Green Jobs Are 'Greatest Market Opportunity Of Our Generation,' Senator Says

Flanked by forced-out former green jobs czar Van Jones, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said Monday that creating new jobs in green industries presents the "greatest market opportunity of our generation."

Comparing the call to create "green jobs" to former President John F. Kennedy's call for landing a man on the Moon, Gillibrand said at a forum that the nation needs to act in order to inspire the next generation of scientists.

"Green jobs" are those in industries that promote environmental protection and energy independence, like energy efficiency, renewable energy and smart energy. With millions of Americans unemployed and global warming threatening the globe, the burgeoning field of green technology could be the nation's next great job creation vehicle.

It's the "moral, political and economic challenge of our time," said Jones, former special adviser for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Jones said that creating new jobs in green industries would combat both global warming and the recession.

Jones was
forced out of the White House in September after conservatives, led by Fox News Channel host Glenn Beck, launched an attack on his background in radical activism.

While the U.S. dithers, other countries are aggressively moving ahead. Gillibrand noted that China invested $440 billion last year in green technology such as solar panels.

Gillibrand said that she'd like to see the nation be "energy independent in a decade," adding that it's a "call to action I'd like to see this President give us."

Jones said that government policy needs to favor problem solvers like green entrepreneurs rather than problem makers like the oil and coal industries. But Gillibrand pointed out that the Senate is not full of progressives clamoring for change. Moderation is needed, she said. The big ideas like the ones that powered the Obama campaign are "not a reality" from a legislative or political perspective, Gillibrand said. Obama himself is "already pushing towards moderation," she noted in a reference to the president's embrace of nuclear technology, traditionally a Republican cause.

"There was a sweeping election in 2008, but there wasn't a sweeping movement in 2008," said Erica Payne, founder of the Agenda Project, the progressive advocacy organization that hosted Monday's forum. A movement needs a combination of ideas, messages and leaders, Payne said. All three are needed in large supply, she added.

To get the country to fully embrace the green technology movement, Obama needs to give a "shoot-for-the-moon speech," Gillibrand said. "And he has to do it now."