Category Archives: John Podesta

Dalton Georgia: From Carpet Capital of the World to America’s Solar Manufacturing Capital

Dalton Georgia and the Northwestern part of that state were literally put on the map in the early 1900’s by an inspiring combination of the invention of the automobile, the paving of U.S. Highway 41 that then ran from Michigan to Miami, and the ingenuity of a 15-year-old entrepreneur with a fifth-grade education by the name of Catherine Evans-Whitener.


Catherine was born in Northwest Georgia in 1880 and when she was just 12 saw what’s called a tufted quilt during a family visit to her cousin’s home. She quickly fell in love with quilting and spent the next three years mastering her craft and giving away her creations as gifts. Her work became so popular that by the time she turned 15 she had created a small business that sold hand-made quilts to people who would drive from Miami to Michigan and all sorts of places in between in that new invention called the automobile and on that newly paved road that went through the town she lived in. By 1917 she and her family created the Evans Manufacturing Company that, in addition to quilts and tufted bedspreads, evolved into selling machine made carpets. Soon other woman in the region were inspired by Catherine’s success and were opening their own textile companies all over Northwest Georgia. Today, Dalton and the Northwest Georgia region is known as the ‘Carpet Capital of the World’ and employs over 30,000 people who work in over 150 carpet mills and about 100 carpet outlets.

“By 2027, the Qcells expansion is projected to supply about 30% of total U.S. demand for solar panels. I think it’s fair to say that this deal is President Biden’s vision come to life.”

John Podesta
White House Senior Advisor for Clean Energy Innovation & Implementation

And by now you might be asking yourself what does a 15 year old elementary school dropout and carpet manufacturing have to do with solving our climate crisis? Well, just maybe, a lot. You see, in 2022 Georgia Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff introduced the Solar Energy Manufacturing for America Act to create tax incentives designed to dramatically increase domestic solar manufacturing here in the United States. The bill was included in the Biden Administration’s landmark 2022 Inflation Reduction Act and may serve, some say, to help transition the United States into the solar equipment manufacturing capital of the world. I sure hope that is exactly what happens, that America becomes the dominate manufacture of solar parts and equipment on the planet. If that’s to happen then it appears it will start in Dalton Georgia, the same region that Catherine started her industry.

“We are seeking to further expand our low-carbon solar investments as we lead the industry towards fully American-made clean energy solutions,”

Justin Lee, CEO, Qcells

You see, a South Korean company by the name of Hanwha Qcells announced this week that it is investing $2.5 Billion to expand its existing Dalton Georgia plant and to also build a new plant there in Northwest Georgia. The White House has also just announced that the Qcells news represents the nation’s single largest investment in solar manufacturing in American history. Whether from an economic perspective, our national security or the climate crisis, this investment and news is wonderful.

Qcells currently manufactures solar parts that are capable of generating 1.7 gigawatts of electricity each year at its Dalton plant. But after the expansions the company will be able to make 8.4 gigawatts worth of modules (about 10,000 solar panels) per year, which will include a capacity of 5.1 gigawatts in Dalton and 3.3 gigawatts in its nearby Cartersville factory. Once completed the new facility will represent the first and only entirely domestic supply chain here in the United States by making solar panels, silicon ingots, wafers and cells (currently China dominates such manufacturing, especially ingots and wafers) and result in the creation of 2,500 good paying jobs.

Qcell’s parent company (Hanwha) spent over a year doing due diligence to search for the best location for its expansion and investment. Ultimately, the company narrowed its choice down to Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas before selecting Georgia. And, as good as the news in Georgia is, one can’t help but wonder why the so called “Sunshine State’s” (Florida) government is never, ever mentioned as being at the forefront of brining this type of investment and innovation, much less the solutions we need to reduce carbon and help solve our climate crisis. Florida is at dire risk from our world’s climate crisis including rising sea levels and the sooner our leaders (especially people like Governor DeSantis and US Senators Rubio and Scott) become part of the solution by leading and facilitating the type of investment that’s taking place in Georgia, rather than supporting antiquated industries and their pollution, the better.

And speaking of investment, although it’s not nearly enough (yet) to solve the climate crisis I think it’s fair to say that this White House, especially through 2022, has made commendable strides in putting America’s money where the problem is. The Biden Administration has driven an estimated $300 billion in private investment in electric vehicles, semiconductors, clean energy, and batteries to help push America’s transition from a fossil fueled based economy to one based on sustainable energy solutions. Bravo.

But as good as this news is (and it’s truly excellent) I just can’t help but wonder and worry about Florida’s future.

Nearly $25 billion of the $300 Billion I just mentioned is being invested in the State of Georgia including two $5 billion electric vehicle plants, and a $4 Billion battery plant (just last month Hyundai announced that it is building an electric vehicle plant in Georgia while also partnering with another South Korean company [SK Group] to build a battery plant in Northwest Georgia). If all of this seemingly began with a 15-year-old Georgia girl’s skill at quilting, can you imagine what a group of inspired Floridian’s could do together to evolve industry, create countless jobs, and help play a role in solving the most significant challenge mankind has ever faced?

