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Van Jones returns

This posting was updated Feb. 24 at 10:30 a.m.

By Juliet Eilperin

Van Jones has made his first extensive public comments since relinquishing his post as White House environmental adviser on Sept. 5. We wanted to give Post Carbon a look at how he views the prospects for climate legislation, the controversy surrounding his past actions, and what he plans to work on in the future as both a distinguished visiting fellow at Princeton University and the Center for American Progress. Here are excerpts from his Washington Post interview Tuesday:

On his past as a left-leaning environmental activist:

I am probably the biggest champion of free market solutions for America's problems, period... I understand these problems well enough to understand the only way we're going to be able to solve them is by unleashing innovation and entrepreneurship and market-based forces.

The journey that I took to get to these positions had a lot of stages and phases in it. I understand that they would raise some eyebrows for people who were trying to figure out who this president is, and who I am, and I accept that. When you step forward and try to show leadership, then to some extent, everything's fair game.
I don't have any bitterness or anger about the situation. The good thing about being an American is you're free to think whatever you want, and you're also free to change your mind. That's my story..

On how he views his future role in American politics:

God willing I've got ten or twenty years, thirty years, three decades more work to do. And it's my hope and belief that people will judge me based on that work. And that work is about fighting for American jobs, and fighting for people who aren't likely to get jobs, to be able to have the dignity of work.

A lot of people in American politics have had interesting political journeys and come to a place that is useful to the country, and I think I'm one of those people.
I'm getting back engaged because we have this huge jobs crisis, people are pulling their hair out saying, 'What can we do?" and I think I can make a contribution. We do not need to have this unemployment rate the way it is.

On his one-year upcoming stint at Princeton's Center for African American Studies and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs:

My main area of focus will be economic opportunity for the disadvantaged in this whole green economy. To me, that's where we have the most work to do, and the most opportunity to do good work.

The movement around the environment and clean energy is at a very different inflection point, where we're no longer just thinking about the trees and the birds. We're thinking about deep economic questions, and what we don't have a full grasp on is all the policy tools we're going to need to repower the country and to make sure we don't lose out to Asia and the jobs of the future, and to make sure places like Appalachia and Watts have a chance to be part of it.

On the prospects for a climate and energy bill:

I have a lot of confidence in the wisdom of people like [South Carolina GOP Senator] Lindsey Graham, Senator Graham, and others, who don't want to see America lose out on the jobs that we will lose out on if we don't have smart climate and energy policy. I primarily look at smart climate and energy policy a solution to the jobs crisis. I don't think that either political party is going to be happy to cede the jobs of tomorrow to, at this point, Asia. The only way to have to jobs of tomorrow is to produce the products of tomorrow.

I think right now there's a lot of uncertainty and I would say volatility in the American public because we have tough problems that haven't been solved.

When the food fight is over, there's one spot of clean common ground in American politics and that is the need for us to be leading on energy, clean energy, and for us as a country to be more secure with all those jobs.

When all's said and done, that is going to be the common ground. I'm confident we're going to get there because I don't think America is going to be willing to pass this one up. I think at the end of the day, common sense will prevail, and the common ground will be in the direction of clean energy.

What would you say to people who were offended by the fact that you signed a petition suggesting the US government was behind the Sept. 11 attacks?

I learned a tough lesson on that one. First of all, I believe that 911 was a conspiracy -- by Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. And nobody else. Period. That's what I have always believed. What happened with me was that a group came up to me at a conference six years ago. They said they represented 911 families and wanted me to help them. I said, "Sure! Happy to help!"

Unfortunately, I didn't know what their agenda was. So then they went and added my name, without my knowledge, to this awful, abhorrent language they had on their Web site -- which I never saw, which they never showed me, and which I don't believe in. I never saw the Web site, didn't know it was there. And so my name just sat there on this obscure little Web site, for years and years, until someone discovered it. Then it became a huge scandal, with everyone saying I "signed" this awful petition. At first I was confused, thinking, "Did I sign something crazy at some point, without reading it carefully?" But it turns out that I never signed anything. I just gave them verbal encouragement, and they ran with it.

That said, I take responsibility for not having been more diligent in doing my homework before offering support of any kind. That was a big mistake. You just can't do that. If you are going to be a leader and a public servant, you have to be more careful than that. So I accept the responsibility for the outcome.


Juliet Eilperin

 |  February 23, 2010; 10:30 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Great rhetoric. Am not sure what the results will be. It would be nice to try to forecast the economic benefits of energy choices, or lack theirin. Some energy researchers evaluated an energy system on its EROEI. That is energy return on energy invested. How much energy does it take to build the energy infrastructure compared to the energy returned by the system measured in BTU's. For example ConocoPhillips had to rate the energy yield of various projects such as onshore drilling, offshore drilling, tar sands in Venezuela, tar sands in Canada, ethanol, etc. They budgeted their money according to the higher rate of returns from lower risk projects. They were able to grow, pay down debt, pay more taxes, benefit shareholders, and hire more people if they found the best system for the money. We all like plants and birds, but most of us live in homes that were built by clearing natural habitat to lay foundations for human habitation.

Posted by: rainsong | February 24, 2010 6:57 PM
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Thank you, Juliet, for allowing Van Jones to speak in his own words to clear up what happened in the past, and to let us know what this extraordinary leader is up to now. I am glad for the clarity of his vision and look forward to the ways in which he will be able to help our country move in the direction we need to go.

Posted by: nglock | February 24, 2010 2:14 PM
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Very impressive, Juliet. Ignore the scandals swirling around the Warmer movement, but put out a puff piece on a self-admitted Marxist and Truther.

I think we see all we need to know here about your total lack of credibility as a journalist.

Posted by: silencedogoodreturns | February 24, 2010 9:44 AM
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