Van Jones’ Take on the State of Green Business

In last week’s column, I wrote about this upcoming State of Green Business Forum.  As I indicated, I was perhaps most excited to hear from Van Jones, who was the victim of a Fox News-sponsored witch hunt that forced him to resign from the Obama Administration as its green job czar. 

Personally, I feel Jones is one of the most charismatic leaders of the green economy, and, (forgive the nerd analogy) like Obi-Wan Kenobi, has much more potential for creating sea change now that he is free than he had while working within the constraints of the Beltway in DC. Today’s State of Green Business Forum is providing one of his first major public appearances and a forum for his reemergence into the green economy.

Creating green job opportunities for people from all parts of the economic spectrum is what Jones and his former organization Green For All are working toward.

In keeping with the theme of the event, Makower started by asking Jones what he felt about the state of the green economy.  “Between optimism and pessimism, there’s a space called sober and determined,”  Jones said.  “We’re halfway there.  The strategy that the administration had going in, was to follow the green sector going in:  getting the public investments right, and the public rules right, and you can unleash a tidal wave of investment and interest.  And we started to do that.”

In the Recovery Act, $80 billion in green investments were on the table in March.  The challenge now, is to get the rules right, according to Jones, especially with regard to the costs on carbon.

“If you can’t walk down the street and throw your garbage waste on the street, why should you be able to pump out thousands of tons of carbon waste into the atmosphere for free?” Jones asked. And those are the kinds of rules that, once made, will set the playing field and the rules of the game in place so that companies will, across the board, do the right thing because there’s no competitive advantage not to.

Jones famously said, “There should be no throwaway species, and no throwaway people.”  Makower asked Jones if, across the country, there are opportunities being created for lower economic condition people.  Jones responded that yes, there are quite a few positive signs, but that it is not happening as quickly as he would like it to.

Jones is currently working at the Center for American Progress on an energy policy that is inclusive of all Americans and continues to create opportunities for American workers. He very tactfully rose above the political fray by encouraging all Americans, even those that opposed what I would argue are his altruistic goals, to work together for a clean energy economy that employs Americans with fair wage jobs.


Scott Cooney is Co-Founder of Green Business Village, an incubator for the green economy, and is reporting live from the State of Green Business Conference in beautiful San Francisco, CA.  Check out the program of upcoming events and send any questions you’d like to have answered to Scott [at]

Scott Cooney, Principal of and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.

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