An Opportunity We Can't Afford To Miss

We've heard it before -- "the green economy is here" and "green jobs are on the way!" At the Ella Baker Center, we put time, energy, and money into building training programs and promoting the idea of the "new," green economy. Just a few years later, the economy crashed and green jobs became fewer and farther between than anticipated.

Now, more than ever, jobs of any kind are hard to find. But a weak economy doesn't make the bad air any less harmful, or the energy bills we pay any more affordable.

In a sustainable, healthy economy, people shouldn't have to settle for grey jobs. Fortunately, Jerry Brown has a plan to fight unemployment and put more Californians to work fixing up houses and apartments to reduce energy consumption -- the renewal and reform of the Public Goods Charge.

The governor recently proposed a plan that puts the small surcharge most Californians already see on our monthly electricity bills to good, green use. His plan would direct the Public Goods Charge to fund jobs, projects and research reducing energy consumption, pollution, and our dependence on oil and coal. Set to expire at the end of 2011, the Public Goods Charge fund has been re-worked to invest directly in jobs for our communities and energy savings in our homes. In fact, Governor Brown's plan calls for every dime to be spent maximizing job creation, both immediately and in years to come.

Of this large fund, the lion's share -- $250 million a year -- is dedicated to energy retrofits of houses and apartments, with a requirement that at least 25% of the money be spent in low-income communities. This money would immediately go to work providing energy efficiency in our neighborhoods, while employing people from our neighborhoods. Many of us literally cannot afford to miss out on this tremendous investment.

California is known for innovation and leadership on economic and environmental issues, and this plan is no exception. The second-largest category of spending, $150 million a year, is to be dedicated to research and development of new technologies and businesses. This includes incentives for home and business owners to install solar power on their roofs. When our community buildings and neighbors' homes become power plants, dollars are kept in the neighborhood while pollution is kept out of the air. It's a true win-win, with the added bonus of creating jobs installing and maintaining these new, green energy sources.

The strength of the governor's plan is clearly not just "clean energy" but "economic energy," a true example of what's possible when policies connect people most in need of jobs with the work that most needs to get done. Imagine 100 breadwinners employed retrofitting homes, now able to buy their kids school supplies and groceries. At the same time, their hours of work are helping their neighbors live a healthier, more energy-efficient life. Like an electric charge, the money transfers and flows from one source to the next, powering everything in its path.

Too often we are told that we must choose between jobs and the environment. This is a false choice. An economy that promotes the health of the planet as well as their workers is better for everyone. Growing a strong green economy is the best way out of California's unemployment crisis. It is essential for people of color and low-income communities to be a part of that recovery. And an essential first step is to renew the Public Goods Charge.

Join me in calling on our State leadership to act quickly and renew the Public Goods Charge -- a great example of a solution to address California's problems of poverty and pollution at the same time.