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Groundwork for Repair America Plan Found in a View From Space

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In President Obama's climate change speech this week, he harkened back to the wonder of the first humans to orbit the moon. The president quoted something astronaut Jim Lovell said from space in 1968, "It makes you realize, just what you have back there on Earth." Though very few of us have been to space, it's still possible to understand the sense of awe the astronauts felt. Today the BlueGreen Alliance launches the Repair America campaign -- a campaign as much about protecting ourselves and our communities from the effects of climate change as it is preserving Earth's beauty. Repair America is recognition of the fact that the basic systems we rely on are not prepared for the impacts of increasingly severe and frequent weather events. We can't afford to wait, we must act now.

Investing now in our basic infrastructure -- those systems that provide us water and power, enable us to move people and goods efficiently, allow us to communicate with each other, and protect us from floods and extreme weather -- will make our economy more efficient, create good family-sustaining jobs, reduce carbon emissions and hopefully prevent the worst consequences of climate change. We can put that same competitive drive that helped Americans lead the charge into space to work to combat the effects of climate change.

Today, we're face-to-face with a new reality: severe storms in Michigan have overwhelmed water systems and threatened public safety; in the city of Long Beach, N.Y., all the cell towers went down during Sandy; and in Duluth, Minn., in one 48-hour period, a 10-inch rainfall destroyed $190 million in infrastructure.

America's infrastructure systems are breaking down; the cost of that to our economy, environment and families are too high to not take action now. However, we can turn a singular problem into many solutions by repairing the basic systems we rely on every day. Executing this strategy will create good jobs, reduce pollution, address climate change, and ensure America's competitiveness globally.

An infrastructure bank should be part of this solution. It's a smart investment that would finance much-needed repairs to our transportation, transit, clean and wastewater, energy and communications systems. Congresswoman DeLauro spoke Thursday about how her plan to create a national infrastructure bank can be the catalyst for comprehensive action. An infrastructure bank would leverage significant private investment to modernize our nation's infrastructure by helping to capitalize $25 billion over 5 years, and leverage hundreds of billions in private investment by issuing direct loans and subsidies, loan guarantees, bonds and debt securities, at low interest rates.

There are few needs more basic than what transportation, transit, clean and wastewater, energy and communications systems provide. Upgrading them to meet those basic needs and protect communities is an opportunity to create jobs for American workers. For example, every $1 billion invested in water infrastructure will create more than 20,000 new jobs.

It's only with innovative strategies that we can close our investment gap and deliver the 21st century infrastructure America needs. Repairing America and a national infrastructure bank will provide the innovative ways to finance and build the vital projects that will improve the competitiveness of our economy, the efficiency of our services, the safety of our built environment, and that will create good American jobs. With a foot rooted firmly in America's tradition of innovation and an eye toward preparing for a future where we continue to out-compete the world in the latest technological innovations, let's realize what we have on earth and repair America now.

The BlueGreen Alliance is a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations dedicated to expanding the number and quality of jobs in the clean economy. Launched in 2006, the strategic partnership now brings together major U.S. labor unions and America's most influential environmental organizations and unites more than 15 million members and supporters in pursuit of good jobs, a clean environment and a clean economy. Visit www.bluegreenalliance.org.

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