Author and activist Van Jones will serve as a special White House adviser for "green" jobs, enterprise and innovation.
Jones, 40, will work within the Council on Environmental Quality, which coordinates President Obama's climate, energy and other environmental policy initiatives with federal agencies.
"Van Jones has been a strong voice for green jobs, and we look forward to having him work with departments and agencies to advance the president's agenda of creating 21st century jobs that improve energy efficiency and utilize renewable resources," CEQ Chairwoman Nancy Sutley said in a written statement last night.
Jones, a Yale Law School graduate and veteran human rights and environmental activist, participated last month in the first meeting of the White House Task Force on Middle-Class Working Families. The panel, convened by Vice President Joe Biden, focused on how the public sector can create "green-collar" jobs such as installing solar panels and retrofitting inefficient buildings (E&ENews PM, Feb. 27).
Jones urged Biden and other administration officials who participated in the Philadelphia panel to use the $787 billion economic stimulus to provide training for such jobs, which cannot be outsourced. Economically depressed areas should be a priority, he underscored.
"Let's green the ghetto first," Jones said to applause.
Jones will now help shape the administration's energy and climate initiatives, with special emphasis on improvements and economic opportunities in vulnerable communities, CEQ officials said.
Jones, who could not be reached for comment, is the author of the 2008 book "The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems" and the co-founder of the Oakland, Calif.-based Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. Most recently, he served as a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress, an influential think tank in Washington, D.C.
Joe Romm, a current Center for American Progress senior fellow and former assistant energy secretary during the Clinton administration, called Jones a "tireless" advocate for green-collar jobs in inner cities.
"He pushed this issue when no one was interested in it," Romm added.
Jones' candor and talent for firing up audiences will help in his new job, Romm posited.
"A big part of these bully pulpit jobs is selling ideas inside and outside of the administration," he said. "Selling is one of his strong suits."
Jones, who does not need Senate confirmation, will start his new job March 16, a CEQ spokeswoman said.