How Will We Fill America’s Most Important Offices?

DickJacobs300x300I have only ever written the blogs that you have read here at The Sink or Swim Project, but I am delighted to say that changes today. I am honored to introduce to you a guest blog from my good friend Mr. Dick Jacobs. Dick is a lawyer by education and today, as a man in his eighties, continues to thankfully practice law with a focus on our environment. I met Dick as a result of his amazing work with Our Children’s Trust, a group of inspired youth that are fighting for climate justice in state and federal court all over the our country. If you have not learned about Our Children’s Trust, please click here and keep an eye out for news about my future involvement in the organization’s pursuit of climate justice here in Florida.  

What today’s guest blogger really is, is an explorer and a photographer and a writer and a very passionate man when it comes to our planet. Dick Jacobs has traveled the world many times over and has visited all seven continents from Africa (where I will be heading in a few weeks) to Antarctica, from North America to the Himalaya Mountains. Dick’s book, Wonderlust, is a gorgeous coffee table size reflection in story and photographs of his life, as he says, “wondering while wandering,” that I highly suggest. 

So, without further adieu, allow me to share with you Dick’s latest blog; a piece that is most certainly topical given the changing climate of American politics and the fact that, as Dick says, “democracy is not a spectator sport.”




Sunrise or Sunset?

Sunrise or Sunset?

Chapter 26, the final chapter of Wonderlust, Where Will Our Stories Lead Us: Sunrise or Sunset?, poses the question:

“Where will the stories we’ve gathered on our Wanderings and fixed within our belief systems lead us?”

And makes a suggestion:

“What must we do? Create the right stories for our inner self that will lead to the right actions by our outer self. Our choices of stories will carry us on a journey of illuminating Sunrise or a journey of darkening Sunset.”

As 2017 is now upon us, and we consider our “new beginnings” and reflect on 2016, I could not help but consider the Chapter 26 question.

For 2016 will surely go down as the “Year of the Stories” – the year shaped by invented truths and fake news, with yet-to-be-determined real-world consequences.

A few weeks after our 2016 election, Story Hinckley wrote Why fake news holds such allure, pointing out that for many voters, “Fake news sites are essentially the only outlets these readers say they can trust.” When what’s going on, or being advocated, in our world challenges our deeply-held beliefs, fake news that’s in sync with our attitudes and propensities insulates us. It reaffirms our world views and validity. It’s the comforting theme underpinning fake news, not the accuracy or inaccuracy of the facts it touts, that resonates with us.

About the same time, Nsikan Akpan wrote “The very real consequences of fake news stories and why your brain can’t ignore them.” Akpan notes that, on Facebook, links to “fake election news outperformed the real thing. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg described this allegation as ‘a pretty crazy idea’ before ultimately announcing a move to deter misleading news.”

Akpan adds that humor disrupts our ability to scrutinize what we’re being told, and fake news, with its roots in humor and satire, turns out to be such a disrupter!

“But here’s where problem lies with fake news and the human mind. . . . [O]ur minds make value judgments about what to keep. Humor tips the scales in favor of being remembered and recalled, even when counterarguments are strong. . . . ‘When you have exposure to fake news or satire, or any content at all, as soon as those constructs have been accessed and brought into working memory, they are there. You can’t un-think them.’ This mental reflex may explain why caricature traits — ‘Al Gore is stiff and robotic’ or ‘George W. Bush is dumb’ — persist in the zeitgeist for so long despite being untrue.”

Of course, fake election news is not the only volume of incorrect news we experience. Fake news has shaped our thoughts and reactions about such important issues as: the safety of vaccinations, the virtues of smoking, the superiority of a race, and climate change being a hoax. In fact, fake news is an industry with high-paying jobs for those who master its persuasion. Oreskes’s and Conway’s Merchants of Doubt – How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, provides a sobering, unsettling look at the industry.

Were this year’s election winners and losers the products of 2016 being the “Year of the Stories?” The election results certainly reflect an uprising of “America’s Forgotten Class”, those living in small towns and cities, particularly in the Rust Belt.

Many of the Forgotten Class never voted before. Did fake news drive them to action?

It would be easy to criticize these energized voters for being swayed by the propaganda effect of false news. We could lament for the Forgotten Class being energized by impossible political dreams. Dreams about making America Great Again. Dreams about restoring jobs and ways of life displaced by global markets and automation. After all, Brookings and JP Morgan Chase’s reports in Redefining Global Cities:

“In the United States, a useful proxy for other advanced economies, already demonstrated technologies have the potential to automate 45% of the work activities in the United States.”

But I’ve heard arguments before that “naive” folks like those who are members of the Forgotten Class must be wrong and were misled when I was in Eugene, Oregon. I was attending the hearing brought by the fossil fuel industry and our Federal government. They were asking the Court to dismiss the lawsuit filed by 21 Gutsy Kids claiming they had a right to an unpolluted environment. Not included in my blogs about the hearing were comments in The Register Guard, Eugene’s local newspaper, in response to its article, Protesting for their future. Several comments were like this:

“Using children to press a high-profile lawsuit is a waste of public resources and a shameful exploitation of children who are largely incapable of processing the requisite amount of information and making the necessary calculations to understand climate science in the slightest.”

