As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Rise Of Van Jones

It's great news that Van Jones has been tapped for a high-level job in the Obama Administration, as a special adviser for green jobs. Having his voice at the Presidential level is bound to be valuable, and great for at-risk communities who will not be forgotten with Jones as their defender. At the same time, I have to agree with the first comment in this Grist story.

If it is more than a rumor, then Van faces some decisions that would keep me awake at night. Would he be more effective where he is, or on the insde of the administration??? How much power would he really have?? Could he go along with the administration the next time it starts talking about "clean coal?"

Indeed, he might have to make that determination almost immediately. Because the FutureGen project, a "clean coal" research facility in Illinois, is likely to be funded with stimulus money in the short term. This is just research, of course, and even Energy Secretary Steven Chu supports it "with modifications." But the fact is that clean coal technology hasn't worked and offers a false sense of hope that we can just keep burning dirty fuels and not get dirty ourselves. It would be nice to have Van Jones' perspective on this, but he's embedded inside the Administration now.

Leadership is self-generating, but leadership like Van Jones' comes around only once in a long while. We have a lot of battles in California over green jobs and alternative energy that could have used a strident voice like Jones'. There's an effort to triple our commitment to clean energy through a renewable portfolio standard. The Senate leader's top priority is career tech education with an eye to green jobs and the new economy. Perhaps Jones' departure means that new leaders will take hold of these issues and push them forward. But perhaps not. It leaves a big hole.

I congratulate him as I've congratulated other Californians who have moved to Washington. But it's interesting, from my perspective, that the two individuals most likely to be able to drive a movement politics in the Golden State - Hilda Solis and Van Jones - have packed up and joined the Obama Administration. I can't say I blame them, this state is a basket case. And their talents will be used well.

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