Van Jones on Ending Oil Dependency
Van Jones is a social entrepreneur, CNN political contributor and host of The Messy Truth with Van Jones. Famous for his heart-felt election night coverage, Jones showed up as “the voice of reason” for people in red states and blue throughout the volatile 2016 political season. In response to much civil unrest and energy post-election, Jones launched the #Love Army -- a values-based movement that is working for an America where everyone counts.
Jones has founded and led numerous social enterprises engaged in social and environmental justice, including The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change, and The Dream Corps.
Jones is a Yale-educated attorney. He is the author of two New York Times best-selling books, The Green Collar Economy (2008) and Rebuild the Dream (2012). The second book chronicles his journey as an environmental and human rights activist to becoming a White House policy advisor.
He was the main advocate for the Green Jobs Act. Signed into law by George W. Bush in 2007, the Green Jobs Act was the first piece of federal legislation to codify the term “green jobs.” During the Obama Administration, the legislation has resulted in $500 million in national funding for green jobs training.
In 2009, Jones worked as the green jobs advisor to President Barack Obama. In this role, Jones helped to lead the inter-agency process that oversaw the multi-billion dollar investment in skills training and jobs development within the environmental and green energy sectors.
Jones has been honored with numerous awards and spotlighted on several lists of high achievers, including: the World Economic Forum’s “Young Global Leader” designation; Rolling Stone’s 2012 “12 Leaders Who Get Things Done”; TIME’s 2009 “100 Most Influential People in The World”; and the Root's 2014 "The Root 100." In 2017, Van Jones signed a management deal with Roc Nation, becoming the first political commentator & activist in their family. Jones lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife & 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.
Van Jones on the future of clean energy.
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