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Bus brings green jobs message to Valley

Date: 9/7/2010

Sept. 6, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- Mark Mulholland is an electrician and a member of the steelworkers union and he minced no words about what he has seen riding on the Blue Green Alliance Bus across the country: "devastation."

Mulholland spoke at a stop the bus made at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Seven headquarters on Aug. 31.

The Blue Green Alliance is an organization founded in 2006 by the Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers Union dedicated to expanding the number of jobs in green technologies, according to the organization's Web site. Since its founding, the organization has attracted other unions and environmental groups.

To ask the public to put pressure on the Senate to pass legislation that would address climate change and encourage green technology, the Alliance put a bio-diesel bus on the road though 17 states from California to Virginia. Members of various unions and environmentalists have ridden the bus to meet with people along the way.

At its Springfield stop, local union officials spoke as well as Springfield City Councilor Melvin Edwards.

Mulholland works for a company manufacturing solar louvers in Risingsun, Ohio, and also lobbies members of Congress on labor and green issues. He said he doesn't understand why the Senate hasn't seen the need to pass legislation that would help advance green technology.

"I don't know if they are out of touch," he said. He added when he has sought to meet with Republican senators "nine out of ten don't want to talk."

Most Democrats "have their doors open," he added.

He expressed concern the United States is falling behind China in the development of green technology.

"We can't sit and do nothing," he added.

Green solutions to energy and climate change problems will create and retain jobs, he asserted. The manufacture of one windmill to generate electricity creates 120 jobs, he said.

Leon Weeks, a Steelworkers Union member from Freeport Mich., said 1.9 million manufacturing jobs "will go elsewhere" if the United States can't catch up to countries such as Germany and China.

"I think renewable energy in the 21st century has the way to drive the economy in the United States the way the auto and steel industries drove the economy in the 20th century," Weeks said.

Lindsay Patterson, a Steelworkers Union member from Philadelphia, Penn., works for a company that makes steel tubing used in green technologies.

"If you don't get climate change legislation [passed], our industry could be extinct," he said.

Speaking in front of a large array of photovoltaic cells, Bob Wilson, the business representative for IBEW Local Seven, said the country is "at a crossroads."

"We need massive federal investment in solar and wind," he said. He added the United States is "lagging behind Europe."

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