Green-Collar Victory

Bill Scher

The Senate energy bill floor debate got off to a good start, as an Apollo Alliance-backed amendment sailed through on a voice vote, authorizing resources to train workers for high-skill, clean energy jobs.

This was a major theme of the recent Apollo Summit. While conservatives seek to prevent environmental progress by claiming it would hurt the economy, the reality is a clean energy economy creates millions of good-paying, sustainable jobs.

But to take advantage of the economic and environmental opportunities, we urgently need to invest in green-collar job training.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who introduced the amendment, put out a celebratory news release, quoting Apollo Alliance President Jerome Ringo:

…the Senate adopted a job-training proposal by Senators Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. The measure would authorize resources to train workers for “green collar jobs” that involve the design, manufacture, installation, operation, and maintenance of technologies associated with energy efficiency and renewable, clean energy options. It also would authorize research on labor market trends.

“One way to slow global warming is to use energy in a smarter way. An effective and economical way to cut consumption is to make homes and businesses more energy efficient. Trouble is, today you would have a hard time finding workers qualified to do the job,” Sanders said.

“If we’re smart, we can help people make their homes and offices more energy efficient and in the process create millions of good-paying “green jobs’, ”Clinton said. …

“As Congress advances programs to enhance our energy security and address global warming, workforce shortages are emerging in the utilities sector that could stymie growth of the renewable energy and efficiency industries,” Apollo Alliance President Jerome Ringo said.

“According to the American Public Power Association, half of current utility workers will retire within the next decade. However, our nation is not training enough new workers to fill their places.”

Congress isn’t ready to tackle the most critical piece of any comprehensive strategy to combat global warming, a cap on greenhouse gas emissions, though leaders have pledged to do so in this congressional session.

In turn, the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid properly characterized the current bill as “just the first step. It is our roadmap, not our destination.” (Similarly, The Des Moines Register said the bill’s provisions “appear sound, but hardly visionary.”)

But we don’t know what the final bill will look like until the amendment process. As the The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Hill have detailed, lobbyists are out in force  to weaken what’s already just a first step.

And top Senate conservatives Mitch McConnell and Trent Lott are furiously mischaracterizing the bill on behalf of Big Oil, both saying the bill doesn’t expand “energy production” and so it won’t make us “secure.”

Wrong. The bill as presently written doesn’t expand oil production.

Washington conservatives may be surprised to know there are other kinds of energy besides oil, and they are expanded in the bill.

The bill also promotes energy efficiency to lessen our addiction to oil—and that addiction, which McConnell and Lott did nothing about when they were in charge, is why we’re not “secure.”

There’ll be lots of twists and turns as the debate continues. We’ll be staying on top of it, and making sure the lobbyists’ voices aren’t the only ones heard on the Senate floor.

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