Beyond Green Jobs: The Next American Economy
Beyond Green Jobs: The Next American EconomyRelated Events: Beyond Green Jobs: The Next American Economy
Moderator: Hi, everybody. Welcome. Beautiful, fantastic day. Great to be outside for this event instead of being inside. I have the pleasure of not introducing Van Jones. I have the pleasure of introducing Will Greene.
Now, you may ask, why am I introducing Will Greene? Turns out, Will does a lot of things around campus. He's president of SANS, which is the student sustainability network. He started Greenpeace at ASU. Very active in renewable energy, climate change activities on campus. Clearly, one of the leading students on campus working in this area.
And when I found out how much Will really enjoyed the fact that Van was coming here and wanted to say a couple words, I couldn't resist offering him the chance to introduce Van. So Will's going to have a proclamation on climate that he's going to read. And then we'll get to a feature speaker. But with that, Will, come on down.
Will Greene: I'm so honored to be introducing Van Jones. He's a hero of mine. I'm going to begin with a proclamation. You guys come up. So a group of six AC students have been meeting for about the last 2 and 1/2 months. We believe that there's a serious lack of a student climate movement in this nation. And so we decided that we're going to try and do something about that and create a document to start.
So this is the Discovery Climate Proclamation. As concerned citizens of the United States and the global community, we establish this document in an effort to transform the current practices that contribute to the degradation of our planet's health. The young citizens of America here listed will not accept the current path of our country and planet.
Physical changes in the climate and natural environment caused by human actions are leading to a destabilized planet that will inhibit our generation's ability to pursue happiness. More importantly, we feel the natural rights of generations yet unborn, with no voice in today's political and societal dialogue, are being severely infringed upon. In response, the undersigned young citizens assertively request a dynamic, new clean energy economy.
It is time for the young citizens of America to unite with a single voice. We believe in America. We see a clean energy economy on the horizon. Such an economy will not require young men and women to be sent abroad to protect fossil fuel interests. Our country must never again be forced to compromise it's morality in protection and pursuit of fossil fuels.
A shift towards domestic clean energy will empower new industries and employ many members of our generation. We believe a clean economy is a vibrant economy. Byproducts of the dirty energy economy are unaccounted for in the price of fossil fuels. The rampant release of greenhouse gases is an externality that will cause suffering from millions without an indication of this in the price of energy. In place of billions in subsidies for fossil fuels, we request a strong pricing on greenhouse gas pollution.
With this document, we wish to establish the following ethic. The rights of future beings must be considered and protected in every relevant act of government and commerce. For present and future generations, we do not accept relentless temperature rise. We do not accept massive species loss on land and in water. We do not accept steadily rising seas. We do not accept worsening drought and increasingly severe storms.
We do not accept acidified and bleached oceans. We do not accept widening disease burdens. We do not accept shrinking glaciers, ice sheets, or an eventual ice-free planet. We don't accept mountains flattened by explosives while communities are ruined. We do not accept over-fished oceans and excessive deforestation.
We don't accept the above issues intensified in high poverty communities and geographically vulnerable regions. We reject the abuse of future generations in exchange for a handful more fossil fuel dependent years. Our actions today must earn the favorable judgment of posterity.
Our future rights and the rights of those yet unborn are infringed upon every day the fossil fuel economy remains. America's founding documents grant us inalienable rights without an expiration date. The people who wrote them forged new ground and freedom and forever changed the world. Patriots do not shy away from their beloved country's shortcomings. We identify them and work passionately to eradicate them.
With love of country and a vision for what it can be, the following young citizens of America stand up to the climate threat before us. And this is signed by Amy [INAUDIBLE], Will Greene, Chris Kelly, Gabriel Sanchez, Frankie Torres, and Amy Weaver. And we're going to be inviting students all across the nation to take part in this document and sign it.
And we're starting right here at ASU. We're probably going to go to U of A and NAU. And we're going to see what happens. But it's time to start a student climate movement.
So Van Jones. I never thought-- yeah, thanks. So I never thought I could be so inspired by a person over a YouTube clip, but that's how inspiring a leader Van Jones is. After watching his speech at the 2009 Youth Environmental Conference, Power Shifts, I knew America had found its newest and brightest green champion and climate hawk. I am proud that he served in our country's White House for six months. I can't imagine how much of a positive impact he made while there.
We're honored to welcome a man who was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2009. Who co-founded three successful nonprofit organizations, including Green For All, an organization that works to build an inclusive green economy, strong enough to lift people out of poverty. And continues his work today. Who coauthored the bestseller The Green Collar Economy, and he served as the Green Jobs Advisor to President Obama in 2009.
Van is currently a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and is a distinguished visiting fellow at Princeton University. Let's give a huge ASU welcome to a man I consider a true American patriot, Van Jones.
