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Activists pitch green jobs as a win-win for Rhode Island

Clean Energy
By IAN DONNIS  |  September 25, 2008

green,inside.jpg

With global warming looming and the US economy in a mess, environmentalists have a simple answer — green jobs — for simultaneously promoting environmental protection and economic development.

And as part of a national day of action this Saturday, September 27, local activists plan to stage a community discussion about “Greening the Rhode Island economy,” at the New England Institute of Technology in Warwick, from 9:30 to 11:30 am.

“As Rhode Islanders struggle to make ends meet amidst a declining job market, a turbulent economy, stagnant wages, and record high gas prices, our green economy presents an opportunity to dig ourselves out of the ditch,” US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who will offer the keynote address, says in a news release. “Investing in clean renewable energy production and improving the efficiency of our cars, homes and businesses will stem the tide of global warming, break our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, and create entire industries of new ‘green collar’ jobs to sustain American workers.”

A panel discussion featuring local environmentalists and activists will follow Whitehouse’s address. Those interested in attending the free event can show up at the door, register at greeningrieconomy.com, send an e-mail info@greeningrieconomy.com, or call Greg Gerritt at 401.621.8048. For details about the national event, see greenjobsnow.com.

Denise Parrillo of Clean Water Action says the local green jobs’ event grew out of a desire among local environmental activists to capitalize on the national day of action. “As we started to plan, people got really excited,” she says. “Hopefully, this will just be the start of something” to promote the expansion of green jobs in Rhode Island.

As the Conservation Law Foundation noted this week, as part of a “cap and trade” emissions auction set to begin this Thursday, a price will be put for the first time on carbon dioxide emissions from US power plants. Rhode Island is among the states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which will use the savings from this program in some of its member states to support energy efficiency.

Given the US’s traditional dependence on fossil fuels, however, building greater support for green jobs often remains an uphill fight.

Parrillo hopes that the events across the country this weekend help to build support for federal incentives and other steps that would promote the expansion of green jobs. Like other proponents, she points to Rhode Island’s job shortage and the need for clean energy in underscoring the practicality of green jobs.

“We know that green technology is going to be a major growth area for good jobs in the 21st century,” says Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline, who is also slated to speak dur-ing Saturday’s event. “It’s an enormous opportunity for Rhode Island that we must seize, especially in these difficult economic times. We’re working hard on this in Providence and by developing a strong federal-state-local partnership, there will be nothing keeping Rhode Island from being a leader in this field.”

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