The Green Collar Economy

I just finished reading The Green Collar Economy, and I can’t ever recall reading a book that changed my way of thinking so dramatically. Now I believe it’s possible to reverse the current economic free-fall and at the same time make the world a better place for my six granddaughters to raise their children.

The book’s author, Van Jones, presents a well-written, substantive, and viable first-draft plan for solving what I believe are some of the biggest issues facing our country today. These include repairing the failing economy, eliminating our foreign oil dependency (a major threat to national security), and efficiently reducing our reliance on fossil fuels with clean and renewable energy.

I think the author may have tried to appeal to too many constituents because I felt the first 77 pages of the book dragged a bit and I was suspicious that this was just pie-in-the-sky stuff. When I finished reading the book in its entirety, however, I was a believer.

Am I getting soft in my old age? I don’t think so. I’m still a capitalist at heart, a business man who wants data, facts, and numbers, not wishful thinking.
Jones contends that our current economy is built on and powered almost exclusively by oil, natural gas, and coal—all fast-diminishing non-renewable resources. Our government subsidizes tens of billions of dollars a year to this pollution-based “gray economy” with little incentive for change.

Jones calls this potential new paradigm “The Green Collar Economy,” believing that it could create millions of new jobs for American workers. For this new economy to blossom and flourish, government policies must play a key role in setting standards, spurring innovation, realigning existing investments, and making new investments. It must include all segments of our society. Jones also contends that only the business community has the requisite skills, experience, and capital to make it work. Success will be tied to new “eco-entrepreneurs”—and the success and survival of their enterprises.

We can no longer afford to engage in the old politics of naming, blaming, and shaming someone else, while concealing our own faults, flaws, and hypocrisies. It is most unlikely that the present high lords for oil, coal, and armaments will reverse course or give up their power without a bitter struggle. So a new force must emerge to realign American politics, transform the political landscape, and supplant the Texas/Pentagon axis.

If it is to succeed, the critical mass of businesses in this green collar economy must produce renewable energy and reduce energy waste. This can be done with the use of wind and wave farms, solar energy, bio fuels, solar-powered hydrogen farms, improved weatherizing of homes and office buildings, just to name a few. The author also lists over 50 companies that are currently making money in these market niches.

What I liked most about Van Jones’ vision was his macro view of today’s major problems and how everything is interconnected. More importantly, he spends the bulk of his time re-framing these problems into definitive opportunities that even I could understand, refusing to get mired in details or playing the blame game. And he does not advocate that government create a new bureaucracy to exploit this monstrous, once-in-a lifetime opportunity. Instead, he reminds the reader that no major new set of modern industries—from the railroads, to nuclear power, to the Internet—has ever succeeded without government playing a powerful and supportive role.

Take the time to read this book, all 197 pages, and you’ll come away with a totally new way of looking at “green.” It’s not about narrow-minded Ralph Nader hoopla and scare tactics, and you don’t have to believe that Global Warming is what Al Gore makes it out to be. Frankly, I’m turned off by all the misinformation about how to save the planet.

My business instincts, as a consequence of the 33 years I spent in manufacturing conveyor belt products, tell me that the Green Collar Economy is a real business opportunity.

In summation, The Green Collar Economy presents an excellent first draft vision of what America could and should do to revitalize its standing in the world community. And it matters not whether you believe that global warming is a serious threat to future generations or a cyclical phenomenon. If you are concerned about the current economic woes, you owe it to yourself to read this book.

The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems


I thought it was ironic that 61 years ago a lady knocked on my mother’s door (the story is told in Growing Up In Mama’s Club) and gave her a book, purporting with certainty that a new world, a pollution-free paradise earth, was hers to have in her lifetime if she believed, followed its interpretation of the Bible, and proselytized its unique message. Unfortunately, Mama is still waiting for her new world that was supposed to arrive before I reached the age of 20.

At Christmas this year, my daughter gave me a book, The Green Collar Economy. She set no high and lofty expectations, but simply said, “Read it Dad. I think you’ll like it.” After twice doing as she instructed, making extensive notes, and confirming the author’s credibility, I was a believer. However, I realized that there is no certainty that any of this stuff can ever happen unless there is a groundswell of support – from the President, members of Congress, and the majority of all the citizens of this country, not just a majority made up of affluent people.

Now, like Mama, I intend to proselytize the potential for a “new world”—not the one she hoped for—but one with a green collar economy driving it, a truly sustainable new world for generations to come. – Dick Kelly


Business Opportunities for the Green Collar Economy

  • Wind Power Farms
  • Wave Energy Farms
  • Weatherizing & Retrofitting millions of Homes & Office Buildings
  • Solar-Powered Hydrogen Farms
  • Refining waste oil into Bio-Diesel
  • Manufacturing and Installing Solar Panels
  • Manufacturing ultra efficient vehicles, such as plug-in hybrids
  • Produce/Farm more local, organic food, decreasing transportation costs
  • Improving the Mass Transit System
  • Manufacturing & Servicing Electric Vehicles powered by a clean energy grid
  • Production of more Bio-Fuels
  • Production of renewable fuels from non food biomass (switch grass, etc.)

What We Must Stop Doing

  • Subsidizing fossil-based fuels
  • How we transport food to reduce energy costs
  • Using food biomass for fuel
  • Allowing Rainfall runoffs to become “storm water”
  • Using fossil fuels in our fertilizers and massive Robo-tractors
  • Building new coal plants that can’t safely capture & store emissions



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