Washington, DC -- Last August, then-candidate Barack Obama declared that, if elected, he would create five million new, green jobs. He's pushed that promise hard, with his stimulus package, appointments, and support of an ambitious climate-protection bill. But since he made the promise, more than five million Americans have lost their jobs. The fossil-fuel monopolies of the past -- coal and oil -- have mounted a vicious counterattack, hoping to strangle the clean-energy recovery before it can gain momentum. And Congress -- ever inclined to water things down and split the difference -- is showing more and more signs of missing the point: We need to do something BIG.
So, at this week's "America's Future Now!" conference, I urged the audience to raise our ambitions for green jobs, and start demanding not five million, but ten million new livelihoods for Americans who want to build a new energy future. I warned that while Obama has indeed been clear that he wants to move fast into the clean-energy economy: "There is something peculiar in the acoustics between the White House and Capitol Hill, something that deadens the trumpet peals of vision, disrupts the harmonics of urgency, and muffles even a clarion call to arms."
Scale, scale, scale. It is all about scale. Increasingly, wind entrepreneurs and union leaders alike are alerting us that unless we do renewable energy at a big-enough national scale, the supply chains that build solar and wind technologies won't be built in the U.S., with the jobs and prosperity that would bring, but instead will be shifted to Europe and Asia. We're betting tens of billions on the U.S. auto companies leading the world into an electric future, but we're making only a fraction of the investment in new battery technologies that the Chinese are.
And we know that it's doing things big that transforms labor markets and ends unemployment. Yes, ten million new clean-energy jobs sounds like a lot -- but if it enabled us to end our imported-oil habit, which costs us $700 billion a year, we could pay every one of those new workers $70,000 a year.
In World War II, we sent half our work force into the armed forces but still quadrupled industrial production by using the urgency of high demand and big goals to turn sharecroppers' wives into Rosie the Riveter. That, in turn, laid the foundation for our post-war prosperity.
It is time to double down.