Senate Panel Mulls a Federal Green Jobs Program

Amanda Carpenter
Posted: Sep 26, 2007 12:03 PM
Senate Panel Mulls a Federal Green Jobs Program

An avowed socialist led a Senate hearing about “green jobs” Tuesday, where two of the lead panelists encouraged the creation of a government-controlled energy economy.

Chairwoman of the Environmental and Public Works Committee Sen. Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.) only stayed for opening statements before handing off the gavel to freshman Sen. Bernie Sanders (I.-Vt.), who describes himself as a Democratic Socialist, in a hearing scheduled to explore a “green jobs” program.

The “green jobs” theory--the notion that climate change legislation and funding to support renewable energy could create a new sector of jobs---has been championed on the presidential campaign trail by Democratic candidates.

“Some people say if you go forward aggressively [with green jobs] there will be economic dislocation,” Sanders said. “And they are right, and I think it is the moral responsibility of Congress and the United States government to make sure that those people who are hurt as we transform our energy system are in fact protected whether it’s loss of jobs, hardships or whatever.”

The two panelists who made the strongest pleas for government funding and protection for “green jobs” were Jeremy Ringo, president of Apollo Alliance, and businessman Vinod Khosla.

Ringo asked Congress to create both supply and demand for new energy products. “Congress needs to provide market certainty and predictability to renewable energy,” he said. “Without doing so would be a national betrayal.”

Before breaking from the hearing room, Boxer said Khosla was a capitalist who would make rational economic arguments for the government to support a green jobs program. “He’s one of the most influential people in Silicon Valley and beyond,” Boxer said.

Boxer, however, had long left the room when Khosla asked for government subsidies to “level the playing field” for energy products competing with traditional energy supplies, like oil.  

He suggested that the subsidies could be phased out for renewable energy after seven years. “That’s sufficient time for technologies to scale to market,” he said.

Khosla also argued that government mandates would give the business community ease of mind. “What sane CEO would bet that no climate change legislation will be enacted in the next fifty years, the typical life of their investments?” Khosla asked. “We must remove this unnecessary risk for our business. The devil we know is better than the one we don’t when it comes to climate change legislation.”

To counter the energy interventionists, Republicans called former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R.-Tex.) to testify. Before he was elected to Congress, Armey chaired the North Texas Economics Department.

Armey, now chairman of FreedomWorks, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes lower taxes, less government and economic freedom, said, “At best, the very best there would be no net reduction [in jobs] from environmental regulation, but even within that context there would be  reallocation of jobs between the private and public sector.”

“I would argue that no freedom-loving individual would rejoice in seeing jobs shift from the private sector, where freedom reigns, to the public sector, which is under regulation and mandates control everything,” Armey told Sanders.