02/11/2011 11:43 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

We Need a Clean Energy Hiring Plan

Last week's job numbers confirmed for yet another month that in order to truly get our economy moving we need a national jobs strategy that unleashes the innovation and ingenuity of the American people to move our country forward and to get people back to work.

President Obama two weeks ago in his State of the Union called this moment our generation's "Sputnik moment." He challenged Americans to win the jobs and industries of the future. The president declared, "We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world."

The president is right. We need a clean energy hiring plan.

We can't rely on the same economic strategies that sent millions of middle-class jobs overseas, resulted in the near collapse of the financial system, drove the price of oil to $140 a barrel in mid-2008, and widened the gap between the rich and the poor. These policies weren't working before the Great Recession because they ignored the fundamental shift in the transition to a clean energy economy. Winning the jobs of the future requires that the U.S. lead the world in that transition.

More than 2,500 people from 48 states gathered this week in Washington for the fourth Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference -- the leading forum for building a sustainable economy that creates good jobs and secures our economic and environmental future.

For the fourth year in a row, thousands of union members, environmentalists, business and community leaders came together to share ideas and strategies for creating good jobs that protect the environment for the next generation. From clean energy manufacturing and green transportation to energy-efficient buildings and green chemicals, people from all over the country are focusing on how to create good jobs by confronting our biggest environmental challenges.

This strategy makes sense because global warming pollution and our dependence on foreign oil are no longer free -- both are a significant drain on our economic recovery. Last year tied with 2005 as the warmest year on record, and the global climate responded with severe and expensive climate fluctuations -- record heat waves in Russia and floods in Australia that have driven up world food prices. Rising demand for oil in emerging economies has inexorably driven prices up to $100 a barrel. Gasoline again averages over $3.00 a gallon in the U.S.

Sadly, our economic competitors already recognize these factors, and from Beijing to Brussels, have adopted policies that are creating the jobs and industries of the future in other countries. They passed regulations and made public-private investments that encourage the production of clean, renewable energy and manufacturing of the parts for those technologies in factories far from America. China has already captured roughly half the solar manufacturing market for the entire planet. President Obama noted in his State of the Union that, over the past two years, we've crawled back from the brink of economic disaster. But despite some improvements, the nation's unemployment rate hovers around 9 percent. If we are going to create the kinds of jobs we need -- good jobs that raise families -- we have win the economy of the future.

But winning the future won't happen if we stay stuck in the economic orthodoxy of the past, relying on Wall St. to sell more of our manufacturing base to low-wage countries and a global oil oligarchy to siphon more of our hard-earned wages to the Middle East.

Thousands of people from around the country worked this week at the 2011 Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference on a clean energy hiring plan that will put Americans back to work with good, green jobs. We'll be talking about the kinds of market incentives and reforms that will catch America up with the rest of the world -- a renewable energy standard, incentives for energy efficiency, and the ramp up clean energy and electric auto manufacturing.

We hope you'll join the conversation.