This post originally ran on Wonk Room.

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Green Collar EconomyAt best, the federal government’s bail out of Wall Street will help the U.S. economy — which is already in a ditch — avoid a total meltdown. Fine. Now we need a plan to jumpstart the economy and actually get America moving again.

In my new book, The Green Collar Economy, I propose a bold, green cure for the economic mess we are in. Think of it as a comprehensive plan to bail out ordinary people — and the planet, too.

We just found $700 billion. Let’s find another $350 billion. That’s half the price tag of the Wall Street rescue — which has no guarantee of success. But with $350 billion investment, we absolutely and positively could retrofit and repower America using clean, green energy — and create millions of new jobs, in the process.

In other words, a comprehensive "green bailout" could give America twice the bang … for half the bucks. Other experts agree with me. A new report just released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors says that we can create more than 4 million green jobs [PDF] if we aggressively shift away from traditional fossil fuels toward alternative energy and a significant improvement in energy efficiency.

Another report just released by the Political Economy Research Institute and the Center for American Progress shows that the U.S. can create two million jobs over two years [PDF] by investing $100 billion in a green economic recovery plan. The report also shows that this investment would create four times more jobs than spending the same amount of money within the oil industry.

The time for choosing has arrived. Looking at both our energy system and our financial system, we face some hard choices. Our energy system can create awesome storms. Or it can create awesome jobs. Our financial system can become a global sinkhole — or a global springboard.

The gray economy that is collapsing is based on consumption, debt and environmental destruction. The green economy that is emerging will be based on production, smart savings and environmental restoration.

The bottom line is: you can’t base a national economy on credit cards. But you can base it on solar panels, wind turbines, smart bio-fuels and massive, a program to weatherize every building and home in America.

A green economy would be less vulnerable to oil shocks and financial bubbles. In a green economy, we would rely on less credit from overseas and more on creativity right here at home. It’s time to stop borrowing and start building.

As Thomas Friedman says, "We don’t just need a bailout. We need a buildup."

Rather than just giving platinum parachutes to those who wrecked the economy, let’s throw a green lifeline to the ordinary people who want to rebuild it. We can’t drill and burn our way out of our present mess. But we can invent and invest our way out. And in The Green Collar Economy, I suggest a game plan for getting started.

Join MicCheck Radio to hear an exclusive interview with Van Jones about the Green Collar Economy.

UPDATE: Living on Earth’s Jeff Young explores the "elements of a green economic bailout" with CAPAF fellows Bracken Hendricks, Carol Browner, and Van Jones:

As Washington rescues Wall Street, a growing chorus of big thinkers from the left and right are calling for a greener approach — using investment in clean energy and efficiency as a way to stimulate the economy.