This Earth Day, consider this: the coal and oil industries — industries tethered to systems of energy that are not only unsustainable for the planet but aren’t even sustainable as businesses over the long term — have successfully lobbied and scratched to drag America from first to third place in renewable energy investment.

This isn’t a trivial, academic issue of economic competition. This is an example of the worst of Washington, DC — one that puts our nation’s future economic strength at risk.

These dirty industries have used their wealth and connections to place a firm grip on the nation’s political and economic agenda. The reason is simple: they make lots of money from the status quo. So, they and their allies in politics try to stop progress in the green sector, stifle entrepreneurship and keep America from being economically competitive around the world. All so they can wring a few more bucks out of the 1900s.

An example. Right now, these industries are pushing to cripple the Environmental Protection Agency and its proposed rule to limit pollutants emitting from power planets. The EPA’s new standards would prevent up to 6,000 premature deaths each year, 4,000 heart attacks, and 42,000 asthma attacks. Primarily, of course, in communities impacted by power plants. Low income communities. Our communities.

The argument the old, dying industries use is that these standards would be “job-killers.” They’re wrong. In fact, a recent study from the organization Ceres found that the new rules would help create 1.4 million new jobs — many for low-income and middle class communities. But those jobs aren’t with the powerful oil and coal companies. So, to them, they must be stopped.

As must federal investment in green entrepreneurial technologies, though subsidies for century-old oil and coal businesses making money hand over fist must be maintained.

WATCH MSNBC’S COVERAGE ON EARTH DAY HERE
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As must the very concept of “green jobs.” Defenders of these doomed corporations, businesses built on resources that are ever harder and more dangerous to extract, have fought hard to undermine the very idea that there could be growth in the green economy. But they can’t stop facts: since 2000, solar has grown at nearly 40 percent annually. Last year, it was the nation’s fastest growing economic sector.

The health and wealth of our communities are under attack. Not because these companies and their political protectors want us to suffer — but because they don’t care if we do.

So, on this Earth Day — help us stem this tide.

We’ve got to tell others the truth about the green economy. The reality is that clean tech is one of the few sectors that is actually growing. The solar market grew 67 percent last year; the wind power industry grew 15 percent.

Every day, the green economy is putting people to work, giving Americans their livelihood and producing innovative products. Green leaders are creating new markets and new technology that will be a cornerstone of our economy in the future. They are leading the charge towards a better future, while polluters lead the retreat by trying to keep America stuck in the past.

We need to move America forward.

As I told a gathering of 10,000 young environmental activists at last weekend’s Power Shift conference, we must send a simple message to the polluters — those trying to ruining our air and water: your time is up.

We won’t allow your dirty politics to continue to put short-term interests over our long-term healthy. We’re taking our power back. We’re taking our America back. We’re taking our future back.

The fight is on.