Latinos are the fastest growing demographic of our population in the United States, and--while not always at the top of the news--Latinos care about clean energy legislation. In fact, according to a recently-released poll, Latinos in three important swing states - Colorado, Florida and Nevada - believe climate change to be a serious problem that demands immediate action from our elected officials. Across the three states, a stunning majority of 85 percent supports a clean energy and climate bill that caps carbon pollution and requires polluters to reduce their emissions 20 percent by 2020.
The results of the poll, conducted by the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change (NLCCC), clearly show that climate change and clean energy reform are issues of particular concern to Latinos - a result that should come as no surprise, since Latinos are greatly affected by both climate change and growth in the clean energy economy.
What is especially striking is how strongly Latinos link a clean energy and climate bill to the future of America's economy: 67 percent of Latinos in these three states understand that a clean energy reform bill that caps carbon pollution will create thousands of new jobs, and a 90 percent majority agree that solving the global warming challenge now will be much less costly than waiting until the problem gets worse.
It is no secret that communities of color are often impacted first and hardest by economic downturns like our current recession. Earlier this year, unemployment among the Latino population rose to 13 percent - well above a nationwide average that has hovered just below 10 percent.
Yet clean energy jobs offer a path to renewed economic growth, especially for Latino communities across New Mexico and the Southwest. An independent, nonpartisan study showed that the American Clean Energy and Security Act - the clean energy and climate plan that passed the House last summer with my support - would help create 11,000 jobs in New Mexico and more than 1.7 million nationwide. Other analyses have found that investments in clean power sources like wind and solar create more than four times as many new jobs as similar investments in oil.
That's why a clean energy and climate bill would be such a win for the Latino community. Between the Recovery Act and a clean energy bill, workers would be able to receive training for work installing solar panels and retrofitting homes for energy efficiency. Clean energy and climate reform takes as a given that the American workforce is the key to our clean energy future - and that's good news for Latino workers - and all workers - who need jobs. We have the partnerships we need to succeed, and we have support from all sectors of the economy. Just this week, I had the fortunate opportunity to participate in the Blue Green Alliance's Good Jobs, Green Jobs national conference, where companies and organizations representing labor, industry, environment and academia came together in our nation's capital to develop their action plan to promote the growth of a green economy.
The shift to more clean American power will certainly require some short-term investments, but it's far better to invest that money in clean energy sources that are made in communities across America than to continue spending a billion dollars a day on foreign oil. Indeed, what our nation and the Latino community can't afford is more of the same failed energy policies that are sending American jobs and money overseas and polluting our water.
With America's addiction to foreign oil threatening both our economy and our security, now is the very best time to invest in clean energy jobs for all Americans. Only a comprehensive clean energy plan will create the job growth and energy independence that our country and its Latino population need.
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