While states partially reopen and begin taking the first steps to bring back the American economy, many are still feeling the damaging effects COVID-19 has put on the workforce. As of May 21st, almost 40 million have people claimed unemployment benefits, and those that have returned to work often do so at reduced hours and pay. In response, Sherri Goodman and Greg Douquet have proposed the establishment of a Citizens Energy and Climate Corps (CEEC) that would “put Americans back to work building a sustainable and resilient advanced-energy future” once economic activity rebounds.
Sherri Goodman served as the first Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (environmental security), serves on the board of the Council on Strategic Risks and as a Senior Strategist for its Center for Climate and Security. She is also a senior fellow at the Wilson Center. Greg Douquet is a former Marine Corps colonel, co-founder and managing partner of Red Duke Strategies LLC, and co-Director of the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center’s Veterans Advanced Energy Project. Their proposal for a Citizens Energy and Climate Corps is inspired by the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps that put Americans back to work following the Great Depression and built many of America’s critical infrastructure. Today, the CEEC would “train and educate workers so they can be on the front lines of the energy industry of tomorrow.”
In a talk hosted by the Truman Project on “Economic Recovery post-COVID: The Key to Saving the U.S. Economy Could Be Green,” Goodman and Douquet expand on this idea. They share that the CEEC would target “an inclusive America, focusing on the unemployed and underemployed.” A Citizens Energy and Environmental Corps would put Americans back to work in meaningful ways, focusing on America’s deteriorating critical infrastructure and the movement towards advanced energy and grid modernization. Goodman calls this a “triple bang for our buck: new jobs, clean energy, and an improved climate.”
In the wake of COVID-19, the Advanced Energy Economy organization found that in March 100,000 advanced energy workers lost their jobs. Douquet expands on this idea sharing that “the percentage of veterans in the advanced industry has dropped from 10.12% in 2015 to 8.67% even before the COVID crisis. With clean energy jobs lost, there is a great opportunity to restart this advanced energy economy and also put veterans and military spouses to work, a group that often faces unemployment and underemployment.” The military is on the cutting edge of clean energy technology and, in 2019, invested $1.6 billion in research, development, testing, and evaluation directly related to energy. Servicemembers come to the civilian sector with these technical skills to bear, and a CEEC could connect veteran skills with advanced energy innovations. “Connecting the two would be something that the CEEC would be able to do with awareness information, transition training, and workforce development to harness those skills,” says Douquet.
The call for a CEEC comes at a time when the underinvestment in science and technology has become a strategic shortfall for the United States. Goodman points to the need to regain our competitive edge in this area, which will also be critical for the advanced energy transition and improvement of American climate resilience. She notes the need for advancements in data analytics and predictive capabilities to fully understand and prepare for the threat of climate change. “At first, we did not take the threat of COVID seriously enough and once we did, we began to prepare for it,” says Douquet. Likewise, there has been an identified need to prepare for climate disruptions through the rebuilding of critical infrastructure and the use of advanced energy principles to diversify the grid. We have the technology to rebuild from the ground up and the CEEC would create such an opportunity.
Goodman and Douquet look to build from the Citizens Energy and Environmental Corps a broad-based, bipartisan coalition of non-profit organizations like the Truman Project, small businesses, and think-tanks that can turn this idea into a reality. They call for Congress to “take the first steps towards making this new CEEC ‘army’ a reality by enacting legislation in the next phase of COVID-19 economic stimulus.” The pandemic has revealed to the nation that we have a responsibility to prepare for and protect against unforeseen and prolonged crises like coronavirus and climate change. As we emerge from the shocks of COVID-19, “advancing jobs, American competitiveness and building a future resilient to climate threats” should become a focus of American society.
Summary by Isabella Caltabiano
 Cohen, Patricia, and Tiffany Hsu. “’Rolling Shock’ as Job Losses Mount Even With Reopenings.” The New York Times, 14 May 2020 www.nytimes.com/2020/05/14/business/economy/coronavirus-unemployment-claims.html
 Goodman, Sherri, and Greg Douquet. “The New Deal’s Lessons Can Guide Us into a Post-Pandemic Economy.” TheHill, The Hill, 14 May 2020 thehill.com/opinion/finance/497266-the-new-deals-lessons-can-guide-us-into-a-post-pandemic-economy
 “Economic Recovery post-COVID: The Key to Saving the U.S. Economy Could Be Green.” The Truman Project, May 18, 2020 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4FDNM1iCBk&feature=emb_title
 “Worsening Impact of COVID-19 Crisis on Advanced Energy Companies.” Advanced Energy Economy, n.d. https://info.aee.net/hubfs/COVID%20Impact%20Fact%20Sheet%20final-1.pdf
 Robyn, Dorothy, and Jeffrey Marqusee. “The Clean Energy Dividend: Military Investment in Energy Technology and What It Means for Civilian Energy Innovation.” Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, March, 2019 http://www2.itif.org/2019-clean-energy-dividend.pdf
 Goodman, Sherri, and Greg Douquet. “The Pandemic Could Steer Us toward a Sustainable, Resilient Future.” TheHill, 16 April. 2020 thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/492651-the-pandemic-could-steer-us-toward-a-sustainable-resilient-future