Obama's green-job czar urges Vt. to lead (Burlington Free Press)

Van Jones says state has a ‘pace car' reputation

By Joel Banner Baird, Free Press Staff Writer

SOUTH BURLINGTON — When President Barack Obama's "green-job czar," Van Jones, spoke to Vermont business leaders Thursday afternoon, he declined to preach to the choir.

Instead, he issued a challenge: A recession-hobbled nation, he said, needs the Green Mountain State to maintain its "pace-car" reputation for merging entrepreneurial, environmental and social-justice strategies.

"Pound-for-pound, this state is leading the country," Jones said. "The president will be relying on the example of Vermont, explicitly."

Jones, the keynote speaker at the Vermont Business and Industry EXPO in South Burlington, was recently appointed special adviser of Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation for the White House Council on Environmental Quality

He spent much of his 45-minute speech outlining how global warming has sharpened the Obama administration's call for a forward-looking, green economy.

"For decades, we somehow let our political system give us a false choice: to be concerned about the economic health of our children — or the physical health of our grandchildren," he said. "This administration has changed the terms of that debate."

Jones described the president's proposed carbon cap-and-trade policy as a strategy for firing up energy innovators: By gradually decreasing total allowable carbon emissions and making carbon-pollution "credits" increasingly more expensive, the policy provides a long-absent incentive for a departure from fossil fuels.

"The clean forms of energy should be the profitable ones," he said.
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Advances in energy efficiency, production and policy here, he said, will help revitalize low- and high-tech industries around the country — particularly in manufacturing states in the Midwest.

And the benefits of a unified national energy policy based on the Vermont model would help the U.S. find a leadership role overseas, he continued.

"It's hard to lead other countries where we haven't gone ourselves," he said.

Jones' trip to Vermont, at the invitation of Sen. Patrick Leahy, allowed for quick visits to Efficiency Vermont and Williston-based Earth Turbines.

"The easiest thing in the world is to brag on Vermont," Jones said, grinning. "You now have the whole country on your shoulders. So, good luck."

Prior to his appointment to the Council on Environmental Quality, Jones was founding president of Green For All, a national organization that promotes an inclusive green economy.

He also co-founded the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Color of Change, two innovative social justice organizations.

A 1993 Yale Law School graduate, Jones is the author of the 2008 New York Times best-seller, "The Green Collar Economy."