Van Jones: How you guys doing? Well, first of all, I think we should give a round of applause to the students that wrote that incredible manifesto, just one more time to honor their work.
We really need a lot more young people like that who are willing to look the facts squarely in the eye and take responsibility for the future, because your generation is in great danger. And you are in danger of inheriting a nightmare scenario. I think they did a very good job of explaining that from a climate point of view and from an ecological point of view.
But I also want to talk about it from a social point of view. You are in grave danger of inheriting a country that has two features that don't go together very well. A country that is getting more and more ethnically diverse, more and more socially diverse, but less and less economically prosperous.
Think about that. A country that's getting more and more ethnically diverse, but less and less economically prosperous. That is not the recipe for a common ground, which is what you need to solve these kind of problems.
That's a recipe for a battleground. And that is what we are beginning to see developing in American politics. And it is a very disturbing scenario.
Your generation has to figure out a way to solve the problem. You will see now in American politics that one section of voices says, I see that scenario and I've got a solution for you. The solution is to attack the diversity. To say that the problem is the diversity.
And so we're going to attack immigrants. We're going to attack Muslims. We're going to attack people who want to get married because the person they want to marry doesn't look the right way from our point of view. We're going to be concerned about trying to shrink the diversity.
But I would argue, that's the wrong way to go. And the reason I would say that is because it's actually likely that the diversity is not the problem, but the solution to the problem in our country, because we are blessed in America to have the genius of all peoples here in one place. We have every race. We have every faith. We have every gender and sexuality expression. We have every kind of human being existing in one place called America.
That is a miracle. And what we do in America every day is create a miracle every day. I've been blessed to go all around the world. I've gone to countries where they literally have two ethnic groups. And they fight all the time.
And I mean fight bloodily all the time. Two groups.
I live in a place like Washington, DC, or the Bay Area, 36, 37 languages spoken in the public schools. And we make it work every day. The genius of all people in one country. I think that the diversity is the source of our strength. I think that's where many of our greatest ideas will come from. I think we should stick up for the diversity.
That's a part of the miracle of America. I think the answer is not to shrink the diversity. I think the answer is to grow the economy, is to resurrect the prosperity. And make sure we have enough to share with the newcomers as well as the people who've been here for a long time.
Now, your challenge though, given what was just pointed out to you, given some of the ecological challenges, here's your problem. You can't grow the economy in the same old way. You can't grow the economy by paving and pillaging and strip mining and burning and polluting anymore. Because our scientist are telling us that if you do that, we're going to bake the planet. If we do that, we're going to cook the earth.
So your challenge, your generation, you sitting here today, are in a uniquely difficult situation. Because you've got to grow the economy. Otherwise, we're going to be in a battleground, not a common ground. But you can't grow it the way that other generations grew it, by just treating the earth like a trash can, and going through all the resources, and try to bake and drill and burn our way out of our problems.
You've got to be more innovative than them. And this is a great challenge that is before you. Now luckily, there are solutions. You can put America back to work. And therefore, pull America back together. Without baking the planet. You can do that with existing technology. You can do that with existing solutions on the technological side, but you've got to solve the political problems to be able to get those things brought forward.
Now, I want to tell you how I think you can get that done. But first, I want to tell you a little bit about my own story. Some of you may have heard a little bit about my story. And I want to make sure before I start giving you solutions that you don't have something running in the back of your mind that might keep you from listening.
So let me tell you a little bit about my story. I was born in a militant Black Panther family. OK, not really. I'm just joking.
I'm just joking-- nothing wrong with-- but I'm just joking. No, no. I was born in rural West Tennessee. My dad was a cop in the military. He grew up in abject poverty in Memphis, Shelby County, place called Orange Mound, which at the time when he grew up was the biggest black ghetto in America. Harlem, I think, overtook it at one point. But he grew up in abject poverty.
He joined the military, my dad, so he could put himself through college. He put himself through college. He put his little brother through college. Then he put his cousin through college. They he put me and my sister through college.
And I grew up with his values, as red, white, and blue as he could possibly be. And when I finally got done with college, I was accepted into Yale for law school. And we had a big celebration at the house. My dad took me off to the side, and he put his hands on my shoulders, and told me something that changed my life.
He said, son, you passed me up. You passed me up. You're going to go someplace I would've never been able to go. You're going to learn stuff I wouldn't have been able to learn. And you're going to be smarter than me the next time I see you. You're gotta be one of those smart guys.
He said, I just ask you one thing. He says, there are two kind of smart people in this world. There's smart people who take real simple things and make them sound real complicated so they can enrich themselves. And there's smart people who take real complicated stuff and make it sound real simple so they can empower other people. Next time I see you, you're going to be smarter than me, but I hope it'll be that kind of smart guy. Hope you'll be that kind of smart guy.
