In the past few weeks, we have heard a great deal about the naysayers who hijack town hall meetings, offering fear mongering and intimidation but no real solutions for our nation's problems. Starting today, we will begin to hear about a different kind of gathering.
Union members, manufacturers, and environmentalists are coming together at rallies across the country to support a shift to America's clean energy future - driven by investments in clean energy that will create jobs and economic opportunity for Americans.
The "Made in America" nationwide job tour kicks off in Cleveland on Thursday with the first of 50 events in 22 states. The tour is jointly organized by the Blue Green Alliance of labor unions and environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Alliance for Climate Protection.
I am proud of NRDC's involvement in the "Made in America" tour for two key reasons. First, I know these rallies will be more representative of Americans' views than the town hall intimidators were.
According to several polls, more than 70 percent of Americans support legislation that would move America to a clean energy economy and cut global warming pollution.
Second, I know that clean energy legislation will provide real solutions for American workers and manufacturers.
This is about opportunities for people living in cities and towns across the country, people who live in places where conventional jobs in industries like steel and auto manufacturing are draining away, people who are struggling to keep their families afloat in an economic crisis.
These are people like Wes McGuire, who got laid off when his Ohio factory closed down. Wes decided to take a two-week training course in green technology that was offered by his county career center. The course led to an interview with a company called Cobasys, which makes batteries for hybrid vehicles. Now Wes is a maintenance technician and CWA-IUE member at Cobasys.
These are people like the steelworkers in Pueblo, CO who, in the midst of layoffs at the local steel mill, found new jobs manufacturing towers for wind turbines. Or the idled construction workers across the country who are getting new training and job opportunities through President Obama's weatherization program--a program that will help put 87,000 people to work and lower energy bills for American families. Currently, the Laborers" International Union of North America is conducting a pilot weatherization program in Newark, NJ.
This is also about American manufacturers finding new markets for their goods. I saw it for myself in Cleveland, where the first "Made in America" rally will take place.
I traveled to Cleveland back in June, and while Ohio shows signs of its Rust Belt past, the state is leveraging clean energy demand to revitalize its manufacturing base. For instance, I heard a lot about the wind project slated for Lake Erie right offshore of Cleveland.
Do you know why the developers want to build there?
It's not just because of those strong winds blowing across the lake. It's also because of Ohio's built-in manufacturers. There are already 90 companies in Ohio that make the 8,000 parts it takes to build a wind turbine.
Ed Weston, one of the taskforce members exploring the Erie project said, "We have companies making bearings, generators, electronics, and fasteners [for turbines] within a half-hour drive of Terminal Tower" in downtown Cleveland.
Those manufacturers are about to see a surge in demand for their parts. The wind industry had an annual growth rate of 40 percent since 2005. After a recent slowdown in financing, the renewable energy incentives in the economic recovery package could make 2010 the strongest year yet.
National clean energy and climate legislation will expand those opportunities dramatically.
• Between 1998 and 2007, clean energy economy jobs--a mix of white and blue-collar positions--grew by 9.1 percent nationally, while total jobs grew by only 3.7 percent.
• A recent Blue Green Alliance report found that if the United States instituted a national renewable energy standard (similar to ones over 20 states already have), more than 800,000 manufacturing jobs at firms already in existence across all 50 states could be created.
This is the type of economic growth that our country needs today. It's the reason why workers, labor unions, manufacturers and environmental groups support comprehensive clean energy legislation.
There is no time to wait, we need the jobs now and we need to address the global warming pollution that is already changing our climate. The people joining these rallies understand that, and they want their senators to understand it too.
You can show your support by clicking here and calling on your senators to pass clean energy and climate legislation this fall.
This post originally appeared on NRDC's Switchboard blog.