By Environmental Action Group

Last Thursday, advocates for comprehensive climate and energy policies held a film screening and panel discussion at George Mason University. The film was Clean Energy Jobs for a Strong USA, which highlights the benefits of clean energy jobs for American workers. The screening of the film was followed by a discussion with panelists Jason Von-Kundra, from the GMU Environmental Action Group, and Chad Laibly, with Continuum Energy Solutions. The event was sponsored by the Environmental Action Group, Repower America and the Sierra Club.

As the debate in Washington intensifies over how to address our nation’s energy, environmental and economic challenges, the personal stories of workers, veterans, business executives, investors and union members make a compelling argument in favor of meaningful and comprehensive clean energy policies. They also lay a roadmap for how our leaders can work together to implement climate and energy policies this year.

“Virginia has suffered in this economic recession, but today’s screening and discussion, especially with the large turnout, reminds us that hope is on the horizon,” said Chad Laibly, who manages a team that sells and installs solar panels for Continuum Energy Solutions in Northern Virginia. “As a former IT consultant, I am living proof that you can retool yourself and make a living in the renewable energy field. Now is the time to seize on this opportunity so that we can create [well]-paying jobs that will revitalize our local communities.”According to the Pew Environment Group, Virginia already has 1,446 clean energy businesses that have generated 16,907 clean energy jobs in the state. And clean energy and climate policies could create 50,000 new jobs in Virginia, according to a study by the University of California, Berkeley.

The film screened at the event shows how some workers are already transitioning from jobs dependent on fossil fuels to clean energy jobs. Von-Kundra explained that “The film addresses the importance of including workers from fossil fuel industries in the benefits of clean energy jobs. Regions of fossil fuel extraction, such as the coal fields of Appalachia, experience higher poverty rates and remain vulnerable to economic collapse with the abandonment of exhausted mines. That is their sacrifice to supply the nation with cheap electricity. If we destroy those communities by not providing them with clean energy jobs, we are destroying them similar to the mining companies. That is a moral issue that cannot be overlooked. The Blue Green Alliance, a coalition of worker unions and environmental groups, has begun working on this issue, but more can be done, especially on a legislative level.”

Von-Kundra explained some of the ways Mason is involved in the movement for clean energy. A minor in renewable energy at Mason educates students for technical jobs in the clean energy economy. The Environmental Action Group uses citizen lobbying to demand that Congress pass climate and energy legislation this year. The Patriot Green Fund is a proposal that would bring clean energy jobs to campus by funding solar panel installation and other sustainable initiatives.

Thousands of people are voicing their support of clean energy through the website Repower America. Over 58,000 people and businesses have uploaded messages on the Repower Wall supporting clean energy policies, and along with the film, both lay a roadmap for how our leaders should move forward to tackle the biggest challenges we face.

“Acting on clean energy and climate is the most important issue for my generation,” says Bradley Perrow, a graduate student at Mason. “The messages in the film, the videos on the Repower Wall and the discussion tonight send a powerful signal that clean energy jobs are going to play a major role in our nation’s future.”

Participants in today’s film screening and panel discussion support comprehensive climate and energy policies, and believe such policies are a vehicle toward making the promise of clean energy jobs a reality for more Americans.

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