WASHINGTON - "There is a clear link between clean energy and economic development," Ron Ruggiero, field director for the Apollo Alliance, told workshop participants here at the America's Future NOW! conference June 8.
According to Ruggiero, "Clean energy can lead to a manufacturing revival in this country."
"First we need to create the market demand for green manufacturing through policy priorities," Ruggiero said. "Second, we need to invest in capacity to meet demand. Third, we need to capture the jobs and economic opportunity."
Currently, manufacturing accounts for 11.5 percent of GDP and sustains 13 million jobs in the U.S. Around 85 percent Americans support expanding manufacturing, especially as manufacturing jobs have historically been good paying union jobs. Unfortunately though, jobs in the manufacturing industry have been on the decline for the past 30 years.
The Apollo Alliance is currently advocating for a $500 billion investment in green industry that would, they say, create millions of green manufacturing jobs.
Kari Fulton, from the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, emphasized "engaging communities of color on environmental change." "We have to learn how to advocate for green jobs in every community," she said.
"We have to create the climate future we want to see by striving for democratic participation, building capacity for green jobs and finding ways to share in green wealth," Fulton added.
Workshop panelists also addressed the millions of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf Coast. Peter Bahouth said, "We're not just plugging the whole. This is going to be big oil's Katrina."
He said, "There are currently 6,000 oil wells in the Gulf, paid for by $80 billion in tax subsidies. We paid for this oil spill."
Additionally, the oil spill in the Gulf wasn't an "accident." "It was the direct, predictable outcome of our oil policy," he said.
According to Bahouth, the U.S. uses around 20 million barrels of oil a day, spending around $1 billion a day on imported oil. Within our boarders exists about 2 percent of the world's oil supply. However, we use about 25 percent of the world's oil production. If every known oil reserve in the U.S. was drilled it would last about 3 years.
"We need a national oil reduction plan," Bahouth concluded.
Stewart Acuff, from the Utility Workers' Union, said, the oil spill in the Gulf "is destroying a way of life."
Tying the struggle for green, sustainable jobs to the economic recovery, Acuff added, "We cannot dig ourselves out of this job's whole without raising consumer demand. And we can't raise consumer demand without good paying manufacturing jobs, good paying union jobs in a green industry."
Also at the Conference, United Steelworkers' president Leo Gerard, said "We need to empower workers and create a new generation of jobs. We need to get serious about eliminating the failed economic system that got us here."