Green for All

Green for All LogoI’ve been reading quite a bit lately about Van Jones and his Oakland-based campaign, Green For All, and I’ve got to say, I’m intrigued.

Premised on the idea that a clean-energy economy can help lift people out of poverty, Jones’ campaign advocates for the creation of what he calls green collar jobs (manual labor positions that benefit the environment, like solar panel installers and home weatherizers) for the impoverished or those left behind by the outsourcing of blue collar jobs. The idea seemed feasible enough that both the House and the Senate passed the Green Jobs Act (H.R. 2847) of 2007, directing $125 million annually for greening the nation’s workforce, including job training for 35,000 people every year. Unfortunately, the President has vowed to veto the bill because of its workforce training component. Hmmm….

Green For All

Sounds a bit fishy to me that someone who’s recently claimed to be an advocate for alternative energies (despite believing that nuclear is a good “alternative”) would veto a bill like this. Especially if he looks to his Allies a bit further east.

Here in Germany, the environmental movement has meant a boom both to the economy and to the workforce. Two of the largest Photovoltaic panel manufacturers opened factories in the former East, significantly lowering unemployment in the part of the country with the highest unemployment rates. These same solar companies are now billion-Euro industries, even though Germany gets as less sun than most of the United States.

The boom has also created and expanded blue collar jobs in Germany. While I can’t speak to the costs of training (the education system here is very different than the US’s, with most universities only now, after quite a lot of controversy, beginning to institute tuition fees – at a measly 500 Euros/semester), their Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training knows a lot about green collar jobs and what’s required in a new sustainably developed marketplace. They’ve qualified 5000 people to become building energy experts and trained many more to install solar panels both for electricity generation and water heating. Still, they know there is more to do and they’re creating new programs each day to do it. As their website says, it’s no longer a lack of energy efficient technology that’s creating problems with every household going green: “the ‘bottleneck’ turns out to be in the awareness and confidence of the customer and in the skills of the specialist craft trade workers, rather than in the technical development of energy efficient systems.”

So, Mr. Prez, how are we going to get those specialists in the US if you don’t want to provide the training? Do you really plan to keep importing German-trained workers to take care of this? I guess I shouldn’t complain. I have to love Germany for training my husband in his green job for a fraction of the price he’d have paid in the States. But what about those people unable to come to Europe for training? Thank goodness organizations like those of Van Jones’ exist to pick up your slack.