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Green-jobs czar Van Jones plugs energy innovation

"Green-jobs czar Van Jones plugs energy innovationVia CNETGreen-jobs advocate Van Jones has gone from being a community organizer in
Oakland, Calif., to a community organizer in the White House.Jones last month was named special adviser for green jobs, enterprise, and
innovation in the White House, where he is tasked with coordinating green
job-related initiatives among different government agencies. On Thursday at
the Bentley University Leadership Forum, he gave a speech on the economic
implications of clean-energy policies.Jones, founder of the Green for All organization and author of the ""Green
Collar Economy,"" is best known for advocating job creation for low-income
people in clean-energy businesses, such as weatherizing homes or installing
solar panels.His message to Bentley students was that, after many years of little
change, business people are ready to let a ""riptide of innovation"" flow
through the energy industry--if a new set of rules are put in place.""The energy sector today will be as unrecognizable 10 years from now as the
information technology sector is from where it was 10 years ago if we let
Barack Obama do his job,"" Jones said.The stimulus package passed earlier this year includes billions of dollars
to promote business in renewable energy and efficiency. The law provides
loans for wind and solar farm developers, $11 billion to upgrade the
electricity grid, $5 billion to weatherize building to be more energy
efficient, $1.6 billion in energy research and development, and a half
billion dollars in job training.The most promising businesses in the near term are in energy efficiency and
renewable energy--solar, wind, geothermal, waveand tidal power, and ""smart
biofuels,"" Jones said.Further out, the industries that hold the most promise are those at the
intersection of ""IT and ET,"" or information technology and energy
technology. That means smart-grid technologies to make the flow of power
across the grid more efficient and energy storage.""Five to 10 years from now, the people making the most money are the people
who figure how to store those clean electrons and move them around the
country,"" he said.The employment potential from clean-energy technology innovation crosses
spans from ""GEDs to Ph.D.s,"" he argued, as there's both a need to service
wind turbines and invent new battery technologies.Political showdownBut despite his upbeat take on how green-technology industries can create
jobs, Jones recognizes that changing the energy industry is a massive
undertaking for both economic and political reasons.Innovation in the energy sector has been held back by incumbent companies
with powerful lobbyists in Washington, he said. He joked that the U.S. is
on the ""post whale-oil strategy"" because petroleum oil came into wide use
after whale populations declined.""Somewhere out there somebody in her mind or her garage has a Google, or
Yahoo, or Microsoft, or YouTube for energy. She will never get that product
to market and if she does, she will never get to scale,"" he said. ""Because
the rules have been written to protect the pro-polluter status quo at the
expense of the innovators and the entrepreneurs and the Earth itself.""Next week, hearings in the House will begin on the American Clean Energy
and Security Act of 2009. That bill calls for a system to regulate
greenhouse gases, a contentious issue in energy and climate policy.The Obama administration favors a cap-and-trade system where heavy
polluters need to buy permits for carbon emissions. The government sets a
cap on the total emissions level, which would decline over time, and
polluters can buy and sell those permits to meet those targets.Detractors of carbon regulations say that imposing a cost on polluters for
carbon emissions will be passed onto consumers and hurt businesses.Echoing comments earlier this week from Carol Browner, Obama's assistant on
energy and climate change, Jones said that American businesses have been