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Workers Want Green Jobs, Not Astroturf

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This week, the Made in America tour heads to Gary, Indiana, where workers will rally in support of green jobs and climate legislation. These men and women recognize that Gary's ailing steel plants can be revived by producing parts for wind turbines, hybrid car batteries, and other clean energy solutions.

This is why they are coming together to support the clean energy bill. And this is what real grassroots look like.

A new Washington Post poll shows that most Americans approve of the Obama administration's efforts to shift to clean energy. Likewise, August polling by Zogby International showed that seven in ten Americans support clean energy legislation and want to see it passed in the Senate.

We think those voices deserve to be heard. And we're proud to have the chance to stand shoulder to shoulder with American workers who want to invest their labors in building the next generation of energy efficient homes, workplaces and cars.

There's a difference between lending voices and twisting arms.

From the New York Times to Grist, journalists have reported that the dirty energy lobby is pressuring employees to show up at demonstrations against green jobs. They've named corporate coordinators to count noses and take names. They've hired a national events coordinator to choreograph these gatherings, trying to make them appear to be spontaneous expressions of grassroots sentiment.

We're not dressing ourselves up as something we're not. We haven't gone out and hired consultants to tell folks how to think. We aren't intimidating families in tough economic times.

What we've done instead is lay out a simple message of hope. We've said: if you believe in generating new jobs, reducing our reliance on foreign oil and creating a healthier planet for our children, join with us in calling for change. The response has been spontaneous and it has been overwhelming.

And it is based on real opportunities -- opportunities that are beginning to make a concrete difference in the lives of Hoosiers.

You can see it in the numbers. While Indiana saw overall jobs decline between 1998 and 2007, jobs in clean energy grew nearly 18 percent, according to a Pew Charitable Trust study.

But you can also see it in people's stories. People like the 220 Gary steelworkers who are keeping up with demand for wind turbine parts at the ArcelorMittal steel plant.

And people like small business owners Dave and Glen Smith. When Glen got laid off from his job servicing cell phone towers a few years ago, he and his brother Dave launched Wind-Wire, a company that sells and installs wind turbines throughout Indiana. Business has been so good that they have now expanded into Michigan and Illinois.

Clean energy has given these workers a lifeline in a tough economy. But Indiana has only just begun to tap its potential.

According to a recent report by the Political Economy Research Institute, investment in the clean energy economy could generate 38,013 green jobs in Indiana. More than 20,000 of those jobs could go to workers with a high school diploma or less, offering families a path out of poverty.

Indiana can't realize this promise on its own. It needs a national commitment to clean energy investment to take it to the next level.

The climate bill that passed the House in June and is headed to the Senate this fall can achieve that. It will dramatically expand the market for the green energy solutions that can be made in Indiana's existing factories.

It is also designed to keep electric bills affordable. The wild exaggerations of Governor Daniels just aren't supported by the numbers.

You can click here for my post about electricity bills, but here is a quick look at the data. Using numbers from the EPA and the Energy Information Agency, analysts found that Hoosiers' bills will be an average $6 higher if a climate bill passes. But this data is missing something important: it does not factor in the numerous energy efficiency measures included in the ACES bill that will save Americans money.

Indeed, lots of money -- approximately $750 per household by 2020. NRDC calculated that when these efficiency measures are factored in, Americans in nearly every state will save an average of $5.99 a month -- the same as the average increase in Hoosier bills.

It is because of opportunities for jobs and savings that workers in Gary will be gathering Thursday. These people don't support climate legislation because environmental groups or labor unions told them to. They support it because they believe in it.

They understand this is about our values and our future. It's about getting our country back on its feet. It's about putting Americans back to work.

Now that is something to rally for.

This post originally appeared on NRDC's Switchboard blog.

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