So that's been mine charge and my challenge. My dad died two years ago. He never got a chance to see me in the White House. Luckily he never got a chance to see me on Fox News either.
So these things work out. But I believed in my dad. And I believed all the stuff that he told me about what a great country we are. And when I got to New Haven, Connecticut, I quickly discovered that he hadn't told me the whole story and my heart was broken. And anybody here ever had your heart broken ever in life? Ever, anybody? I'm the only one.
Well, your heart can't get broken if you aren't in love. And I was in love with all these high ideals that my dad had. And I got to New Haven, Connecticut, and I found out very quickly that the kids on the campus where I went to school at Yale were nonviolent drug offenders. I'm not joking.
I mean, they would smoke anything, I mean, shoot up-- I mean, I had never seen anything like it And of course, I grew up in the rural South, in the church, dad's a cop in the military. So I was shocked.
And I'll never forget calling my grandmother and telling her-- we used to call her Big Mama. Don't laugh. We used to call her Big Mama. I remember calling her, I said, Big Mama, I'm up here at law school. And Big Mama, they're smoking marijuana cigarettes. Big Mama, they're smoking marijuana cigarettes. Jesus sees them, I know he does. God please, why are they sinning?
And my grandma says, it's going to be OK. It's OK, baby. Just pray, just pray. I said, I'm praying, I'm praying, but they're smoking the marijuana cigarettes. I don't know what to do. She goes, well baby, tell your professors about it.
I said, they're smoking them too! They're smoking them too.
It's wrong. And I was shocked to see this kind of stuff, you know. And so I said, I'm go work in the community. I'm going to get away from these crazy people. And I worked in the community. And sure enough, I got three blocks away from Yale-- anybody been to New Haven? How far away is the ghetto from Yale? About two blocks, right?
Audience: It's closer now.
Van Jones: It's closer now?
Audience: Right past Barnes & Noble's.
Van Jones: Right past the Barnes and Noble, OK. It's gotten worse in the 20 years since I was there.
But I got-- I'm telling this background so you can understand why I'm so passionate about these solution that I'm talking about. I learned a ton trying to be-- doing volunteer work in the ghetto. Really, like two, three blocks off the campus. And guess what. Turns out, the kids over there were smoking the marijuana cigarettes too.18-year-old kids over here, 18-year-old kids over here. Smoking the marijuana cigarettes over here. Smoking the marijuana cigarettes over there. But what I noticed was when the kids at Yale got caught, or went overboard and got in trouble, the system responded very aggressively, put them in rehab. Got them help.
And so these kids would be falling out and doing all these crazy drugs and stuff. And I mean, the system would jump in. They would pause their finals. Middle of finals, pause their finals. Let them withdraw quietly. These kids would go into rehab. They'd just be-- they'd go to Europe.
[LAUGHTER]I'm not joking man. And they'd get straightened out, and they'd come back and they'd hit pause again. And they would finish up their studies. And those kids went on to become doctors and lawyers, President of the United States. These people, you know, they-- [LAUGHTER]
But the kids in the housing projects, when they got caught, they'd go to prison. And I saw kids that I worked with getting taken out of housing projects in their underwear and handcuffs. They would get seven years, 12 years, 23 years in prison.
Prisons for profit.
Yeah. And now, for profit prisons. And man, I was so angry with my father that I went to the left side of Pluto politically. And for years, I was probably the angriest person you'd ever see. And eventually, just burned out trying to fight for social justice and this kind of thing. Banging my head against the wall and put my face up against the furnace trying to make change.
Eventually, I burned out and I had to take a big step back. And in becoming a father and all those things as you get a little bit older, I began to realize something that my father had told me, which I had kind of forgotten, about poverty. My dad used to say, nothing stops a bullet like a job. I remember he'd say that. He'd say, nothing stops a bullet like a job.
And he used to say-- because he grew up poor-- he said, nobody can give you anything that will make you stop being poor. If somebody's poor, if they're poor in their mind, you can give them the lottery and they'll be poorer in a year because they didn't earn it and they don't know how to keep it.
He said, what you got to do, everybody's got to climb their own ladder out of poverty. That's up to the individual. He says, but society has to make sure that there's a ladder for them to climb. That's what society can do for you.
And as I thought about that, reflecting upon that, I realized that there was-- we could put some rungs back on the ladder of opportunity in some of these neighborhoods where I've been working.
And that there was hope in a new part of the economy that was beginning to grow. And that was in California, the green part of the economy. So I didn't just look at these new companies that were getting started, with the organic food and with the solar panels and all that sort of stuff, I didn't just look at that as a good thing for the environment. Or for the entrepreneurs.
