The War on Green Jobs Hurts Us All

It's hard to imagine why anyone in this country would fail to get behind a sector like clean energy, which is putting Americans to work while keeping our air and water healthy. It's even harder to understand why they would actively try to destroy it. Yet that's exactly what's going on.

A small group of ultra-wealthy special interests has been leading an assault on efforts to spur economic growth and jobs in clean energy -- all while blocking the most basic safeguards for our air and water.

These groups have coordinated with congressional leaders and spent countless taxpayer dollars working to prevent the growth of jobs in one of America's most promising fields. Some, like Congressman Darrell Issa, have even attempted to dismantle green job training programs. This, in a time when Americans are desperate to acquire skills that will help them support their families.

It's enough to leave you scratching your head -- until you take a closer look and see that companies like Chevron, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips are among the biggest contributors to Issa and other opponents of green jobs and clean air and water.

That certainly helps explain why the House has voted 87 times to dismantle the Clean Air Act, and why this congress has one of the worst voting records in history when it comes to standing up to polluters.

It also explains why they've worked so hard to suffocate some of our most promising sources of jobs. Just look at what's happened with the wind energy tax credit -- one wind turbine plant in South Dakota laid off 92 workers last week because of uncertainty about federal support. If the fossil fuel industry has its way in blocking wind investment, we'll lose another 37,000 good green jobs, according to the American Wind Energy Institute.

There's a sad, simple explanation for why the clean energy industry is under attack: It's a threat to big coal and oil companies -- some of which boast the highest profits in the world.

That's why we're seeing polluters and their allies introduce bills like "The No More Solyndras Act." The bill's authors know it will never get anywhere. They just hope that if they talk long enough about one solar company that failed, Americans will forget just how prosperous and promising the industry actually is.

The oil and coal industries are working furiously to squash their biggest competitor -- clean energy. They're not doing it by creating a better product that will win out; they're doing it by misleading the public and skirting the rules.

Their attacks on clean energy aren't just a waste of our time and money -- they're a big political gamble. A recent poll shows that 64 percent of Americans think Congress should focus more on clean energy and energy efficiency. Among one of the most courted groups of voters it's even higher: Ninety percent of Latino voters say they strongly support clean energy over fossil fuels.

But polluters aren't listening. Instead, they're working methodically to dismantle basic safeguards that protect the water we drink and the air we breathe. They've introduced the "Stop the War on Coal" package -- which, despite its big name, is really just another attempt by the industry to sidestep public health precautions and avoid playing by the rules.

They get away with killing green jobs and making our kids sick because they've got money to spend on elections. That hurts all of us. But people of color bear the brunt -- they tend to live closest to polluting oil refineries and coal plants, and their rates of pollution-related illness are alarming: One in six African American kids struggles with asthma, compared with one in 10 nationwide.

Green jobs aren't a dream. They're real. They're already here. In fact, 3.1 million Americans count on them for a paycheck. There are already more Americans working in the wind and solar industry than in coal mining. But if big oil and coal have their way, these jobs will evaporate -- along with basic safeguards for our water and air.

This isn't an accident or a coincidence. It's not the free market doing its thing. America's green economy is under attack, precisely because it's so promising.

We need to keep our eyes fixed on that promise -- on the real jobs and growth we're already seeing in clean energy. If we do, we can make our country more competitive. We can put Americans to work. We can give our neighbors a chance to rise up out of poverty. And we can make sure our kids and grandkids inherit a healthier, more prosperous world.