Love American Style: Clean energy could solve the jobs crisis

"Love, American Style" presented life in simple terms.

Boy meets girl, faces dilemma then figures out a resolution. All in 5 to 10 minutes, with laugh track and hip music.

Apply the philosophy to the U.S. economy and two of the most powerful people in the Republic, and it would go something like this:

Speaker of the House John Boehner: "These excessive regulations are killing us. Corporations can't compete, they're afraid to expand domestically and my mother in law is coming to town."

President Obama: "John ... May I call you John?"

Boehner: "Why not? I'll call you Barry."

Obama: "John, this jobs problem has got to be addressed. Both sides of the aisle are suffering. We can’t solve all our nation’s woes. But we can help."

Boehner: "Gotcha Barry. I'll let you in on a little secret."

The pair walk to background, music cues up. They return, smiling knowingly.

Obama: "You got it John. I'll get Michelle to take your mother in law on a tour of the Pentagon."

Boehner (grinning hugely and looking a little sentimental): "Let's put America to work. Barry, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

Reality is a lot more complex

Ah, if only it were so easy. But it's not. The real unemployment rate, including underemployed and those who have stopped looking, appears to be closer to 16 percent, according to John Cassidy of the New Yorker. And there's little hope on the horizon unless something as far-fetched as I have presented actually takes place between the two political factions that run our beautiful country.

Jobs are a big political hot potato right now. We need more. Government policy can help the process, but the private sector creates opportunity.

A straight-talking Chicagoan like Slats Grobnik might say something like, "Try clean energy. We can't keep polluting everything or our kids will suffer. Figure it out. Jobs will follow."

Always bet on green

Clean energy shows huge promise. Study after study has shown it has potential to put hundreds of thousands to work in a variety of tech, research, white collar and blue collar jobs.

Pollution and climate change will begin to assert tremendous pressure on industry, lawmakers and the everyday Joe Sixpack. Nobody wants to foul this great planet. Most -- excluding megalomaniacs and you know who you are -- just want a decent job for a decent rate of pay and a chance to raise healthy, happy families. (Again, I'm not talking about people who want to take over the world, like Pinky and the Brain.)

Give it a few years and I believe even fossil fuel "energy" companies will see the need to accelerate development of cost-competitive clean energy and establish market share. It's there.

My co-worker, veteran reporter Sandy Nax, offered this proposal in his post "Energy Efficiency Could Be the Next Big Thing."A large-scale campaign to cut energy costs would create jobs and save businesses and homeowners billions, or even trillions of dollars -- which could then be reinvested or otherwise directed into the economy," Nax writes.

Back in the Beltway

Obama's proposed American Jobs Act focuses heavily on launching massive infrastructure improvements, hiring teachers and giving tax credits to companies that hire the unemployed. The idea, Obama says, is "to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working."

Boehner's response? Tepid.

But he does agree with Obama on one thing. Boehner says in response to Obama's address to a joint session of Congress, "American families and small businesses are hurting, and they are looking for the White House and Congress to seek common ground and work together to help get our economy back on track."

Obama says, "We can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy."

Plans, plans everywhere

Republicans have a blueprint for economic growth and job creation – Plan for America’s Job Creators. Its focus: removing government barriers to private-sector job growth.

Boehner says, "The proposals the president outlined ... merit consideration. We hope he gives serious consideration to our ideas as well."

Obama sounds conciliatory, although in his address he repeatedly called for Congress to pass his plan. He did say that every proposal laid out has been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past.


Maybe members of both parties ought to visit Sesame Street. A heart-to-heart with Big Bird on why pollution is bad might inspire a green jobs focus.

I'm not talking about big feed-in tariffs to make renewable energy competitive. Rather, my thought is that the government free up business to pursue the greatest efficiencies of all and superior energy production from solar, wind, hydro and the rest. Programs like those by the U.S. Department of Energy to provide grants for promising technology ought to be continued, perhaps expanded.

Katie Fehrenbacher of speculates if the meltdown of Solyndra, which received a government-backed loan of $527 million and is under FBI investigation, could sour the administration on pursuing a clean energy agenda.

"But such a high-profile black eye could make the administration shy away from touting the industry publicly, at least for a while," she writes.

Let's stay off 'The Road'

I hope not. Clean energy is worthy of attention. The alternative is something out of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," dark skies, no food and predatory humans.

I prefer this passage from Obama's address: "No single individual built America on their own. We built it together. We have been, and always will be, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Apple pie, flannel and bald eagles all the way. Just don't call me Shirley.