Van Jones Resigns: Three Green Takeaways

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van-jones-resigns-three-green-takeaways.jpgWith the resignation of White House CEQ member and “Green Jobs Czar” Van Jones over Labor Day weekend, the movement toward a green tech economy took more than just a symbolic hit. Take these three lessons from Jones’ resignation as signals that the Senate’s lift on energy/climate change legislation in the coming weeks may be even tougher than predicted:

Green as Granola…or Worse? We have seen time and again this year that in spite of further entrenchment with skeptics, the green movement is still not resonant in red state America. In fact, they see climate change and energy reform as hippie holdover hokum. The Jones resignation proves that in at least one way, the movement is still way too far out on the fringe. The idea that a White House-level official with Jones stature and profile could possibly have been affiliated with a 9/11-truth group — even in a peripheral way — demonstrates that a lot of the movement’s leadership comes from well outside the political mainstream.

How to Replace a Rock Star? From a messaging standpoint, Van Jones is irreplaceable for Obama. He – literally – wrote the book on “green-collar jobs” and no other single figure has the kind of bona fides in both the Mother Jones and Fast Company crowds. To his credit, Jones built that reputation as an early adopter of green economy ideals, and the impressive resume of vision and leadership that he cultivated in the Bay Area — especially his innovations on urban job training — looked ripe for nationwide scalability.

A Sign for the Senate? The White House has stumbled in selecting a core message around climate change for the general public, using the summer months to float trial balloons on approaches like national security that are thought to be more resonant with middle America. But, green jobs promised to be a central motif as Senate debate on a climate bill kicks off in September. While the bureaucrats running the programs in Washington will remain in place, Jones departure is a leadership upheaval at an inopportune time for the White House and the Senate progressives who will be carrying the water on the climate/energy bill.

[photo credit: Flickr]

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20 Comments

  1. Nice article Joe, this enables me to better understand what goes on in the US.

    I don’t get why some people don’t see the opportunities of green jobs, especially in America.

    The country will spend hundreds of billion dollars this year alone on buying foreign oil. Meanwhile, Cleantech and green jobs in electric cars, renewable energies and so on could enable America to get rid of these huge imports.

    The UK plans to create 1.2 million jobs in ten years thanks to Cleantech (see the post I published last week). Put it to the scale of the good ol’ States this would mean more than FIVE MILLION jobs in ten years, half a million per annum.

    Of course jobs in dirty oil and coal would be destroyed, but much less than what would be created.

    Additional benefits of these policies (if it wasn’t enough) : America would have a lot of money to improve infrastructure, launch a public health system and so on. It would also decrease the pollution…

    Sounds like a no-brainer to me…

  2. You’re accusing the “Red State Americans” of seeing “climate change and energy reform as hippie holdover hokum.”

    If you’re as astute politically as you appear to be you know the importance of not having a leader who distracts from the issues. Jones was way too far out there and his presence distracted everyone from the issues we should be concerned with.

    What bothers me is that you’re taking this issue even further off the playing field by emphasizing the political issues instead of applauding the fact that the issues rather than the personality can now be center stage.

    There’s plenty more that could be said about the politics of this administration and their selection of people like Jones. We’re all better off if we stick to the issue at hand and help the world benefit from Green Energy.

    • MMD, in what way is Van Jones “way out there?” I don’t see it. Have you read his book? I think he’s right on.

      This was made a political issue not by this blog post, but by the fact that people gave such an outcry against him.

      While green energy is important, Jones has done so much in other areas of green job and economic growth. How can that be a bad thing? It’s a real shame.

    • MMD:

      One clarification. The antecedent of the word “they” in the “hippie holdover hokum” sentence should be the aforementioned “skeptics,” not red-staters broadly. Poorly worded, sorry. Clearly, there are scarlet red states that are taking a leading role in renewables — and that have been vocal about environmental and climate concerns from fossil fuels (i.e., the Dakotas). Then, there are those red states that clearly find themselves caught in the middle, the best example being Governor Freudenthal and his very nuanced feelings about Wyo’s emerging wind economy.

      My point was that it is the activity that those skeptics have undertaken at the grassroots (or astroturf? you tell me) level, in conjunction with organizing by coal and oil interest groups and messaging from climate change skeptics in the media (i.e., Limbaugh, most notably) that have combined to undermine resonance in red states.

      Without question, leading voices like Limbaugh have smeared the climate change argument as something amounting to “hippie holdover hokum.”

      Sorry for the confusion.

  3. Alexandra Weit on

    I see you all have no problem with Communists/Marxists in the White House. If you think wind and solar will make your expresso and keep your computers on, then you are dumber than I thought!

    • Alexandra,

      Before you start lashing out at groups of people regarding how dumb you think they are, you should learn how to spell “espresso”. I also see no mention from any of the comments before yours regarding Communists or Marxists. Your inability to stay on topic makes me question your intelligence. Good luck in your future attempts to express yourself.

