS) – Creating green jobs is the first order of business for the White House Task Force on Middle Class Families. Led by Vice President Joe Biden, the Task Force held its inaugural meeting today in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania.

“At a time when good jobs and good wages are harder and harder to come by – it is critical we find new and innovative work opportunities for middle class families,” said Biden. “That’s why we’re here today – to learn and listen about how investing in green jobs can help build a strong middle class.”

President Barack Obama last week announced more than $20 billion for investment in a cleaner, greener economy, including $500 million for green job training. A new Task Force report released at the meeting shows that investment will help to create tens of thousands of high-quality green jobs.

Hydrologists monitor soil moisture fluctuations near Everglades National Park to help improve water management in agricultural areas. (Photo by Ken Konomi courtesy USDA)

The report finds that green jobs pay 10 to 20 percent more than others. Green jobs are more likely to be unionized than other jobs, which the Task Force report says will help to “strengthen middle class families and provide pathways into the middle class for disadvantaged workers.”

Successful green job models in cities and states across America require government leadership to get the engine of green job growth started, according to the report.

Today, six cabinet secretaries, including newly confirmed Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the author of the Green Jobs Act, participated in the meeting as members of Middle Class Task Force.

“Our commitment to renewable energy is creating green jobs and bolstering America’s middle class. Advancing broadband access to rural America will help save middle class jobs while greatly expanding job opportunities,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“Green jobs aren’t just jobs of the future, they are jobs of today. By investing in our nation’s greatest asset – its people – we cannot only reduce dependency on foreign oil and emissions in the future, but also restore economic security for all today,” said Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said, “HUD has an important role to play in building a standardized energy efficiency market for the housing sector, which will create hundreds of thousands of green jobs, lower utility costs for consumers and reduce carbon emissions nationwide.”

“We will put middle class people back to work as we rebuild our roads, bridges and railroads,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Workers install solar panels on a California building. (Photo by CAIVP1)

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said, “Economic recovery is about more than making sure that Wall Street rebounds or the big banks survive; a true recovery means an economy that works for middle class families. That’s why the Obama-Biden plan to invest in renewable energy and make our homes and businesses more efficient is so critical. We can create millions of new jobs, save families money on their energy bills and end our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.”

“The green jobs of tomorrow demand a quality education today,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Pennsylvania elected officials, and representatives of labor and environment groups contributed to strategies for building a greener economy.

Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, demonstrated a new interactive map of key industries with the potential to create new jobs as a result of investment in clean energy, particularly in states hit hard by industrial losses. “When I see less carbon, I also see more jobs,” he said.

Krupp offered a new report by the Duke University Center on Globalization, Governance and Competitiveness prepared for EDF, three building trades unions and the Industrial Union Council that identifies low-carbon technologies that can produce green jobs and help combat global warming.

The “Manufacturing Climate Solutions” version of November 2008 shows the most promising technologies to be LED lighting, high-performance windows, auxiliary power units for trucks, concentrating solar power, and a new way of treating hog wastes by turning them into clean soil nutrients.

This month two new technologies were added – heat pump water heaters, and recycling industrial waste energy such as exhaust heat and combustible gases to generate electricity.

Van Jones, president and founder of Green for All and author of the New York Times bestseller, “The Green Collar Economy,” talked about building “a green economy that Dr. Martin Luther King would be proud of.” The way to do that, he said, is to make sure green jobs crop up not just in rural and suburban areas, but also in urban areas.

“There is a moral principle to green the ghetto first, to give young people the chance to put down that handgun and pick up a caulking gun,” Jones said to enthusiastic applause.

Rally for green jobs in Philadelphia, September 28, 2008. (Photo courtesy Green for All)

Governor Ed Rendell said the Task Force should encourage creation of markets for green energy technologies through renewable portfolio standards and use of the power of the government as a consumer to make change.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is making green jobs a major focus in his economic development work. “Whether you have a GED or a PHD, we’ve got a green job for you in Philly,” he said.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced a grant of $1.1 million to the Philadelphia Energy Coordinating Agency to train workers for green jobs, in collaboration with the mayor’s office. The training center is scheduled to open in 2010.

A city-wide green jobs apprenticeship program is being designed by the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, funded by a $125,000 Knight Foundation planning grant. The Green Jobs Corps will aim to match basic skills training with employers’ needs and strive to connect local green companies to the region’s workforce.

“These two efforts will open the doors of opportunity for low-wage workers to advance into career ladder jobs, while cementing the region’s leadership in the green economy,” said Matt Bergheiser, program director for Knight Foundation.

Pat Eiding, president of Philadelphia’s AFL-CIO, applauded the new initiatives. “The labor movement talks about good green jobs providing workers a career and not just a job. Organized labor is a natural fit in this coalition because we share common goals: we both care about the environment and want to create training, development and career opportunities that provide good wages with benefits.”

All materials distributed at the meeting, along with transcripts and video posts, will be up on the Task Force’s public website, http://www.whitehouse.gov/strongmiddleclass. Public input is welcome.

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