Biden discusses green jobs at Penn

February 27, 2009 3:48:28 PM PST
Vice President Joe Biden chaired the first meeting of the White House's middle-class task force Friday, hearing testimony about how investing in green jobs will put idle workers into well-paying positions while also improving energy efficiency and reducing dependence on oil. Tens of thousands of jobs would be created by weatherizing buildings, laying down thousand of miles of new energy lines, installing solar panels and other projects funded by the $787 billion stimulus, according to Biden, environmental advocates and other government leaders.

"This green movement, this green wave has a moral responsibility to be a green wave that lifts all boats," Van Jones, president of the environmental group Green for All, told task force members in a meeting at the University of Pennsylvania.

The stimulus package includes billions to help create such green jobs, which President Barack Obama's administration believes will help raise living standards for middle-class families. Biden promised that the money for green jobs would be moved out as quickly as possible and that more details will be released in the coming weeks.

Green jobs can pay 10 to 20 percent more than other jobs of a similar nature, Biden said. Advocates speaking at the meeting, meanwhile, cautioned that officials need to ensure the green jobs become middle-class jobs, and don't turn into lower-paying jobs.

On a second panel, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told the task force how his city was organizing training for green jobs that include retrofitting homes, waste management and home construction. There are 400,000 row homes in Philadelphia that can be weatherized and made more efficient, lowering utility costs 20 percent to 40 percent, according to Biden.

United Steelworkers president Leo Gerard told the task force that the country's workers are hungry for work and ready to embrace green jobs.

"These are real jobs," Gerard said. "They are not pork."

On Friday morning, Biden also toured a control center that monitors energy usage at buildings across Penn's West Philadelphia campus and helps students limit their energy consumption. School officials told him the advanced computer system has helped reduce peak energy usage about 15 percent.

"This approach needs to be done nationwide," said Biden, who also viewed dioramas of former industrial wasteland that had been converted into park land.

Middle-class incomes have fallen by about $2,000 in real terms since the start of the decade, according to the task force.

Future task force meetings across the country are expected to focus on topics such as retirement income and education. The task force includes Biden, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and other members of Obama's cabinet.

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