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A Green Bailout

Today's post is from Van Jones, founder and president of Green For All, a national organization dedicated to building an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty. The Green Collar Economy, published by HarperOne, is his first book. Jones blogs regularly on politics, the environment, and economics at Huffington Post.

VanJones Maybe the Wall Street bailout package is a good idea.

But the only thing I know for sure is this: even if we avert a total economic meltdown, we will still be in a recession. Millions of Americans still will be without jobs -- or in real fear of losing their job. Worse, we will still be dependent on dirty fuels like oil and coal, which are draining our monetary resources and cooking the planet.

The Earth and everyday people will still be suffering.

At this point, I am willing to concede that Wall Street and the big bankers need some propping up. But while we are at it, we should find a way to bail out the little people -- and the planet, too.

So how about a green bailout -- to help both? We already took an important step in that direction. Perhaps the only thing in the whole bailout package that is inarguably good is the support for the U.S. clean energy sector.

After unconscionable delays, Congress finally gave a boost to our wind power industries and our solar power industries by extending the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and the Production Tax Credit. The price tag was about $9 billion, but the cost was entirely offset, mostly by changes that were made to oil and gas tax rules.

What does America get for that no-net-cost shuffling of the tax code? Plenty. The 8-year extension of ITC alone will create 440,000 jobs. And $230 billion of private investment would be created in the solar and other industries, according to a recent report by Navigant Consulting [pdf].

That's a good start. Let's keep going. An all-out "green bailout" could give America TWICE the bang ... for half the bucks.

We just found $700 billion. Let's find another $350 billion. That's half the price tag of the Wall Street rescue - which has no guarantee of success. But with $350 billion investment, we absolutely and positively could retrofit and repower America using clean, green energy - and create millions of new jobs, in the process.

A new report [pdf] just released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors says that we can create over 4 million green jobs if we aggressively shift away from traditional fossil fuels toward alternative energy and a significant improvement in energy efficiency. Another report [pdf] just released by the Political Economy Research Institute and the Center for American Progress shows that the U.S. can create two million jobs over two years by investing $100 billion in a green economic recovery plan. The report also shows that this investment would create four times more jobs than spending the same amount of money within the oil industry.

Green For All and its partners are proposing a Clean Energy Corps that includes a revolving loan fund to finance the ambitious retrofitting of the nation's building stock. An investment of less than $3 billion per year would provide financing and can be expected to create close to 120,000 green jobs a year and 600,000 over five years, while also lowering home heating and electricity bills for homeowners and small businesses.

The United States should have a Clean Energy Corps, combining community service with green-collar job training. Such a program could get hundreds of thousands of people ready to go to work, greening the nation's infrastructure.

The New Apollo Program is a comprehensive economic investment strategy developed by the Apollo Alliance to build America 's 21st century clean energy economy and dramatically cut energy bills for families and businesses. It estimates that the investment of $500 billion over the next 3 years and create more than 5 million high quality green-collar jobs.

It will accelerate the development of the nation's vast clean energy resources and move us toward energy security, climate stability, and economic prosperity. And it will transform America into the global leader of the new green economy.

A massive green economic stimulus package like this could even pay for ITSELF in energy savings and in tax dollars generated by new jobs and businesses. As Thomas Friedman says, "We don't just need a bailout. We need a buildup."

The bottom line is: we can't base a national economy on credit cards. But we can base it on solar panels, wind turbines, smart bio-fuels and massive, a program to weatherize every building and home in America.

Rather than giving platinum parachutes to those who wrecked the economy, let's throw a green lifeline to the ordinary people who want to rebuild it. We can't drill and burn our way out of our present mess. But we can invent and invest our way out.

Our present economy is based on consumption, debt and environmental destruction. The next U.S. economy should be based on production, smart savings and environmental restoration. You can't have a stable economy based on unregulated greed at the top. But you can have one based on unleashing green, at the bottom.

Millions of green jobs would be a Main Street solution to the Wall Street meltdown.

America's number one resource is not oil or mortgages. Our number one resource is our people. And it is time to put our people back to work - retrofitting and re-powering America.