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CNN World Report Annual Conference, Atlanta, Georgia

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman,
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
at the
CNN World Report Annual Conference
Atlanta, Georgia

May 29, 2001

Thank you for that introduction. I am pleased to be with you this afternoon. It’s nice to see in person so many of the faces I’ve seen on TV. CNN really does provide so many Americans with so much information about what’s going on in the world, and I want to salute you for your work – especially as I have relied on you more and more in the last few months.

Since I became EPA administrator, I’ve had the chance to meet with quite a number of my international counterparts, both here in Washington as well as abroad. Just last week, for example, I was in Stockholm for the signing of the treaty to limit the production and use of persistent organic pollutants. Representatives from more than 100 countries were in attendance, and I had the opportunity to speak with many of them about POPs and other issues.

One of the items that kept coming up in conversation was President Bush’s recent proposal to address the energy crisis the United States is facing. Since it is on the agenda of so many of those you cover, I thought you might be interested in hearing more about the plan – especially from my perspective as the head of the agency charged with protecting the environment and public health in the United States.

President Bush’s National Energy Plan is the first comprehensive energy plan for the United States in a generation. His plan lays out a road map for what we must do to meet the energy needs of the next decades. It comes not a moment too soon.

For the past eight years, we haven’t heard much about energy policy in America. It wasn’t until earlier this year that it became clear that the check would very soon come due for the failure at the end of the last century to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for America’s energy needs in the 21st century.

To his credit, almost immediately upon taking office, the President took decisive leadership. In the opening days of his Administration, he put together a task force on energy and charged it with developing in a matter of weeks a comprehensive, long-term energy strategy to meet a challenge that had been growing for a number of years.

I want to point out that because there has been no effort to produce a comprehensive energy policy until now, we are not only seeing threats to our energy supply, we are also seeing threats to our environment. For example, when utilities have to generate extra capacity, they are forced to use older generating facilities that haven’t been updated with the latest pollution control equipment. When hydroelectric facilities are forced to draw down water levels in their reservoirs because of drought conditions, as is happening now in the Northwest, it endangers fish populations.

So a comprehensive energy policy is not just necessary to secure America’s energy future, it’s also vitally important if we are to protect the environmental gains we have made and build on them in the years ahead.

The Plan the President has proposed meets these two goals. It reflects the President’s determination to meet our looming energy crisis in ways that protect the environment while promoting economic prosperity.

The President’s National Energy Plan will take several different approaches to addressing our energy needs in the coming decades. No one of them is sufficient unto itself; taken together, however, they will meet the challenge America faces in a way that unites economic prosperity, energy production, and environmental protection.

The first element of the plan will call for increased energy efficiency efforts. It’s a simple truth: every kilowatt we can conserve is a kilowatt that doesn’t have to be produced. That’s why I am pleased that nearly half of the recommendations contained in the report are related to promoting conservation and renewable energy.

The President believes we must continue to use technology to find ever-more efficient ways of using energy. His plan provides incentives and rewards for the continued development of new methods to conserve and increase efficiency.

Over the past 30 years, the United States has seen significant energy savings due to conservation and efficiency measures. Of course, when most people think of conservation, they think of turning out the lights when they leave the room or wearing a cardigan sweater in the winter. But we no longer have to rely on those changes in behavior.

Since 1970, the United States has realized remarkable improvements in energy efficiency through technology. For example, a refrigerator made today uses a third less energy than one manufactured in 1972. Today’s compact flourescent lights use just a quarter of the energy used by the incandescent bulbs they replace. And the technology exists – we use it at EPA – to have lights automatically go off when people leave a room.

Taken together, thirty years of energy technology progress have resulted in enough annual savings to meet the energy needs of every American home and commercial building for a full year. That’s a lot of energy saved – and it’s a strong foundation on which to build.

In addition, the President’s plan promotes alternative and renewable energy sources. Earlier today, I visited a site here in Atlanta where methane gas is being captured from a closed municipal landfill and is being used to power a nearby concrete plant. The President’s plan includes tax credits for the such innovative efforts, as well as tax incentives for homeowners who install solar energy in their homes, and the promotion of greater use of such sources as wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower resources.

All of these proposals are designed to promote conservation and protect our environment. This plan means that my Agency – the EPA – will be a major contributor both to solving America=s energy crisis and to accelerating the protection of our environment through the use of technology, market-based incentives, and the building of partnerships across traditional boundaries.

Next, the President’s plan calls for modernizing our energy infrastructure. There are few things more important to any business that keeping their facilities modern and up-to-date. The technological change that is sweeping the globe waits for no business. Yet, because of a complex web of regulations, we have not seen the energy sector keep pace.

We need to encourage new investment in our energy infrastructure, not just to increase delivery capacity, but to increase efficiency and conservation. We cannot expect to meet the energy needs of 21st century America with a 20th century infrastructure. Supporting investments in new technology for our energy network will pay big dividends by providing more reliable and less expensive energy to American consumers.

Let me give you an example. Some of you may have read recently about an exciting test that’s beginning in Detroit. In tunnels that run beneath a power plant built at the time the first electric lights were coming into use, new superconducting power cables are being installed. These cables can carry much more electricity than the copper wires they replace, with virtually no loss of electricity during transition. As the Washington Post reported last week, this new technology could result in enormous increases in available energy.

As important as these two things are, however, they aren’t enough. Here in the United States, as in the rest of the world, the demand for energy over the coming 20 years will grow significantly. We must increase the supply of energy if we are to meet the increase in demand. And when we talk of increasing supply, we mean a diversity of supplies, including renewable and alternative sources.

Again, technology and tax incentives will help us as we seek to diversify the ways in which we generate energy in America. Everything from cleaner burning coal to solar and wind power will have to be a part of our energy supply mix in the 21st century. And we are not going to increase supply at the expense of our environment. That’s why, for example, the President’s Energy Plan also includes a proposal to reduce smog and acid rain by establishing mandatory reductions in the emissions of sulfur, nitrogen oxide, and mercury.

We have the ability to develop new supplies in ways that protect our environment and promote our economy. After all, even though since 1973 America’s economy has grown by 126 percent and our energy use has grown by 26 percent, our environment has still gotten significantly cleaner. Anyone who says new supplies equal environmental disaster ignore both the record of the past three decades and the benefits offered by technology. Technology is not the enemy of the environment, it is its ally.

Taken together, all of these measures will enable the United States to meet its energy needs while increasing our energy security. We will be less dependent on foreign sources and more secure in our economic position. In addition, the President’s plan supports the export of American energy technology, so that the other nations of the world can benefit from the work we are doing to increase efficiency, develop alternatives, and accelerate environmental protection.

There are, of course, those who criticize the President’s plan. But having served on the team that put this plan together for the President’s consideration, I strongly believe it provides the direction the United States needs to meet the full-blown energy crisis we will soon face if we don’t act – and act now.

The President’s plan will allow the U.S. to meet its goals of continued environmental protection, continued economic prosperity, and a continued supply of the energy needed to meet future demand. I am optimistic, that by providing technological, economic, and environmental leadership, it will also help our friends and allies around the world meet their own energy challenges in the years ahead.

Thank you.