I saw it as a good thing for people who needed jobs. And I started talking about green jobs not jails for poor folks. And I said if Dr. King were here today, he'd be standing in the floodwaters of Katrina saying, we don't want any more of these superstorms coming. We don't want these communities to suffer first and worst when the ecological crisis happens.
But we also don't want these communities to benefit last and least when the positive stuff comes. And that there's a way for us to build a green economy with these new technologies, these new companies, that Dr. King would be proud of by taking the people who most need work and letting them do the work that most needs to be done. If you listen to what these young people are saying, the work that most needs to be done in our country is the work of repowering America with clean energy so we can use the abundance of renewable energy resources that we've got. That's going to keep us from baking the planet. That's going to keep us from fighting wars overseas for oil. That's going to keep us from shipping all the jobs overseas to Asia.
If we can actually repower America and retrofit America right here, that's the most important work that needs to be done. And we have people who desperately need work. If we connect the people who most need work to the work that most needs to be done, we can fight pollution and poverty at the same time. We can beat the global recession and global warming at the same time.
And that brought me back home to everything my father taught me. And I could see it myself having spent a bunch of time in some of these communities and realizing that some of the things that we were doing, trying to make things better, were maybe making things could, because we weren't focusing on the question of work and response and opportunity. And at the same time, the ones who wanted do that, we weren't giving them the chance.
So where I am now-- I started out, went back into those communities. And there you're seeing me as being the angry, fight the power guy. And here I'm coming back in and I'm saying, I've got a different thing to say. And you'll hear, go ahead, tell it Van. Can't wait to hear it, brother. Gonna lay it down. Tell 'em about it.
(NERVOUSLY) Well, I'm hear to say to you here in Oakland that we need solar panels and hybrid cars and tofu-- where are you going?
And it was not a well-received message, as any of you who've tried to move an environmental message in some of these communities-- at first. But what I learned and what those of you who are interested in environmentalist will learn quickly is if you focus on work and wealth and health, start with that. And say to folks, I'm not going to talk to you about the polar bears. I'm not going to talk to you about global warming. I'm going to talk to you about Pookie and Snooki, and Sha-ne-ne. Standing out here in front of your house with nothing to do.
Why can't we talk Pookie and Snooki and Sha-ne-ne to put down the handgun and pick up a caulking gun and be a part of retrofitting these buildings so they can waste less energy to cut your energy bill? Wouldn't you rather, instead of having Pookie in front of your house doing nothing, have Pookie on top of your roof putting up a solar panel? So rather than you having to write a check to the energy company every month, they have to write you a check. Wouldn't you like to have some environmental solutions that aren't about you going to spend more money, but about you being able to save some money and help people in this neighborhood earn some money?
And it turned out that that was a winning message. As a result of that winning message, we were able to create a green jobs corps in Oakland, California. We were able to train young people in the community to be a part of this green economy. We had gotten all the policies in place. We had the technologies in place. We had the entrepreneurs in place. We had the consumer demand in place where people where people were wanting in California to put solar panels on their roof tops.
But they're having to wait six months because they didn't have enough trained workers. And I said, there's our answer right there. I've got some young people that could be your workers. And we got that done. And as a result of those successes, I was invited to go and spend six months in the White House.
Now, we all know how that turned out. And wherever I go, I am greeted with people in-- the mean people don't say anything, to their credit. But wherever I go, the nice people come up to me. And they look at me and they go, uh! What are they doing?
I'm giving a speech. Anyway. Most people are not like that. But the nice people, they come up to me wherever I go now. It's a very strange way to live your life. So wherever I go, I'll be in-- like you, I'll be in the airport, or in the mall, or in a public restroom, minding my own business-- seriously, minding my own business-- and somebody will look at me and they'll do a double take and they'll go, oh! Oh! Oh! Aren't you? Yes. Aren't you the green guy?
And I think to myself, this is post-racial America. I mean, I'm like-- I guess in some strange way, yes, I am the green guy, you know.
(CRYING VOICE) Oh, it's so terrible. I'm so sorry. I'm sorry what they did to you. Oh, fuck. And I have to go, it's OK. Hang in there, buddy. You'll be all right. I'm like, why am I counseling you? Why am I consoling you? It happened to me.
I think about this very differently. Here's the way I think about it. I got a chance to spend six months in the White House, which is six months much longer than you.
And what I would say to anybody here is if you got a chance to spend six months in the White House, or six weeks, or six days, and you were guaranteed to have the same kind of rough exit that I had, do it. Do it. Because you think you love your country right now. I know you do. You think you love your country right now.
Hold it in your arms for six months. Hold it in your arms for six months and see how much you love it then. See, I got a chance to go behind the curtain. Many of you have been in airplanes when maybe there's a little bit of turbulence. And when you're sitting back there with everybody else, you just have to say, I hope the people in the cockpit know what they're doing.