  4. My recollection is that Van Jones came into the job with some trepidation because national level executive branch work is not necessarily a great place for “innovators”, whether at the innovation be at the level of community organizing, start ups, or hundred year-old publicly traded corporations. His resignation therefore probably means that he felt like he got out of his area of expertise with this job and found he could do more — and more quickly — outside of this particular political arena. “Put yourself in his shoes” — as President Obama asked everyone to do on health care reform tonight in his speech before a joint session of Congress — if you’re good at creating structures to make green jobs work in the private sector, why take a job spending 90% of your time responding to what is effectively slander? In sum, his resignation does not detract in any way from the fundamentals of the global environment and the US economy, nor, for that matter, the fundamentals of US politics: that is, environmental value in the economic sense, as a public good (what do free market economists call it again, “exogeneous factors”?)is going to be integrated into private business, globally, and we serve well ourselves, our nation and our planet to help make that happen. Third party validation: look at the position of grass roots groups like VoteVets.org AND global business interests like the insurance industry (note: discount the view of state level “regulators” voted into state office by state level party machines in the USA) are advocating regarding climate change legislation. Forgive me this morbid pun, but this is not a wave, it’s a tsunami.

  5. Being in France I don’t know much of Van Jones so I won’t partake in that discussion but nonetheless wanted to react.

    > Alexandra I share your concern over wind and solar PV and also believe they won’t replace completely coal. But still, they have a role to play. Even if they account one day for “only” ten or twenty percent, it’s still that much away from fossil fuels.

    I believe also that Concentrated Solar Power has a lot of potential. It’s not as if North America had no deserts…

    Last but not least, energy efficiency and conservation will also play a huge role in sustainable energy.

  6. Pingback: After Van Jones Resigns, His ‘Homeboys’ Keep on ‘Greening the Ghetto’ : Red, Green, and Blue

  7. Joe,

    Appreciate your message. As a conservative AND an environmentalist I would like to see more of the private sector “seeded” in the direction of creating more “green Tech” jobs. More private involvement often means more personal involvement. When a large governmental apparatus gets involved, it usually leads to loss of innovation and slows progress. Government should establish goals and boundaries but not barriers. Increased government red tape usually influences through negative consequences not positive ones. Hence, the greater detachment from the positive goals of green tech to the everyday person.

    The average person is growing more distrustful of his/her government because of what they see as greater loss of freedoms and personal choice from an increasingly dominant goverment. This CAN”T POSSIBLY help the cause.

  8. One more comment about Van Jones. When any administration puts in place an administrater or “czar” with the polarizing history of Mr. Jones, how does it benefit the push toward elevating green technologies? He is a self-stated communist, has advocated anti-governmental positions with his group STORM and is not above using racial overtones to achieve his goals. Put in place a sensible, pragmatic reformer that can put in place common goals that can let

    capitalist synergies (yes I said capitalist) drive the green industries into prominence.

    • Having been through college and grad school and living and working in different parts of the world over more years than I want to admit, including in Europe well before, during, and after The Wall came down, I have come to the conclusion that as soon as someone frames an argument around “..ists” and “…isms” in an accusatory and ideological manner (as opposed to self-deprecating), social interaction, and democracy, is better served by changing the topic politely and walking away. “How’s the weather where you live? Pretty nice here today.” Goodbye.

  9. IF he was Mr. Everything, why didn’t the president and/or top key members of his advisory team stand by him? I’m glad he is gone and much happier you are here providing all you possibly can. I appreciate the blog.

    Doug

  10. I’m very sorry to see Van Jones go. He was 100% on message with everything I heard him say about green jobs and he delivered the message with wit and panache. So I mourn the loss of the messenger, but the message “that investing in renewables is an investment in our country’s future, and will create millions of good paying jobs here in the US…and the sooner we recognize this as a country the better off we will be” is a message that cannot be lost.

    We ARE addicted to dirty fuels, and like any self destructive addiction, the first step is to recognize we have a problem. Then we can come up with a sensible plan of action to break the addiction, and finally begin by taking things one day/week at a time.

    Comments like “If you think wind and solar will make your expresso and keep your computers on, then you are dumber than I thought!” just show that we have a lot more work to do.

  11. If you step back an really look at what Van Jones was trying to do, you will see that he was using the green movement for his political agenda (that didn’t really have much to do with a real green outcome). Drop, the sterotypical views that all on the right are anti-green and all on the left are pro-green.

    What the right objected to is that Van Jones did not have the green movement as his final target (in spite of all his ferverent speeches and writings – do look past the first impressions and see the big picture). This is why Van Jones was so objected to.

    Many on the right are just as concerned and just as dedicated to achieving green results. They want it based on improvements, increased efficiency, reductions in emmisions, improvements in sustainable energy, etc.

    Let’s keep the focus on actually making things better. A focus on how to hurt (policiatlly or financially) those that are perceived to be not be going along with the “plan” is very misguided and people like Jones are very detrimental to the green movement in the long run.

  12. It truly is sad to hear how many people in this discussion really do put this person on some sort of pedestal. As the media throws around the words “alledged” to somehow cast doubt on what he is being accused of, it seems that many here dont seem to care about the individuals in these positions whose philosophy is destructive to the US and THE PEOPLE. These accusations are easily, and I mean easily, found to be true. But if he is great for the environment, then I guess none of that small stuff matters. Simply amazing. I hope that those that “dont care” will one day see the hidden agenda behind the Van Jones of the world and the consequences they bring when placed in any form of positions such as these stupid “Czars”.

    I also love the bigotry towards all conservatives in the article, as well as its posts.

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