Upon taking office in January, President-elect Obama will face a daunting array of challenges to our nation's prosperity. Short-term issues include severe financial credit disruptions, economy instability and rising unemployment. But the biggest trial for the new administration will be how to address these pressing issues while, at the same time, solving long-term challenges, like creating a more efficient and sustainable energy future for America.
The good news is that economic and sustainability issues go hand in hand. There is a way to secure our energy future while building our economy and creating jobs. When we talk about creating alternative sources of energy — whether it's wind, solar or biofuels — we often overlook a vital, untapped resource right here at home: the ingenuity, talent and productivity of U.S. workers.
We must prepare for a different economy, one that nurtures innovation to solve the energy crisis. In her presidential bid, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) forcefully advocated for "green-collar" jobs, stating that they could "unleash a wave of innovation, create millions of new jobs, enhance our security, and lead the world to a revolution in how we produce and use energy." Her push was echoed by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Obama, creating a bipartisan consensus on the need to build a greener, more prosperous economy based on green-collar principles. At Business Roundtable, we believe it is important for members on both sides of the aisle to put ideology aside and work for broad-based solutions to our nation's energy challenges.
With unemployment at a 6.5 percent — a 14-year high — we must seize this opportunity to empower and mobilize "green workers." To build a sustainable future, we will need engineers, construction workers and scientists to create turbines, affix solar panels and construct transmission grids. By investing in these and other green technologies and creating job training and lifelong learning programs to help workers enter these fields, we can revitalize America's workforce and our environment. In addition, we must invest in tomorrow's workforce by engaging today's students in science, technology, engineering and math so they can think analytically and help solve our evolving sustainability challenges.
President-elect Obama pledged during his campaign to create 5 million new jobs over the next decade by investing $150 billion in green technology. We're ready to work with him to deliver on this promise while ensuring long-term economic growth for America's citizens, communities and companies. With energy prices fluctuating wildly over the past year, the cost of energy is one of our member CEOs' top concerns and an enduring problem for millions of hard-working Americans. Ensuring greater energy security with increased domestic sources, diversity of fuels and a critical mass of green-collars workers to build a modern, sustainable economy must be a priority for the new administration.
By reaching across the aisle, taking an aggressive, pro-growth, bipartisan approach to this problem, and drawing on resources from both the public and private sectors, we believe that Congress and the Obama administration can begin to effectively tackle the economic crisis and national energy insecurity in tandem. We stand ready to work together with them to build a more sustainable future.
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