Van Jones is founding president of Rebuild the Dream, a pioneering initiative to restore good jobs and economic opportunity. He is the co-founder of three, thriving organizations: the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change, and Green For All. Jones is the author ofThe New York Times best seller, The Green Collar Economy, and most recently, the book Rebuild the Dream.
A Yale-educated attorney, Van worked as the green jobs advisor to the Obama White House in 2009. There, he helped run the inter-agency process that oversaw $80 billion in green recovery spending. Time Magazine has named Jones one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.
Question: Is a shift away from oil dependency possible in the next 50 to 100 years?
Van Jones: Well, there’s a couple of things we have to think about. You know, if some, a lot of people say, well, you know, we can’t get off of oil. It’s just, you know, it’s too big a part of the share of our overall allocation for energy in this country. We’re going to have, we are going to be and always have to deal with it. Well, somebody put a gun to your head and say to solve this problem, you can figure it out in about 30 seconds. You know, the answer is we need a clean energy grid where we use our power centers in the United States which is our Sunbelt where we have a Saudi Arabia of solar and our plain states, we have a Saudi Arabia of wind, and connect those clean energy power centers to our population centers where and most people don’t live in the desert, they live in the cities and on the coast. There’s some technological breakthrough that have to happen to be able to have hyper conductive power lines, so, you don’t lose so much power in transmission and there’s some battery technology breakthroughs that we need. But in the 10 years that it’s going to take us to get a few drops of oil through coastal drilling into the system, you can completely overhaul the grid and have a clean energy, smart grid, and the benefits of that are number 1, no more [rush] of oil, no more policing global oil supply lands, tremendous savings. Number 2, you bring carbon down so you actually have a planet to live on, that’s pretty important. Number 3, you put people to work. Look back at the last century. About building the highway system, we didn’t have an international, I mean, sorry, an interstate highway system, we didn’t have an interstate highway system at first. It was just, you know, patchwork of little rural roads. We created an interstate highway system because we’re afraid [IB] invaded how can we move personnel and people and material around. Well, that laid the basis for the economy that we have. We are trucking and shipping and all kinds of stuff going on. A government response creating incredible private economy benefits, like, the information superhighway. Same thing. Government came in and initially made it work. Now, people are making, you know, billions of dollars off of the internet. Well, now it’s time to figure out not how to move bodies and cars around or how to move data around, but how you move clean energy electrons around. How do you do, how do you produce and distribute? That public works project, for lack of a better term, can put people to work, bring down carbon, and guess what, the sun is always free. The wind is always free. Once you build up the infrastructure, energy cost come down dramatically, but you’ve got to be willing to think in those [10-year] increments and not have cheap solutions like “Drill, baby, drill!” as it is best somehow going to solve all of our problems.
We have a responsibility to defend the America that we inherited and to make sure that people calling themselves patriots don't smash it down.