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Green-jobs evangelist sells Obama's ambitious plans

Green-jobs evangelist sells Obama's ambitious plans(By Frank Davies via MercuryNews.com)WASHINGTON — When Van Jones — Oakland activist, best-selling author and

"green jobs" proselytizer — spoke to online political organizers last fall,

he couldn't resist kidding them: "You've really messed up. You're about to

win this election."Their favorite candidate, Barack Obama, was going to inherit a mess, Jones

predicted: "It will be like cleaning out the barn with a straw. I don't

know why he even wants the job."Now Jones has signed on to help clean out the barn.Obama has lured the 40-year-old Jones into his administration to work on

clean-energy issues and become a major spokesman for the president's energy

policies. Jones was given the unwieldy title "special adviser for greenIn the Bay Area, Jones gained a reputation as a fierce advocate for racial

and economic justice. He shed a spotlight on police abuse in Oakland and

San Francisco, successfully fought a "super-jail" for juveniles and became

adept at mixing cajolery with confrontation.Then he launched Green for All, an effort to bring green-energy jobs to

poor areas that is now run by Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, former head of the

South Bay Labor Council.Jones' book, "The Green Collar Economy," came out in October. Jones emerged

as an activist who could bridge the gap between the inner city and the

environmental movement.Then came the call from Obama. Two months into his new job, Jones said he

is adjusting to life as a government insider."It's like playing a new video game. It's simple when you're an advocate.

You have a paddle with two buttons — 'please, please' and 'protest,

protest,' " Jones said during a recent interview. "Now it's a much more

complex keyboard, and I'm still learning how to read the music sheet."But he added that his work as a community organizer was "invaluable

experience" and not that different from his new job. In both cases, it's

all about getting "people to talk with each other and trust each other,''

whether it's community groups or federal agencies.Environmental groups see Jones as a key ally. "He's a terrific leader,"

said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund. "Having him in

the White House means we can expect more rapid progress in creating

clean-energy jobs."Jones will coordinate efforts inside government to promote "green jobs" —

work in renewable fuels and energy efficiency. He will also be a highly

visible point person for Obama's energy plans, including a mandatory cap on

carbon emissions.A dynamic speaker, Jones is equally at home on a black radio station,

"Larry King Live" or Comedy Central's "Colbert Report," where he disputed

Stephen Colbert's notion that pursuing green jobs was as realistic as

"herding unicorns."He doesn't think it's a pipe dream to combine "greening the ghetto" with

fighting global warming. He rejects warnings from some economists that new

jobs in the solar and wind industries won't be enough to make up for losses

in a declining coal industry.Jones said he is optimistic because another former community organizer,

Obama, is determined to revamp the economy and reduce the nation's reliance

on fossil fuels. He also thinks the country, traumatized by the severe

recession, is ready for real change.Jones and Obama aren't always on the same page. Jones has joked that the

prospect of clean energy from coal is as likely as "unicorns pulling our

cars," while the president has taken a more flexible approach to ventures

in clean-coal technology.Two years ago, Jones wrote that "we are witnessing the slow death of the

Earth-devouring, suicidal version of capitalism," and the birth of

"eco-capitalism." Now he meets with leaders of major industries, "not just

the usual liberal suspects," and listens to their "special needs."The federal government's task, Jones said, is to invest wisely in clean

energy and set the right rules, such as putting a price on carbon

emissions. "Then the privat