While pundits are predicting which issues President Obama will focus on in his State of the Union speech tonight -- including an attack on the tax code, the benefits of natural gas and middle class economics -- one advocacy group is pushing instead for more talk about investing in green technologies and infrastructure as a way to keep the nation competitive.
Oakland-based Green For All unveiled "A Plan to Keep America First" today, a four-point course of action it claims will put people back to work. The plan focuses on shifting from a fossil fuel-based economy to renewables, taking a long view with investments in green technology and infrastructure, and using the power of the presidency to push through this agenda.
"There's no finish line in international economics," Green For All CEO Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins wrote in a web post announcing the plan. "First place is always contested and being the leader in any given sector bears real benefit to the population: more jobs, more GDP. We still enjoy the benefits of having been the country that developed the technology and information systems underlying the Internet. Now, we need to commit to plan that will keep America first."
Green For All's plan includes four broad steps:
1. Recognize Long-Term Growth Opportunities
Renewable energy represents one opportunity for long-term growth, according to Green For All, because the production costs will soon fall below that of fossil fuel energy.
"In part, that's because the renewable sector is predicated on innovation while fossil fuels are predicated on extraction," Ellis-Lamkins wrote. "Extraction will necessarily yield cost increases as it becomes harder; innovation on the other hand will continue to yield price drops."
2. Make Direct Entrepreneurial Investments in Green Technology
Solyndra aside, the Department of Energy has a good track record of investment in next generation green technology, Green For All argued. The group's past research shows that investment in green technology yields more jobs than similar investment in fossil fuels.
3. Make Direct Investments in Infrastructure
Investing in infrastructure is a win-win, according to Green For All. Not only are our roads, bridges and water systems crumbling, infrastructure projects could put many Americans back to work. Green For All estimates that upgrading the U.S. water system would pump $250 billion into the economy and employ nearly 1.9 million people.
4. Use the Full Power of the Executive Branch
Green For All suggests President Obama could push the agenda using executive authority, such as relaxing restrictions on how allocated money can be spent. Other potential opportunities for the president: tweaking how the military invests internally and advocating for direct private investment.
"The plan above will take political courage," Ellis-Lamkins acknowledged, "and a vast amount of political support."
Green For All has for years advocated using a clean energy economy as a means to help people rise from poverty and to strengthen the middle class. The group was founded by Van Jones, President Obama's former green jobs czar and a current senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
Solar panel image via Shutterstock.