Author and activist Van Jones will be a special adviser for green jobs, enterprise and innovation in the Obama administration, the White House announced Tuesday.
Jones will start work next week to help direct the administration's efforts to create jobs and help the environment, Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said in a statement.
Jones will "help to shape and advance the administration’s energy and climate initiatives with a specific interest in improvements and opportunities for vulnerable communities," Sutley said.
A Yale law graduate, Jones founded Green for All, a national organization based in Oakland, Calif., that promises environmentally friendly jobs to help lift people out of poverty.
Author of The New York Times best-seller "The Green Collar Economy," Jones was a panelist at the Feb. 27 green jobs summit organized by the White House task force on middle-class issues.
At the request of msnbc.com, Jones discussed those issues on newsvine.com last week, citing "promising examples" of green job programs.
"In Newark, N.J., local government, business and labor are pioneering a public-private partnership to get everyday people quality jobs doing green retrofits on low-income seniors' homes, keeping them warm and saving them money," he wrote. "In Pennsylvania, urban farming is producing cheap, clean biofuels while wind-power giant Gamesa is providing hundreds of green manufacturing jobs to the state.
"In Seattle," he said, "the county's Opportunity Greenway helps young, court-involved adults (ages 16 to 21) get their lives on track with paid internships in one of three high-wage, high-demand green career tracks: transportation, energy, and natural resources."
"If we nurture them," Jones said of such programs, "they can grow into a large-scale green economy, strong enough to solve the ecological crisis and lift millions of people out of poverty."
In defense of spending
Jones also defended the use of federal economic stimulus funds for green jobs.
"The idea that investing in green jobs is fiscally irresponsible is just mistaken," he wrote. "For example, energy efficiency is one of the sectors with the most potential for creating green jobs. Making buildings more energy efficient creates jobs, reduces energy consumption and pollution, and saves everyday people money on energy bills. That savings more than pays for the efficiency improvements, so taxpayers get their investment back in full."
Weatherization and other energy improvements haven't gone mainstream, but Jones felt it was just a matter of time.
"It's true that people are not lining up for these kinds of improvements — yet," he said. "But that's not because these improvements don't make financial sense. It's because of structural hurdles, like a lack of initial capital (even though that money eventually comes back in savings) or split incentives (who pays, the landlord or the tenant?). A well-designed government program can remove these structural hurdles while providing ample avenues for private investment, and encouraging the creation of quality private-sector jobs."
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