One thing learned from Denver earlier this week, where Vice President Joe Biden announced the beginning of the Green Jobs Era, is that there is still no strict definition of what a green job is. Regardless, there will be many of them. As Biden told the audience at the Denver Museum of Science and Nature on May 26:
Look, green jobs are good jobs. They pay ... 10 to 20% more, depending on the definition of a green job. And, with the Recovery Act, we're doing everything we can to make these jobs the foundation upon which our efforts to create 3.5 to 4 million jobs occurs. And that's a hard case to sell.
Sure is hard when you haven't quite narrowed down what it is you're selling. As read from the Middle Class Task Force Green Jobs report issued May 26: "We defined green jobs broadly as jobs that help to improve the environment in some way."
Well, mountaintop coal miners believe they're helping the environment in some way, but they shouldn't be considered in this. Biden called yesterday for the White House Council of Environmental Quality to report back to him in 90 days with suggestions on how green opportunities should be determined. Green economy opportunities should be expanded so that they benefit both middle-class and low-income families. But to do that, there has to be a clearer idea of what qualifies as a green job so that the right people benefit.
White House green jobs adviser Van Jones -- whom Biden referred to as his "evangelist" -- was on deck in Denver, but he's eluded questions about how the federal government will define an environmentally safe workforce also. An interesting collaboration between the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Labor seems to be on course, though, in providing an exact green jobs program. The new collaboration, as yet unnamed, is using some of the $500 million in green jobs funds from ARRA to create grants and loans for greening public housing projects.
Funding for rebuilding public housing that employs low-income residents in the process would go along way in, for example, New Orleans where housing projects could use re-fortifying and people there could use jobs. One proposed funding stream from the collaborative is the Pathway Out of Poverty grant program that would help those who've long suffered before the recession to gain sustainable green employment. HUD and DOL are asking workforce investment boards and public housing agencies to begin strategizing immediately for funding that could become available as soon as next month.
Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has actual experience in legislating and implementing green jobs programs. Ditto for Shaun Donovan particularly as pertains to greening public housing. It makes sense that these two should be the evangelists to define America's green jobs future.
-- Brentin Mock