By John Hickey

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in Missouri is 9.4 percent. Behind this statistic are thousands of workers struggling to pay their bills and keep food on the table. I should know – I just went back to work after being unemployed for over eight months. So the jobs issue is important to me. I am also the father of two young boys, so I also want to preserve our environment by addressing climate change.

What are our state representatives doing to address this twin crisis? Unfortunately, too many of them are playing partisan games instead of taking care of the people’s business. Recently, 60 representatives co-sponsored a measure claiming that climate change science is “fraudulent,” “deliberate concealment,” and “manipulation.” The measure indicates there is no need to take action to address climate change, and that proposals to reduce greenhouse gases would lead to more unemployment.

Of course, the vast majority of scientists agree that climate change is real and dangerous, so on that point the legislators are clearly wrong. But I want to focus on the jobs argument, because these legislators are wrong here as well. In fact, Missouri is full of examples of how promoting clean energy creates jobs. Look at the ABB plant in Jefferson City, where 400 workers make transformers for wind generators. Look at the CG Power Systems plant in Franklin County, where workers also make transformers for wind generators. The plant is now expanding its factory and hiring over 100 new workers. Smith Electric Vehicles has begun assembly of battery-powered delivery vans in Platte County near the Kansas City Airport. The Ford plant in Claycomo is assembling hybrid vehicles, and recently added a third shift to keep up with demand.

All of these plants are putting Missourians to work in the clean energy economy. All of these plants are also part of international corporations who can put manufacturing facilities anywhere. Yet, instead of embracing the clean energy economy and generating new jobs and prosperity here, our legislators are telling the world that we in Missouri would rather just stick our head in the sand.

Our state representatives should be debating what is the most efficient and cost-effective way to create good jobs and build a low-carbon economy. They must stop wasting time on stunts designed to score partisan political points.

The Center for American Progress recently issued a report outlining the impact on Missouri of a Green Economic Recovery Program. This report estimates that a $1.8 billion investment in the program would generate over 43,000 new jobs to retrofit buildings, expand mass transit, modernize the power grid, and increase freight rail.

Fortunately, we Missourians have an opportunity to inject some sanity into the political process here, and get serious about attracting more clean energy jobs.

We must look to leaders who have a legitimate plan to build a clean energy economy and put Missourians back to work. We cannot let partisan politics determine the fate of our economy and our environment. These issues are far too important.
Hickey is political chair of the Missouri Chapter of the Sierra Club.
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