WASHINGTON – Environmental, labor, and civil rights organizations convened a National Press Club news conference Jan. 14 to denounce Bush-Cheney energy policies – blocked by a Senate filibuster last month – as a giveaway to oil and gas polluters and a destroyer of jobs.
They also unveiled a new 10-year, $300 billion “Apollo Project” that would create 3.3 million new jobs while cleaning up the nation’s air, water, and soil, and reducing U.S. reliance on imported energy.
Initiated by the Campaign for America’s Future (CAF), the Apollo Project has been endorsed by 17 labor unions, including the United Steelworkers of America, the United Auto Workers, as well as by the Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Greenpeace.
CAF founder Robert Borosage hailed the “unusual, broad-based alliance of unions, environmental and civil rights groups” that have endorsed the project.
United Steelworker President Leo Gerard quipped that rather than send American youth to secure oil for U.S. corporations in the Middle East “we should be working to make sure that millions of workers have jobs in the Midwest.”
Gerard said that only 1,000 new jobs were created in December instead of the 150,000 George W. Bush had expected, according to the latest Labor Department employment report on Jan. 9. “The unemployment rate fell by two-tenths of a percent only because 300,000 workers stopped looking for jobs,” Gerard said. “I want the jobless rate to go down because workers have found jobs.”
According to the report, another 26,000 factory workers lost their jobs in December. “That makes 41 consecutive months of job loss in manufacturing,” Gerard said. “My union has lost close to 100,000 jobs since 1997. Those jobs went to Mexico and China. There is no reason that American industry can’t manufacture the products that will bring those jobs home.”
“From now until the presidential election,” Gerard added, “this is an issue we will talk to every candidate about. We need to have a tool to revitalize manufacturing.” Every candidate, he said, should endorse the Apollo Project.
Released at the news conference was a 34-page report, “New Energy for America … The Apollo Jobs Report: Good Jobs and Energy Independence” (www.apolloalliance.org).
It outlines a bold 10-year plan to overhaul the nation’s electricity grid “held together by baling wire and string” and to shift the nation toward energy-efficient mass transit. Investing $49 billion to increase energy diversity would add $414.9 billion in Gross Domestic Product, add $278.7 billion in personal income and create 932,095 jobs, the report states.
A 10-year federal investment of $42 billion in developing more efficient manufacturing would add $341 billion in GDP, $222.9 billion in personal income and create 741,912 new jobs, the report predicted.
Likewise, an $11.5 billion federal investment in water infrastructure would add $28.9 billion to GDP, $19.5 billion in new personal income and create 62,586 jobs.
Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) issued a statement in support of the plan, saying, “One of the keys to America’s energy security – and therefore our national security – lies in rebuilding our cities. We need strategic investments to retrofit old buildings, expand transportation alternatives, restore our infrastructure, and create solar, wind and hydrogen technology. Apollo will rebuild our country in a way that benefits all Americans.” The jobs program stresses investment in the nation’s cities and infrastructure.
Economist Ray Perryman of the Perryman Group based in Waco, Texas, released at the news conference his study of the Apollo Project. Perryman cited the 41 months of contraction in manufacturing as proof “the U.S. is way behind in investment in job-creating programs. The Apollo Project can stimulate jobs in manufacturing. I have great respect for markets for organizing production and distribution. But they are not perfect. We need the public sector to build and maintain the infrastructure.”
Carl Pope, president of the Sierra Club, contrasted the open grassroots input of the Apollo Project to Vice President Cheney’s secret energy task force. “It produced a plan so broadly horrendous, so profoundly irrelevant that the Wall Street Journal, The Nation, the Cato Institute and the Sierra Club all called on Congress to reject it,” Pope said. “Our politicians … have not wanted to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. They do not want to abide by the Kyoto Agreement on reduction of greenhouse gases. And I doubt if Bush will find enough oil under the surface of Mars to end our dependence on Persian Gulf oil.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), speaking by telephone, said she was proud to filibuster the Bush-Cheney energy bill. The report, she said, “has put real numbers on the table and should be a wakeup call to the president and my colleagues in Congress. Our generation’s challenge is not to put a man on the moon but rather it is to end U.S. energy dependence and create jobs for millions of workers. We need to put together a legislative roadmap to accomplish it.”
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