Van JonesVan Jones.Photo: Center for American ProgressIn an email to Climate Progress, green jobs champion Van Jones explains how The New York Times misrepresented his quotes and his views.

The story in question is “Number of Green Jobs Fails to Live Up to Promises.” I debunked it yesterday for completely ignoring the “explosive growth” documented by a recent Brookings study in the clean energy jobs sector — even though the article cited the study!

I thought that the quotes attributed to Van Jones didn’t sound like the passionate, optimistic green jobs guru I have had the good fortune to get to know at the Center for American Progress:

President Obama once pledged to create 5 million green jobs over 10 years. Gov. Jerry Brown promised 500,000 clean-technology jobs statewide by the end of the decade. But the results so far suggest such numbers are a pipe dream.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“I won’t say I’m not frustrated,” said Van Jones, an Oakland activist who served briefly as Mr. Obama’s green-jobs czar …


I asked Jones if that’s what he really said, and he replied:

I was quoted in the story as “frustrated.” I am. But not in the way that the story suggests.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Yes, I said I was frustrated. But I was talking about my frustration with the GOP, not the green jobs movement. The whole thing is ridiculous. Dirty energy backers blocked cap-and-trade, which would have spurred green innovation and enterprise. Now they complain that we have not had more progress regarding green jobs?

That would be like someone tripping a racehorse and then saying, “See, I told you that horse was no good!”

That is the frustration that I was talking about.

What I find inspiring, if not miraculous, is that the green economy continues to blossom — despite everything that has been thrown against it. Thanks for pointing that out in your column.

But it gets better — which is to say, worse. The Times claims that Jones has scaled back his projections:

SolFocus’s plans do not much resemble what Mr. Jones, the former Obama administration official, had in mind in his 2008 book, The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems, when he described the green economy as “Joe Sixpack with a hard hat and a lunch bucket going off to fix America,” and talked of millions of new jobs.

In an interview last week, though, he seemed to have scaled back. “The green economy as we initially conceived it,” Mr. Jones said, “was never supposed to save the entire global economy.”

Jones sets the record straight again:

Also: Contrary to the article, I explicitly told the reporter that I stand beside my prediction that the clean energy sector will create millions of jobs. But I warned him that a majority of those jobs could end up in China soon, unless D.C. starts acting aggressively. China’s government has been moving quickly to gobble up global enterprises and industries. Meanwhile, D.C. has been missing in action since the mid-term elections.

Most troubling,  the recession cost us nearly 10 million jobs, and there are an additional 15 million underemployed people in the United States. To fix America’s economy single-handedly, the clean energy sector would have to generate 10-25 million jobs, all by itself. We never said we could create 10-25 million U.S. clean energy jobs, under any scenario.

The most enthusiastic backers were debating numbers in the 3-5 million range — and that was over a decade or longer, WITH cap-and-trade securely in place. We can still achieve those numbers — with the right policies, innovations, and enterprises. And those are very big numbers, worthy of the effort. But unless we fix our trade policy, get our currency valued properly and reform the financial sector, we will still be short 7-22 million jobs. So, no: The clean energy sector cannot generate enough jobs to erase all of the damage that the Great Recession did to America or the world. Growing this sector is an absolutely necessary, but not ultimately sufficient, part of the solution.

I conveyed all of this at length — in a one-hour interview — but the main quotes that made it through were the ones that reinforced the premise of the article. Thanks for helping to correct the record.

We all wonder sometimes whether it is worth giving extended interviews to reporters, knowing that they may just pick out one or two words or phrases that match their desired narrative. Fortunately, most get it right.

But right now, with Obama down in the polls, overall job creation slow, and the fossil-fuel-funded disinformers pushing lies about clean energy, many in the media want to tell yet another story of how Obama failed.

I’m as critical of Obama on climate change as anyone, but the narrative in the NY Times story is just false. Clean energy jobs have soared in recent years — thanks in no small part to Obama’s stimulus bill, as well as the business community’s understanding of the threat posed by climate change, something this article is silent on. The promise of millions of clean energy jobs was always based on the passage of policies that the GOP have, so far, successfully torpedoed. Yes, Obama deserves some blame for the failure of those policies, but I have always said that it is under 10 percent of the blame. Some 60 percent belongs to the right wing and its disiniformers, with another 30 percent to the media itself for failing to tell the story.

It is the realities of global warming and peak oil that ensure the world will generate millions of clean energy jobs in the coming decade — and far more than that in the ensuing decades when we get truly serious. This remains the story of the decade and the century.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!