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Ensuring Equal Opportunities in the Green Economy

A month ago, this office printed a short piece expressing our concern that the development of the renewable energy industry was not sufficiently benefiting those elements of our society which have too often been left out of serious economic development opportunities. Earlier this month, the Ohio State House of Representatives took action that tossed away a chance to lay a path toward a better life for the unemployed and underemployed minority citizens of Ohio. The provisions that provided for minority hiring and minority contracting targets was excluded from the legislative package of incentives that the state was providing to the wind industry to build an active industry in Ohio. In spite of the stalwart efforts of Ohio Representative Winburn, the minority hiring and contracting provision went down to defeat, and both the majority and minority citizens of the Ohio loss a prime opportunity to lead the nation toward increased economic growth in those communities where it is most needed, and toward developing a society of which we all could be proud.

President Obama was correct in saying that the introduction of new energy technologies will be an important opportunity for addressing our goals for greater racial and ethnic economic equality. Most of the people in the renewable energy industry want those technologies to benefit the entire nation. It may be time for the real leaders of the renewable energy industry to speak up about the importance of new energy technologies providing a way to have a nation that is more in keeping with the ideals embodied in the American constitution. It may be time for Steven Chu, Kathy Zoi, Dan Avizu, and the other real leaders of the renewable energy community to let AWEA and all of America know that the winds that blow across our central plains and the sun that shines down on our western deserts are resources which should benefit all Americans. The hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that have gone into developing and supporting these technologies give all of our citizens an equity position that is due some reasonable return. It is unacceptable that these public investments only accrue to the benefit of those advantageously positioned people and exclude those who only look for the opportunity to earn a fair wage.

We have to make it our mission to see to it that the past does not dictate the future. This new “industrial revolution” should be more than another opportunity to increase economic disparity, more than an opportunity to perpetuate racial and ethnic inequities. This should be as step forward; not a step back.

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