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.
Van Jones: Well, the good thing is that the clean energy revolution will be mostly led by private capital even in the meltdown that we’re seeing right now. The one place that’s still strong were venture capitals at least is still looking to make big place, the clean energy sector, the handwritings on the wall for the carbon based, oil based, coal based energy, outmoded 8-track tape kind of technologies, we will now going to move to the MP3, solar and wind, clean energy grid technology, so that’s still very strong. The private sector will lead, but the private sector can only do a good job according to the rules, the government says. I’m all for markets, but markets work according to rules and the rules are set by the government. Right now, the rules are wacky. If you are a polluter, you can dump all the carbon in the world you want you for free in the air and you pay zero for doing that. It’s going to cost us the whole planet but it’s free to you. That’s the biggest market failure in the history of capitalism. That’s got to be corrected. Well, you corrected by either having a cap and trade system. We would say cap collect and invest system, so the money you get from people who buy the right to put up carbon, you reinvest in economy or [you] carbon taxes, but you’ve got to get to [seek] the price signals going, so that it’s suddenly cheaper to be clean and more expensive to be dirty. Right now, it’s cheap to do dirty energy and it’s expensive to do clean energy in part because the price signals are wrong. So, the government, the most important thing the government can do is get the price signals right to get a carbon deal done that put a price on carbon, that force the polluters to pay. So, people will very, and I guarantee you very quickly, the energy sector in our country, the minute that that deal goes through, they’re going to come out with whole hat, magic hat full of technologies that are ready to go the minute they know they can’t go on the old way, but we’ve got to get the price signals right.
Question: What is preventing lawmakers from making these changes?
Van Jones: Well, you know, there are objective and subjective hurdles. Objectively, the polluters spend an awful lot of money engaging what’s practically legalized bribery of the entire political system. Do we have a military petroleum complex that runs this country, you know, like all the Texas, the Pentagon access runs right through the [bible] about where I grew up, where our family still lives. They, up until now, have run the country. I would say into a ditch, and as a result, we have this incredible addiction to oil overseas as well as homegrown oil, but we spend a tremendous amount of our Pentagon dollars defending and protecting and policing oil supply lines. Why? So, they can then spend billions more buying the stuff. Well, I would say, you know, a smart thing to do will be to take 10% of the Pentagon budget and use it to retrofit, re-power, reboot America clean and green so that we don’t have to have military bases all around the world and guard sea lines all around the world. That is the way forward for the US economy. The faster we can transition to a clean and green set of homegrown solutions for energy, the quicker we can get energy prices down and start growing the economy again.
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.