I spent six months in the cockpit. And here's what I know. I know how much peril this country is in. I got a chance to see the briefings. I was a part of the thing. And what I know is that first of all, we have the best pilot we could possibly have in this situation. I don't care what you see on TV. I don't care what anybody tells you. We have the best possible pilot we could have in this situation.
An extraordinary leader. And let's not forget, this President volunteered to be the captain of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg. OK? After it hit the iceberg. Don't let anybody change the calendar up on you. This thing was already going down when he stepped in. And we're still floating. So that's a testament to his leadership.
And what I know is, having been behind that door that's closed to most people, and having been in there, is that the rough ride that we're having right now isn't because of the pilot. It's because of the wind. And we've got some wind makers out there that are making this ride a lot harder than it needs to be.
And I want to make sure that those of you here know that if you're in this fight, like this President is in this fight for clean energy, you are on the side of free markets. You are on the side of entrepreneurship. You're on the side of innovation.
What we have right now-- don't be tricked, don't be fooled. Ask yourself the question, who's behind some of these messages, and how much money are they getting? And what's their economic stake? Because here's the reality.
People say, well, we don't want the government getting involved in our energy system. That'd be terrible. Well, the government has been involved in the energy system. Now, it didn't start with Obama. It started 100-plus years ago. If you don't want the government involved in the energy system, guess what.
The existing status quo energy folks, big oil and big coal, today get billions of dollars of subsidies right now because they're so poor. Big oil is so poor that they get $20 plus billion in subsidies today. Any civilized country-- remember this when somebody tells you you're trying to get the government involved in energy and it should just be free market.
Let me tell you something about any energy system. Unless you live in a country where your primary way of heating your house is burning dung, then if you're one step beyond dung-- and that is private between you and your donkey. That's just-- that's private. Keep it to yourself.
If you're one step technologically beyond that, all energy systems are always a public-private venture. You don't want to live in a country-- and you don't-- where you have an unregulated energy market. Where McEnergy can decide at any moment whether you get power at your house or not, or what the rates are going to be. Energy is the most highly regulated and heavily subsidized industry in any country at all times, because energy is vital.
That's why you have the FERC. That's why you have regulators. That's why they can't just charge you anything. Hey, if you had a total free market energy system, guess when you would get hit with a $500 energy bill?
Christmas Eve. Right? Everybody's going to be home. Everybody's going to turn the lights. The tree's on. You can't le-- hit you with an energy bill. You would go nuts. You'd say, that's not fair. Hey, free market would probably allow that.
No. It's heavily regulated and subsidized. That's a good thing. Here's the problem. Right now, it has become a racket to have a state government protected monopoly for an outdated energy technology called fossil fuels at the expense of any new entrant. So if you want to be an eco-entrepreneur and you want to shake up that energy market and bring disruptive change like they do in the information sector, if you want to be as innovative in energy as they are in the information sector, you get stopped. Because they've got a state protected monopoly to keep you out.
So when you come in and you say, I want to see people competing. I want to see competing energy options for America, for Arizona. I want to see new entrepreneurs get in there. I want solar entrepreneurs and wind entrepreneurs to be able to get in there and fight and get market share and being to bust up this monopoly, they'll say that you are somehow calling for more government. No, you're calling for more competition. And right now, the government is preventing you from being able to see more competition.
That's the facts. Now, on TV, they'll tell you something different. What I want you to understand going forward is that we have the biggest opportunity that we've ever had for jobs. And here's why. Math. Not ideology on the left or the right. Not sloganeering. Math.
You live in a world where there are 6.8 billion people right now. We will soon have 9 to 10 billion people. 10 billion people. Every one of them is going to want a car, like you've got access to. A refrigerator, like you've got access to. And an iPod. Every one of them. All of which require what? Energy.
All of which requires energy. If you want to stay stuck on the technologies of the last century, which are finite and dangerous and dirty, you guarantee one thing. You're going to bake the planet. And if you don't believe in global warming, doesn't matter, because you've got an infinitely expanding level of demand and a finite supply that's dwindling. Your prices are going to what? Up. That's just basic math. Law of supply and demand. Increasing demand, decreasing supply, increasing price.
So you know, without knowing anything beyond those two facts, that the products of tomorrow are going to be in clean energy. Are going to be in energy innovation. If you want the jobs of tomorrow, you've got to create the products of tomorrow. That's true for you as an individual. That's true for your country. If you want to have the jobs for tomorrow in your country, you've got to make the products of tomorrow in your country.
And a big chunk of the products of tomorrow are going to be in energy innovation. Period. l That's not capitalism. That's not socialism. That's not red states. That's not blue states. That's not Republican. That's not Democrat.