As you consider the validity of the comments about the 21 gutsy kids being exploited, check out:

• Earth Guardians, the webpage of a 15 year old, one of the teenagers bringing the federal suit.

• Our Children’s Trust “Meet the 21 Youth Plaintiffs.”

• Teenager Delaney Reynolds’ Ted Talk. Although not a Federal plaintiff, Delaney’s a Florida activist, whose theme is quite simple:

“Kids get it, why don’t adults?”

Yes, when it comes to what’s going wrong with our care of the environment kids get it. And the first-time Rust Belt and other red-state political activists are on to something we should be paying attention to. In Revenge of the Forgotten Class, Alec MacGillis quotes a Trump supporter:

“I wanted people like me to be cared about. People don’t realize there’s nothing without a blue-collar worker.”

Okay – so, how does all this affect the answer to our question: How Will We Fill America’s Most Important Offices?

Take three minutes and watch Texas Tech’s Pollitically-Challenged “educated élite.”


We can laugh at the Texas Tech kids wrong answers about our government or their unerring knowledge about entertainers. But their responses tell us something important is missing: understanding necessary to make our system of government work. This brings us to those important political offices we have to fill in 2017.

The most important offices we have to fill for 2017 and beyond are not those occupied by our President, his cabinet or the Supreme Court. The most important offices we have to fill are what the late Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis called the “Office of Private Citizen:”

“The duties of the office of private citizen cannot under a republican form of government be neglected without serious injury to the public.”

Frederick M. Lawrence elaborated in the Key Reporter: “There are three sets of skills needed to perform the duties of the ‘office of private citizen:’ . . .

“First, a private citizen must be able to turn raw information into knowledge. Much of our information inundation comes to us without the benefit of curation, editing or vetting in any form. …

“Second, a private citizen must be able to evaluate arguments. Just as statements of fact must be proven, not merely asserted, arguments must be rational and logical and not simply propounded. …

“Finally, a private citizen must be able to engage in reasoned debate with others. Presenting one’s own rational claims, based on provable truths, as well as being prepared to listen thoughtfully to those of others, is the hallmark of liberal education.”

We can be concerned about the effect of 2016 being the Year of the Stories and about false news influencing the Forgotten Class.

But, we can’t ignore the legitimate concerns that underlie their populist revolt. In his New Yorker article about the Populist Revolt, George Packer writes the Democrats morphed from the “working class” to the “educationalist élites” and the main-stream Republicans to the very rich. Packer concludes:

“This new populism is no kind of blind rebellion …. It is rather an effort to bring our governing élites to their senses. … The great truth was that large numbers of Republican voters, especially less educated ones, weren’t constitutional originalists, libertarian free traders, members of the Federalist Society, or devout readers of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. They actually wanted government to do more things that bene!tted them (as opposed to benefitting people they saw as undeserving).”

And we can’t ignore that too many of the rest of us aren’t fulfilling our Office of Private Citizen. Consider:

• When it comes to voting, CNN reports that only 55.4% of eligible voters voted in the 2016 election. Trump won by achieving the support of 26.3% of the eligible voters. Apathy by the many empowered the few.

• Like the “educated élite” from Texas Tech, too many of us are Politically Challenged. We may be well-educated consumers, but we’re poorly educated citizens. UNESCO defines citizen educationn as “educating children, from early childhood to become clear-thinking and enlightened citizens who participate in decisions concerning society.”

The lesson? Democracy is not a spectator sport.

What must we do?

Take Lawrence’s three steps seriously: Develop a broad-base of knowledge so we can evaluate and engage in reasoned discussions across the political spectrum, not merely with those who “think” like us.

That requires careful listening and consideration of others, particularly their concerns and thoughts. It may require us to compromise and reconsider many of our prevailing beliefs, whether liberal or conservative. But, doing so will lead us to the right stories for us to operate our Office of Private Citizen. Armed with those stories, our inner-self will lead us to the right actions by our outer-self.

When we’re politically apathetic, disengaged and “challenged” as the Texas Tech kids are, we have no chance at all.

Hollie Russon-Gilman writes in Rebuilding Our Civiv Muscles: Maintaining a Democracy is Never-Ending Work: “the democratic process requires civic muscles, and that through robust and meaningful civic engagement, people can transform their relationships with neighbors, public officials, and even communities.”

Lawrence is right. Russon-Gilman is right. The stories we chose to frame how we operate our Offices of Private Citizen will carry us on a journey of illuminating Sunrise or a journey of darkening Sunset.

Choose thoughtfully.

That’s our hefty Office of Private Citizen responsibility!

Thanks, Dick, for your lifelong pursuit of justice and your passion for the environment, as well as for your friendship to me personally. Thanks also for a wonderful blog posting and for being the very first guest blogger here at The Sink or Swim Project. To learn more about Mr. Jacobs and his work, please visit Wonderlust Journeys.

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