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Congressman on Going Green: Minorities Won't Be Hurt by Eschewing Fossil Fuels

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, pushed back against politicians who argue that hurting the fossil fuel industry would adversely impact the poor, saying a “minimal” amount of minorities are working in the industry.

“It’s the same tired, you want to call it a dead horse but it’s not quite dead, about jobs and economic development and you’re hurting these poor communities because you don’t – by ending the fossil fuel, slowing it down, marginalizing, you’re ending their economic development and their well-being economically and their jobs – not true,” Grijalva said at a climate change forum hosted by Green For All, an organization Van Jones co-founded in 2007.

“The percentage of people working in that industry, the fossil fuel industry, is minimal to say the least -- and in management, non-existent, and in decision-making, non-existent -- so it’s a dead argument. But that horse gets pulled out every time.”

Grijalva, a member of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus, touted the benefits of rooftop solar power in Arizona and lamented the lack of incentives for the technology.

He encouraged green activists to portray environmental protection as a right.

“Environmental protection described as a right is very powerful. It’s not just some do and some don’t – that it’s a right ties it into the justice issue and ties it into the advocacy point that many in these communities know very, very well,” he said.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a member of the House Financial Services Committee, advocated for the implementation of zero waste policies.

“Did you know that no animal other than us creates waste? We’re the only ones who have waste. Nobody else has garbage cans because everything else is usable in some kind of way but we throw stuff in garbage cans like it’s useless. What if we looked at everything as having a useful value, we just don’t know what it is yet and we just tried to plug into that? I think it would be a powerful thing,” Ellison said.

“We should be doing zero waste policies – renew, recycle, composting, it cuts methane gases which emit from these landfills and this is millions of dollars worth of stuff we could be using,” he added.

Grijalva commended Pope Francis for helping spread President Obama’s message of action on climate change.

“Barack’s got a nice wingman, Pope Francis, on the issue,” he said.