That's math, folks. That's math.
And the reason-- you've got to ask yourself the question, that is so simple and straightforward, who is it out there that's making it so complicated? And why are they making it so complicated? Why did they spent $500 million?
Big oil and big coal spent $500 million, half a billion dollars, in this past year. Not to give you jobs. Not to fix your schools. Not to help America on its feet. To stop a bill that would have made it more possible for you to be an energy innovator in your own country.
Why did they do that? They do that because they love this country, because they love you, because they-- why are they doing that? That's the question that people on these campuses should be asking themselves. Not because you're progressive or because you're conservative. Because you should care about your country.
The challenge that you've got right now is that people are using some tricky logic on your generation to make you think that if you care about America, you should be in only one political party and hate clean energy, which makes no sense. We have a Saudi Arabia of clean energy in America right now.
A Saudi Arabia of solar power falling down on our country right now. Not just in the sunbelt. But our rooftops across America. We have a Saudi Arabia of wind energy in our country right now. Not just in the plains states, but off our coast and up near the Great Lakes area. A Saudi Arabia worth of wind and solar energy we could be tapping right now.
And we're not doing it. And the great thing about it, if you think about it, if we had wind platforms out there, in the gulf, where we just had that catastrophe, if you had wind platforms out there and something happened and one of those wind platforms fell over, you wouldn't have a mass in the wind slick, you know, that would come along.
I've never heard of a wind slick messing up everything afterward. You'd just have some wind turbines in the water, you know? I've never heard of a sun spill. Gotta shut down the solar farm again. Damn sun spill. There's a smarter way to do this now. If you open the system up and bring in competition and new technologies, you can actually tap America's resources.
Now, I remember when I was growing up, we used to sing a song, which I guess now would be considered some sort of radical socialist anthem or something. But there was a song that we used to sing. I hate to admit this.
Maybe I'll be taken away.
But the song is called America the Beautiful. America the Beautiful. I thought when we were growing up that we're supposed to be proud of America's beauty. And that we had a patriotic duty to defend America's beauty from the clear cutters, and the oil spillers, and the despoilers.
But we've got folks now in Appalachia who are being asked to blow up their grandmother's mountains to scrape the coal out so we can keep powering America in the same old way and protect the same old prophets, and keep out any innovation. How are they the patriots? How are you the anti-patriots when you're try to defend America's beauty? And say no, we're not going-- maybe we'll put windmills on those mountains. We're not going to blow them up. How are you, the people who are defending America's beauty, willing to let yourself be pushed around and have your patriotism challenged.
I think somebody is pulling something tricky on you. In fact, I think we should stop calling ourselves environmentalists and call ourselves patriots defending our country's beauty and our country's resources. Because that's who we are and that's what we're doing.
We're not the ones who are letting multinational corporations come over here and corrupt government agencies, like BP did. And then slag up our coastline and kill American workers and destroy American industries and tourism and fisheries. That's not us. We're not the ones defending the rights of multinational corporations to come over here and do this.
And then what they'll tell you-- see, I get a little bit excited about this sometimes. But what they'll tell you, well, we gotta do that because we want America to be energy independent. We've got to be energy independent. OK.
That sounds good. I'm for that.
So what does that have to do with a multinational corporation coming over here, drilling up our coastline, and then selling the oil anywhere in the world? If we were talking about a mom and pop oil company, if we were talking about Mr. And Mrs. Smith's Oil Company that was drilling off our coastlines and selling oil to you only, then America would now be energy independent. That's not what we got, folks.
Again, math. Supply and demand. Global markets. We have multinational corporations that drill-- they get all the gain. And we get all the pain. They drill that oil. They well it where they want to. That's energy independence.
That's called the rip-off. OK? It's called a rip-off. And so we keep falling for this kind of stuff. And the meanwhile, we keep falling further behind.
Now, let me tell you what I think we can do about it. First of all, we had a proposal called cap and trade, which now if you say cap and trade, people throw baseball bats at you. Let me tell you the history of that one. The way that you get clean energy up in your country, and get the innovation up in your country, and get the jobs up in your country, is you push down on the old dirty stuff. OK?
So to get the clean stuff up, you've got to push down on the dirty stuff. There's only three ways to do that. You either regulate the dirty polluters real hard, regulation, you tax them real hard, carbon tax, or you make them buy permits for all that stuff they're putting up in the air. Those are your only three options. Regulate them hard, tax them hard, make them buy permits.
Make them buy permits-- that's called cap and trade. Right? The permits cap the amount, and then they can sell those permits back and forth. Now, why would we come up with a crazy idea like cap and trade? Well, guess what. We didn't.
