While some Hispanic voters have expressed disappointment that Bill Richardson was just tapped by Barack Obama for Commerce Secretary -- and not a more prestigious position -- the move does bode well for the environment and the creation of much-needed green jobs.
Richardson, who hails from New Mexico and whose mother was born in Mexico, has a diverse and impressive resume, and was himself a major Democratic contender for the presidential nomination before dropping out of the race. He had a long tenure in the Senate, was a popular two-term governor of New Mexico and served as Energy Secretary under Clinton.
During his presidential bid, Richardson was called by some the "Energy President," for his promotion of a revolutionary, Apollo-scale energy policy that would combat global warming, reduce dependence on foreign oil and increase research and development of alternative and renewable sources of energy. Specifically, he said he would seek reduction of 80 percent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, vehicles would get 50 mpg by 2020, and foreign oil imports would be cut substantially.
As Commerce Secretary, Richardson hopes to pursue badly needed economic rejuvenation, in part through massive investments in alternative energy technologies and other "green jobs." It's an ambitious and extremely exciting goal, but a tremendous amount of work needs to be done. The new administration in Washington has won an historic victory -- and soon the hard work of rebuilding our nation's credibility, commitment to real environmental protection and sustainable, smart growth as a world leader must begin.
To be sure there are already detractors. No surprise among them is the fossil fuel industry-supported American Enterprise Institute, which claims other forms of spending would be more effective than investing in green jobs. And there are those who still try to argue that alternative energies aren't yet ready for primetime.
But the truth is breakthroughs in solar, wind, tidal and other clean energies are coming out apace, the technologies are now closely cost competitive with fossil fuels in many markets and for many applications, batteries are rapidly gaining efficiency, and public interest keeps rising. The time for burying our heads in the sand is long past, as the world wakes up to the reality of climate change and the needs to get America off oil (even George W. Bush has pointed this out, and he has solar panels on his ranch roof for crying out loud!).
Van Jones and Obama are right: We need green jobs now!
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