Thursday, April 16, 2009

Obama's energy czar visits Oakland program

OAKLAND — President Barack Obama's energy and climate-change czar seemed to like what she saw at a green-jobs training program Friday in West Oakland.

"It is so impressive what you all are doing," Carol Browner said while visiting the Cypress Mandela Training Center on Poplar Street, noting this was her first solo field trip in her capacity as head of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change.

"I work for a president who absolutely believes that at the heart of our economic recovery, our economic future, are green jobs," she said, citing $600 million in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus bill for green-jobs training programs like Oakland's which will produce "good homegrown domestic jobs that can't be exported."

Center executive director Arthur Shanks escorted Browner; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums on a brief tour of the facility, which echoed with the pounding of hammers and the calls of hard-hatted trainees.

Single mother of five Mary Vanek, 37, of Fremont, told Browner she graduated in November from the 16-week Oakland Green Jobs Corps training program — a cooperative effort of the center, Laney College and Growth Sector, a workforce go-between connecting employers, government and community agencies — and feels new confidence in her work and life skills.

"Everything is just falling into place," she said, later explaining the joy of finishing a Advertisementsolar-panel installation and watching the electricity-use meter begin to run backward.

"That's cool," Browner agreed.

Browner thanked Oakland for "lending us Van Jones," the founder of Oakland-based Green For All who last month was tapped to serve as special adviser for green jobs, enterprise and innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. She sees him almost every day, she said, and considers him "a force of nature" advocating for slowing the advance of global warming while creating jobs for millions of disadvantaged Americans.

Lee said she's proud of her 9th Congressional District, and Oakland in particular, for being ahead of the curve in pursuing green economic opportunities and becoming a national model. "The White House is very focused on what we're doing here in Oakland and the East Bay."

But she blasted Congressional critics of green-jobs investments and Obama's proposed cap-and-trade system for controlling greenhouse-gas emissions. Many such critics didn't mind spending billions on the war in Iraq yet now balk at simultaneously fighting global warming, achieving energy independence and creating American jobs, she said: "Let them be critical, but we're going to work very hard to bring resources in to the 9th Congressional District."

  • N.B. inmates training to be oil rig workers
  • Energy efficiency, ‘green’ jobs targeted in bills
  • Barbara Lee touts economic stimulus for East Bay