It was a Republican idea from a Republican think tank supported by George H. W. Bush. Why? Because from the other party's point of view, and God bless them, they said, we don't like that regulation stuff. That regulation stuff sounds like too much command and control for our taste. We don't like that.
We don't like that tax stuff because we're kind of against taxes. What we want a market-based flexible mechanism called cap and trade. Make people buy the permits, sell the permits. We think that's going to give us a better outcome.
And they said, we like it better than we like your carbon tax idea. Again, you guys are students, you can keep up with this. Simple. On a carbon tax, the government sets the price for carbon. We're going to tax it at $20 a ton, $1,000 a ton, whatever. Government sets a price for carbon and then the market has to figure out the quantity of carbon.
But with a cap and trade system, the government would set the quantity and then let the market figure out the price. And they said, we trust the government to figure out the quantity and the market to figure out the price more than we trust it the other way around. And we said, well, that makes sense to us.
Why don't we go forward with that? We'll put aside our Al Gore BTU carbon tax idea. We'll put aside our EPA Clean Air Act regulation idea. And we'll take your cap and trade market-based, flexible, make them buy permits idea.
We think this is a good ol' idea. Bipartisan. Market friendly. Right?
Now, let's go out in front of the cameras, huh, and get out there and be one country and fix this problem. And you see what happened. So don't let anybody tell you that there's some lack of willingness on the part of some people in American politics to be bipartisan, to be flexible, and reach out. Unfortunately, the minute we did that, the cap and trade proposal, that took all cap and tax and everything else and socialism.
And now we are without an option. Your country has no solution now to the biggest problem we've ever faced from an ecological point of view, and no way to get to the biggest opportunity we ever had from an economic point of view. So the only thing left for you, young folks, next year, is to go back to the EPA and say, listen, we tried to pretend that what was going on was a market failure, i.e. we had the price wrong for carbon. The price being zero. And we thought we had a solution. That didn't work. So now we're going to have to pretend like it's a regulatory failure.
This is important for you to know, young folks, because if we're not careful, by this time next year, Congress may eliminate the Clean Air Act at EPA. They said they wanted to do that. So then we won't be able to regulate, we won't be able to tax, we won't be able to sell permits. We're just got to be cooking the planet and losing the jobs.
So my plea to you is to remember who you are, young folks. This is America. We shouldn't be afraid to compete. We shouldn't be afraid to open up any section of our economy to competition. We shouldn't be afraid to explore new ways to solve these problems. We shouldn't be afraid of our diversity. We should use it.
And more importantly than that, when you've got a country like China-- everybody beats up on China. I'm not anti-China. I've been over there. I love the Chinese people. I love what they're doing. But I don't want to see a dictatorship beat a democracy in solving these problems and getting these jobs. I don't want to see that.
China's is figuring this out. They are now quadrupling their investment in clean energy technology. They are quadrupling their commitment, while we are doing food-fight politics and having fun on TV with each other. And we're falling further and further behind.
A dictatorship-- under you watch, a dictatorship should not be allowed to beat a democracy on solving these problems. We should be able to unleash our own innovation, our own technology. And if it requires people like us to get a little bit louder and prouder about who we are, let's not be afraid to do that. Sometimes we're a little bit too polite, too nice.
You know how we are. We're all progressive-y you know. (HIGH PITCH VOICE) We're like, well, you know, I hear what you're saying. And I'd like to reflect back to you what I heard.
And then perhaps--
It's like-- tell them. Tell them what you believe. Tell them that you actually understand math. Tell them that you understand that this country is not the greatest country in the world because we only try to have the most extreme free market positions in the world. That's not the country that we live in.
See, America is the best country in the world because we have the best economic performance. We have the best entrepreneurs, the most innovative people. And we support that, we unleash that. But we also have the best performance when it comes to consumer protection. And the best performance when it comes to labor protection. And the best performance when it comes to environmental standards.
That's why we're the envy of the world. If you want to live in the country where it's free market fundamentalism and nothing else matters, move to the Guangdong Province in China. Move out of this country. And you'll work for a penny a day. Your kids will drink poison in the water. Your products that you give your kids will have lead in them. Right?
But get out of this country. America is not some free market fundamentalist nightmare-land. We have high performance in our economy, and for the environment, and for labor, and for consumers. That's what makes us great.
And so when people tell you--
--that they're more American than you, because they want to kick out from under the American people our achievements with regard to labor protection, environmental protection, consumer protection, don't take that from them.
That doesn't make them more patriotic. That makes them less patriotic. You go live in that country, but we've got to protect this country.
When they tell you that they hate the federal government, and the federal government's the main problem on the face of the earth. And they hate the federal government. You tell them, hold on a second. Hold on a second. The last time I heard, the federal government was also known as America's government.
