'We're Halfway There,' Van Jones Says: State of Green Business Forum 2010

In between feelings of optimism and pessimism about the green economy, inspired by a new presidential administration and ensuing year of economic turmoil, is a space Van Jones likes to call "sober and determined."

"But the good news is," Jones said, "we're half way there."

The first part of the Obama Adminstration's two-pronged strategy to ignite the green business economy -- public investment through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 -- has been done, Jones explained today in an interview with GreenBiz.com Executive Editor Joel Makower.

The interview took place at GreenBiz.com's State of Green Business Forum in San Francisco, an event held to launch the company's third annual report, "The State of Green Business 2010," which gauges the adoption of green business practices in the U.S. Jones was one of multiple speakers on hand to discuss the opportunities and challenges of the emerging green economy.

Jones called the economic stimulus bill -- with $80 billion earmarked for green investments -- a huge accomplishment. The second part of Obama's green economy strategy -- getting the rules right -- has yet to be finished, however.

Pollution in general, Jones pointed out, carries a fine, yet it is currently free to dump tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere -- a loophole that needs to be closed. Part of those rules changes need to help the problem solvers -- not the problem-makers, Jones said.

Jones, founder of the Oakland-based nonprofit Green For All and former green jobs czar in the Obama Administration, called for new kinds of partnerships that would bring the private sector to the table in order to bring the green American dream to a wider swath of citizens currently shut out. That includes those historically excluded, as well as others newly unemployed as a result of the economic downturn.

Jones, who stepped down from his high-profile position last year, continues promoting the promise of green job creation through his energy policy work at the Center for American Progress. He plans to begin teaching at an as-of-yet to be named university, while Green For All continues working in multiple several cities to make sure they have a green economic recovery.

"Our big challenge is to make sure that $80 billion on the table," he said, "continues to be well spent."