How to Put People Back to Work with a Green Transition
Chris Woolery of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth discusses empowering workers and communities with renewable energy
CHRIS WOOLERY: In eastern Kentucky we’re seeing a transition away from fossil fuels, and its impacting communities and workers. And folks are losing their jobs; they’re losing their livelihoods. And we know that in Kentucky if we don’t shape that transition, those communities and those workers can be left behind. And we want to be actively proactive about it. We want to have a just transition in which we don’t disempower workers and communities.
Where we re-invest in energy efficiency and renewables, and job training and put people back to work on things that can bring us together as community. In Kentucky, you know, folks don’t always agree on climate change, but I haven’t met a Kentuckian yet who doesn’t want clean air, clean water, and good jobs with meaning, that can never be out-sourced. And the transition to a clean energy economy in Kentucky is an opportunity that we need to seize. It’s not a burden.
KIM BROWN: What are your thoughts about the President’s promise to restore jobs to the coal mining industry, to pretty much guarantee that these coal jobs are coming back — your thoughts about that?
CHRIS WOOLERY: I think it’s a bit… It’s just a bit misinformed. You know, I just read yesterday that the CEO of Duke Energy was asked about the future of coal. And he said, “The future of coal in America is — there is no future.” And that’s unfortunate for the folks in my state that are working on that. But again, it doesn’t matter what we think in Kentucky, the world is moving away from fossil fuels. It’s transitioning to a clean energy future, and we have to figure out how to get on the bandwagon.
In North Carolina they passed a renewable portfolio standard, they invested billions of dollars in solar. They created thousands of dollars… thousands of jobs. And we don’t get those jobs in Kentucky, because we have a bad regulatory environment. So, at some point soon, solar power is going to be cheaper than the existing power structures we have now.
But if we don’t build the infrastructure for a clean energy work force, then we’ll have to bring folks in from North Carolina and Tennessee, to do this work. We can’t have that in Kentucky. We need these jobs ourselves.
KIM BROWN: And lastly, why are you out here today, and why do you think it is important that the people who are in agreement with issues, such as yourself, those who are trying to fight against global climate change, and trying to make the government understand the urgency of this issue that is facing the planet. Why is it important to show up out here today to do that?
CHRIS WOOLERY: It’s important because this is not just about carbon. This is about environmental racism, environmental justice. It’s about building a bigger “we”. And so, our organizations have to come together. And so, that’s why the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Climate Justice Alliance, the Right to the City Alliance, and the Global Grassroots Justice Alliance, are coming together to build that bigger “we”.
And we’re going to connect after today with the movement for Black Lives, and we’re going to go beyond the moment. And we’re going to learn from the words of Dr. Martin Luther King of 50 years ago. And we’re going to build on his vision that the giant triplets of racism, militarism, extreme materialism, are things that we have to move away from. And so, we have to take this moment, we have to move forward as a new majority, and that’s what our movement is building right now.