That's America's government you're talking about. That's America's government you're talking about. And you need to explain to me why you hate America's government. Because I don't You need to explain to me the beef you've got with America's government. Because I believe America's government should be strong enough to protect the American people.
No, America's government can't solve all of America's problems, but it can be a partner to the problem solvers in the private sector. And right now, the problem solvers have no partner, and the problem makers have the partner in our government. And that's what's wrong. Is that the problem makers in our economy, the people who gamble with our money on Wall Street, and who slipped out from under the watchful eye of America's government, the people who gambled away the fisheries and the tourism in the Gulf, and slipped out from under the watchful eye of America's government, those are the problem makers.
And America's government should keep them under watchful eye and be a partner to the problem solvers. Don't let these extreme views go unchallenged, especially not under the rubric that that's better for America. It's not better for America. It's worse for America. And it's been worse for America.
And so I'll close with saying something about this oil spill which my friend said he thought was helpful. This oil spill was a terrible thing. Like I said, under the name of energy independence, we let a company come over here and mistreat us. And they basically, so far, seem like they've gotten away with it.
And you know, I'm a person of faith. I grew up in the church. And I see it not only as a question of living up to my responsibility as an American citizen, but even as a person of faith. You can't say you love the creator, and then disrespect and trash creation. That doesn't work. If you love the creator, you have to love creation.
You can't go home Thanksgiving, and walk in the front door, and hug your mama, and kiss her on the cheek and say, I love you, mama. And then put your muddy feet up on the couch, and throw the food on the ground, and act crazy in her house. First of all, you won't be there very long, not breathing.
But second of all, she'll tell you right now, you don't love me if you tre-- if you love me, you'll love my house. If you respect me, respect my house. You can't say you love and respect me and then trash my house.
If you respect the creator of the house, you've got to respect the house. Now, that's not left or right. That's just common sense. You can't say you're a person of faith and want to run people out of town based on how much you love God. And the want to stand by let the earth be trashed. That doesn't go together.
And so we let this company, this BP company, come over here and do that to us. And that was wrong. But there's a lesson in it that's a positive lesson for you. Here's what you've got to understand about now this thing went down. BP makes-- get this now-- $62 million a day in profit. I didn't say they made $60 million. I said they make it every day.
I didn't say in gross income. I said in profit. This is money left over. Now, I don't know how many of you have $62 million left over every day, but I don't. OK? And in a company making that much money, somebody in the company sat down and said, hey, I've got a good idea. Here's my idea. I can save $500,000, half million bucks, if I just don't put in this little safety valve they say I'm supposed to put in.
So to save that $500,000, the safety valve was left of and you saw what happened. Now, here's what you need to know about the person that made that decision. This person is not an evil person. They weren't sitting there saying, I'm going to do this and it's going to mess up everything. No. The opposite.
This person had no idea how much harm he or she was going to do. None. They thought they were going to get away with it. So it's a small act based on greed. And they decided, I'm just going to make a tiny little cheat. That's all. Just a tiny, tiny, tiny, little cheat. Just a little tiny-- nobody gonna know. It's just going to be a little tiny, teeny tiny cheat.
But it turned into a nonlinear, almost irrational catastrophe. A small act based on greed created a nonlinear, highly irrational catastrophic outcome. That's the bad news. Here's the good news. You live in a symmetrical universe, which means that if a small act based on greed could have that kind of an outcome, a small act from you based on love could also have a completely irrational, completely nonlinear, completely unpredictable positive outcome.
That's why you're important. That's why what you're studying is so important. Because you have no idea how much good you can do. You have no idea when you reach out to people and engage in these arguments, and stick up for our principles, and continue reaching out across these differences to try to come up with the best solutions, you have no idea whose life you're going to touch.
You have no idea when you go work for some of these companies what product you're going to come up with. Who you're going to influence, what invention you might be able to make happen. Or you create an environment where somebody makes an investment they wouldn't have made, which then winds up with somebody whose-- you have no idea how much good you can do.
The only thing you can do is know that if you make that small act based on love, that there's a possibility, possibility of incredible positive change. So make the commitment. Make the commitment to put America back to work, to pull America back together, to build the green economy that includes everybody, that Dr. King would be proud of. If you make that commitment, I can't promise you what the outcome is going to be.
This has been a roller coaster for me. It's been a roller coaster for this country. But all I know is that the game is not over yet. And it will not be over, and we will not have been defeated no matter how many bad votes we get or how many good votes we get. It will not be defeated until you are defeated in your heart.
As long as one person in this country is willing to stand up, as long as one person in country is willing to hold up the light of hope, even when hope is no longer fashionable, and people say, hope is no longer fashionable. Well, it's not been fashionable for people who don't need any. Hope is not fashionable for the people who don't need any. But as long as you stand up for the people who do, this country is in good hands. Your hands. Thank you very much.