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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks at the 2010 Washington Auto Show, As Prepared

As prepared for delivery.

I’m proud to be here with you to help launch the Advanced Technology Superhighway. It’s my honor to join you in celebrating the future of this industry, and the next stage of innovation in the cars we drive.

Ever since we have had an automobile industry, it has been a definitive part of American life. We have a romance with our cars and trucks that is unlike anything else. That was something that was brought to light as I was preparing to speak here. I realized that – like most people who have to give speeches and public statements – I tend to rely heavily on automobile metaphors. At EPA, we’re always driving important initiatives…or accelerating our efforts. We talk about “roadmaps to progress” and “the road ahead.” It has not been easy to decide what I want to say without being able to rely on those old standbys. But it helped to underscore just how important automobiles are to who we are…to our history…to our way of life…and certainly to our economy.

Now – for people in my business, this has not always been an easy situation. There have been disagreements over the years between the auto industry and the people who work to protect our health and our environment. We have had debates on everything from the introduction of catalytic converters decades ago – to the tightened smog rules we proposed at EPA earlier this month. Again and again, we have seen situations in which our environmental concerns are weighed against – and often outweighed by – our economic concerns. That history helps us see why it is so critical for us to work together today. It helps us to see that the choice between our environment and our economy is a false choice. It presents us with unprecedented opportunities for collaboration – and not a moment too soon.

As a nation, we are still working to pull ourselves up and out of the most severe economic downturn since World War II. That downturn hit the automobile industry harder than most, and has affected everything from jobs in Detroit to dealerships across the country. Working to rebuild the auto industry has been part of rebuilding our entire economy.

The President’s Recovery Act has cut taxes for the vast majority of middle class families and provided resources to local governments so they can keep teachers, fire fighters and police officers in their jobs. It has helped EPA invest in critical water infrastructure projects, clean diesel retrofits, brownfields cleanups and more. Those investments don’t just create jobs. They leave our communities clean and healthier – better places to buy a home or set up a business. That is exactly what President Obama means when he talks about building a new foundation for prosperity. The economy is growing again. But there is much work to be done to keep it growing – and growing faster.

At the same time, our planet is confronting a rapidly changing climate. A report released last week confirmed that the last decade was the warmest decade on record. We know that our global transportation sector has played a part in bringing us to this point – and that changing our business as usual practices will be vital to saving our planet. That is especially true when we consider that the growing economies in India and China are putting more and more cars on the road everyday. That presents a tremendous opportunity to engage those marketplaces. It also serves as a strong imperative to get the clean car innovations in this room out on the roads.

Fortunately, we have one solution that addresses our economic challenges at the same time it accelerates our urgent work to protect our environment. That solution is a growing green economy. In the last 12 months, President Obama has rapidly accelerated our investments in the green economy. The world is engaged in an unprecedented race for clean energy – with economic and environmental urgency. The United States is working to lead the globe in clean energy innovation, so that we can create jobs and reduce the dependence on foreign oil that threatens our economy and our national security. Energy investments in the Recovery Act have sparked job-creating solar projects in Florida, wind energy development in Michigan, and a solar plant in California. We’ve initiated the first steps toward building a national smart grid to efficiently deliver our clean American energy supply, and created new standards for efficiency in a range of everyday, household products. The President has pledged to double our nation’s use of renewable energy in his first three years. And we have committed $150 billion over the next decade to clean energy. We’re also working with Congress to pass a strong clean energy and climate bill. That bill will fight climate change and send a clear signal to American innovators and entrepreneurs – people like you – that it’s time to get to work on clean energy technology.

A thriving green economy can create millions of jobs for American workers – jobs in everything from manufacturing and construction to clean energy installation and maintenance to research and development. These are good jobs – jobs that can’t be sent overseas. They employ local workers, and they help to build a strong foundation for our future growth.

I’m bringing this message to you because I believe that your industry has the potential to lead our entire economy into a new era of green prosperity. Your sector is in pole position at the starting line for our growing green economy. Unleashing the range of innovations shown here; expanding consumer choice; and moving the automobile industry into the 21st century green economy can show every other sector how that change happens. That is why we have worked to strengthen the American auto industry in these difficult times, and laid foundations for a strong, sustainable future.

As I said, the Recovery Act features investments in a nationwide smart grid – an essential part of the necessary infrastructure for plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. Along with that, we have made significant investments in the development of innovative battery technology, so that they can perform on the same level with the combustion engine. We’ve initiated millions of dollars in clean diesel retrofits for school buses, municipal fleets, port and rail yard machinery and other vehicles – and invested in new research to enhance those technologies. And EPA has taken a major step towards green jobs, energy independence, and cleaner air with a proposal to increase use of advanced renewable biofuels. We are currently reviewing the best way forward there.

Most importantly – last May we gathered together at the White House with President Obama, auto makers, auto workers, governors from across the country, and others to announce an historic clean cars program. That program was developed in coordination with industry members and environmental advocates. They found common ground for solutions to boost our economy and protect our health and environment. The clean cars program gives automakers the certainty they need to invest in far-reaching innovation. At the same time, it will reduce our foreign oil consumption by some 1.8 billion barrels, save American drivers thousands of dollars, and cut emissions linked to deadly and costly illness.

And we continue to seek out new innovation. I’ve seen groundbreaking developments in clean car technologies across the country – everywhere from EPA’s cutting-edge National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, to a high school in West Philadelphia. Engineers at EPA's lab in Ann Arbor have designed and patented diesel hydraulic hybrid delivery vehicle technology. This clean, efficient technology has shown greenhouse gas reductions of up to 40 percent – and fuel efficiency increases of 55 to 70 percent. We've worked with industry partners like UPS, Eaton and the Army to commercialize those advances.

In West Philadelphia, I met with a team of high school students that have built a hybrid car. Their vehicle – developed and built by teenagers from the low-income neighborhoods around West Philly High – is outperforming cars built by universities and private companies. They are making a very strong showing in the Progressive X Automotive prize – with a top prize of $10 million. Consider this fair warning you about those young people. They are hot on your heels. And make no mistake – they get it. When I met with the team last year, they talked to me about how they didn’t want to just build a car that would meet their ambitious energy goals. They’re not just trying to win the contest. They’re working on a car that people will want to buy. One that they can afford to buy. They’re not just thinking about the judges at the X Prize. They’re also thinking about their friends and families in West Philly – who would benefit the most from lower fuel costs and less harmful emissions.

They know – just as you and I do – that this is a game changing moment. 2009 marked the fifth straight year we’ve seen increases in the average fuel economy for cars and light trucks. American car buyers are looking for vehicles that burn cleaner, burn less fuel, and aren’t going to burn a hole in their wallets.

Clean car innovation is essential to fighting climate change. It is the key to cutting health risks and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Clean car innovation is the basis of new auto industry jobs. And it is the first step to broad-based clean technology innovation for our entire economy. We are just getting moving on the Advanced Technology Superhighway. It’s up to our entrepreneurs and innovators to take the next steps. It’s time to push the pedal to the floor – whether it’s battery powered; hybrid engine; natural gas, clean diesel or biofueled. We look forward to working with you to accelerate those innovations and more – to build our economy, to protect our health, to clean up our air, and to ensure the future of our planet. Thank you very much.