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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks at the Florida Ave Baptist Church Solar Panel Ribbon Cutting, As Prepared

As prepared for delivery

Good morning and thank you for inviting me to be part of this exciting day. A little over a month ago, President Obama laid out a blueprint for our clean, secure and affordable energy future. A major part of that plan focused on what you’re doing here today – putting American ingenuity to work and adopting clean energy. With this solar panel, you’re showing that the path toward winning our future begins with each individual community, and the choices we all make.

You don’t have to look far to know how important a secure energy future is – whether it’s for our churches, our homes and businesses, or our cars. If you had to stop for gas – or just walked by a gas station on the way here – you know that we are not where we need to be right now. The spikes in gasoline prices are putting extraordinary pressure on our nation – affecting everything from family budgets to food prices. The recovery that has been gaining momentum is being jeopardized by the increasing costs of fuel. American families are struggling – and they recognize that the situation we are in is not sustainable.

Our dependence on imported energy exposes us to jumps in prices. Something changes thousands of miles away, and the American people pay for it at the pump. Changing this reality is something this town has been talking about for a long time now. It’s time to stop talking and start acting. And that’s what President Obama is doing. When the President took office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. He pledged that by 2025, we will reduce our net imports by one-third, and today America produces more domestic energy than at any time in the last seven years.

But that is not going to be enough. Americans consume about 25 percent of the world’s oil, and hold just about 2 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves. To secure our energy future, we need better ways to use and produce the energy that powers our economy. Just this weekend I was at Florida A&M University where they are performing cutting-edge research on biofuels to help replace our dependence on foreign oil with a reliance on homegrown, American fuels.

We are also taking steps to make the vehicles we drive more efficient than ever before. The more we can do to reduce demand for gasoline, the better chance we have of reducing the upward pressure on gas prices. That is why President Obama’s Clean Cars Program – which will ensure that American-made vehicles are more fuel efficient than ever before – is so essential to our energy future. This is a challenge that will take work from government, from our brightest innovators and venture capitalists, and from community efforts like this one.

Let me say how important and inspiring it is to see our faith community take leadership on our energy security. In the history of this nation, faith communities have been instrumental in efforts to open new opportunities and improve the world we live in. One of the most important and enduring examples is the Civil Rights movement, which demonstrated the extraordinary power of bringing together motivated faith groups to work for change. Today, we need your help in a new movement. To connect the talent and energy and enthusiasm we see in faith groups and communities across the nation with the work we are doing at EPA, we’ve started a Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Initiative.

This Initiative is part of my ongoing effort as Administrator to broaden our conversation, to expand the tent of our coalition, to diversify the voices of those calling for environmental change. This is important because those who have traditionally had the least voice in this conversation have also disproportionately suffered the most from environmental challenges. Challenges like heart disease, cancer, and asthma that are linked to smog and air pollution and other environmental causes. As I’m sure you all know, these illnesses have a tragic impact in our communities.

And they rarely travel alone. Where there are health challenges, other challenges follow. There are challenges to education. Exposure to pollution accounts for millions of lost school days each year. It is very hard to build the foundations our children need to win the future when they are missing day after day of school, or can’t concentrate when they are in class. There are also economic challenges. There are costs to small businesses that pay higher health insurance premiums because their workers are at a greater risk of illness. There are costs to employers in lost productivity from employees calling in sick. And there are costs to communities when environmental degradation keeps businesses from investing.

When we talk about ‘environmentalism,’ it calls to mind great soaring vistas and wide open spaces. But what might not come to mind is an apartment building that still has lead paint in it. Or an inner city school where the air is polluted. Or an urban waterway that – instead of being a centerpiece for the economic growth – is cluttered with trash and contaminated with runoff. But the fact is, environmental issues are health issues and educational issues and economic issues. And for many of us, those things translate into moral issues. As members of a community, we feel a moral obligation to protect the places where we live, work, learn and worship

Environmental stewardship and caring for creation is a vital part of many faith traditions, and I’m glad to see you continuing the tradition of respect for creation. With your help, we can safeguard the planet and the resources that have been given to us to steward, we can fight for environmental justice, and we can help reduce our reliance on foreign oil.

It won’t be easy. But working as one community, one project at a time, we can do it. Thank you for taking the lead, and encouraging other faith and community groups to follow. I look forward to working with you.