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The Latino Community's Stake in a Clean Energy Economy

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The risks of climate change due to excess carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are significant for everyone, and are an even greater concern for working Latino families. The majority of Latinos are concentrated in urban areas in 15 states that account for 86.5% of the total Latino population. Over 80 percent of Latinos within the United States live in counties that violated at least one federal air-pollution and our children are 2.5 times more likely to develop asthma than non-Latino children. The reduction and regulation of harmful air pollutants and heat-trapping gases is a public health imperative directly tied to the fight against climate change. The creation of a clean and renewable energy economy that protects workers and our environment must be a priority.

The impetus behind a clean and renewable energy economy is in the fact that to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, promote public health, improve environmental quality, and save energy we have to do something about where we get our energy from, how we generate it and distribute it. Fossil power plants account for nearly seventy-percent of air emissions of sulfur dioxide (the primary cause of acid rain); one-quarter of nitrogen oxide (which causes smog); forty-percent of carbon dioxide (the primary contributor to global warming); and one-third of mercury (damages nervous system development in young children).

Our community stands to gain the most by changing how energy is produced and distributed and how by-products are discarded. It's widely accepted that clean energy is beneficial to the economy, our environment, and our community. It is for all of these reasons that the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) is a co-founder and vice chair of the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change (NLCCC) and at LCLAA we officially took a next step and made the push for a clean energy economy one of our primary goals over the next years. At LCLAA's 18th National Convention in August, our membership approved a resolution which outlines clear objectives to promote healthy communities and a clean energy economy.

As communities nationwide struggle with unemployment and try to resurface from an economic recession, new clean energy and renewable power plants will provide employment for thousands of workers during their construction phase, as well as tens of thousands of permanent operations jobs on completion that cannot be outsourced.

A clean-energy economy is not only an opportunity to protect the health of our families, but also a chance to secure economic opportunities for workers across the nation. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 helped create more than 800,000 renewable energy jobs, and the renewable energy industries are developing and expanding domestic supply chains to the benefit of local communities struggling with high unemployment rates.

The clean energy industry is working with community colleges around the country to develop and implement education and training programs to enable more students to enter the clean energy workforce and benefit from good jobs, excellent benefits and community enhancement. What's more, the United States clean energy industry's safety record is steadily improving and has an indispensable role as a component of the country's energy security.

Poll after poll indicates that Americans want our leaders to take immediate action on comprehensive climate change and energy legislation. The data is clear: investing in clean-energy is not only the right thing to do but also the wisest. The $1 billion dollars we spend every day to buy oil could be invested at home, to create American jobs and to declare independence from foreign oil.

The time for clean energy is now. LCLAA is proud to be on the forefront of our nation's clean energy opportunities for economic, social, and environmental justice.

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