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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

SOLTECH 98 Orlando, Florida

04/27/1998
Remarks Prepared for Delivery
SOLTECH 98
EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner
Orlando, Florida
 
                        April 27, 1998
                               

     Thank you, Scott, for that introduction.  And thank you for your warm welcome to Soltech 98. I am delighted to be here. And I have to say, I'm always thrilled to be back home in Florida. I applaud Soltech 98, Scott, and the Solar Energy Industries Association, the Utility PhotoVoltaic Group, and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council for this important conference and the fabulous work you are doing to promote renewable energy in this country.

     And thank you to everyone here for all you do to provide the American people with clean, safe, renewable energy. Your efforts are -- and will continue to be -- a critical part of our nation's efforts to protect our environment, our health, and our communities.

     But renewable energy, as you well know, is not only about protecting the environment. It also is about good business -- plain and simple. The fledgling solar industry of the 1970s has truly
begun to shine in the 1990s. When we talk solar today, we're talking big time and fast-growing:

     I think most Americans would be surprised to learn that there are more than 2,000 solar energy companies in the U.S, large and small. There is a 15 to 20 percent annual growth rate in photovoltaic sales. And the multi-billion dollar world market in renewable and energy efficiency technologies is expected to expand to a multi-trillion dollar market in the next 25 years.

     All this means jobs today -- more than 20,000 just from the solar industry.

     The renewables business proves what the President says: environmental protection and economic progress do go hand-in-hand. They are inextricably linked.

     Five years ago, when I came to EPA, the President and Vice President called for a new generation of environmental protection -- one that builds on the successes of the past and meets the challenges of the future.

     In many ways, we have been at this task of environmental protection for 25 plus years. And in that time, we certainly have made tremendous progress. Our rivers and lakes are safer, our air cleaner, our land freer from toxic chemicals.

    But, in some sense, what we have accomplished has been the easy part.  Major environmental and public health challenges still lie ahead. And what makes these challenges especially difficult is that, in many cases, they simply are not as apparent to a large number of Americans. The sources of pollution are harder to identify, the flow of pollution more difficult to follow.

     Air pollution is borne on the wind hundreds, even thousands of miles from its source. The biggest source of water pollution today is not a large industrial factory, but runoff from parking lots, construction sites, cropland, and other urban and rural areas.

     To make progress, we are counting on what has long made this country great -- our creativity, innovation, our ingenuity.  We are rewarding those willing to do more than just an adequate job -- to go further, to push the envelope, and to create new technologies and new ways to prevent pollution.  And we are forging partnerships -- between industries, governments and communities -- partnerships that get the job done.

     Progress also means what all of you here today have proven so well to be true -- that we can find common-sense solutions that both protect our environment and create jobs.

     Today, this nation, and all the nations of the world, are faced with one of the greatest challenges in history -- global warming. Meeting this challenge will test our commitment to environmental and public health protection as never before.

     More than 2,000 of the world's experts on the global environment have told us there is ample evidence that, for the first time in history, pollution from human activities is changing the earth's climate.

     Modern industrial activity -- particularly the burning of fossil fuels -- is filling the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases," which trap the sun's heat and cause the steady, gradual warming of the Earth's surface temperatures.

     The global average surface temperature is now a full degree Fahrenheit higher than it was at the beginning of this century -- and it may rise another two to six degrees over the next century.

     That may not sound like much to many people.  But here's what the scientific community
says it will mean over the course of the next century:

     More frequent and more intense heat waves. Thousands more heat-related deaths. More severe weather, not unlike what we have seen across the Southeast this year. Droughts and floods will become more common. Infectious diseases like malaria will expand their range.  Agriculture will suffer.  And the oceans will rise, perhaps by several feet over the next century -- swamping many coastal areas.     Right here in Florida, the sea is expected to rise 18 to 20 inches by the year 2100. This would flood cities and cropland, and threaten supplies of drinking water. It could cost up to $9 billion  just to replenish the sand eroded away by the rising seas along Florida's coasts. Nine billion to recreate our beautiful white sand beaches.

     We know the science. We know the time has come to act. And we know we can meet this challenge in ways that grow our economy and our competitiveness.

     President Clinton and Vice President Gore have committed this country to lead the nations of the world in making real, significant cuts in the pollution that contributes to global warming.

     To meet this goal, we must chart a new energy future for the nation. We must re-think both how we use energy and what kinds of energy we use.

     Today, two-thirds of our electricity comes from fossil-fuel-fired power plants. These
plants are responsible for roughly:

          one-third of nitrogen oxide emissions, a principal ingredient of smog;
          one-third of fine particulate matter -- or soot;
          and one-third of carbon dioxide emissions, the principal greenhouse gas that causes
          global warming.

     If we are to effectively deal with global warming -- as well as provide the American people with clean, safe, healthy air -- this country must use fossil fuel more efficiently, and renewable energy more frequently.

     President Clinton has proposed a package of research and development initiatives and tax incentives. That's $6.3 billion to help make energy efficiency technologies and renewable energy a part of every American's everyday life.
     
     Already, we have developed partnerships with more than 5,000 U.S. organizations and businesses -- some of the biggest companies in the country -- to use energy more efficiently in everything from our televisions to our computers to the lights in our office buildings.

     Just in 1997, these partnership programs together prevented the release of more than 60 million tons of carbon dioxide. At the same time, these measures saved businesses and consumers more than $1 billion.

    A few weeks ago we took energy efficiency to new heights. We signed up the World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, and the Sears Tower -- some of the nation's largest buildings to be partners in our EPA/Department of Energy Energy Star energy efficiency program for commercial buildings. By spending money on unnecessary energy to operate buildings, U.S. businesses send heat, pollution and money up the smokestack. Almost $25 billion are wasted every year just from commercial buildings.

     The American people want heat for cooking, light in the evenings, a warm home. They do not want more power lines and more pollution. Without a doubt, renewable energy is key to our nation's energy future. In many cases, it is simply the cheapest, easiest, and certainly one of the least polluting ways to provide for many of our nation's energy demands.

     This administration is committed to helping you continue your progress in making renewable energy a competitive, thriving industry in this country   and overseas.

     The President and Vice President have committed to one million solar energy systems on rooftops across the country by the year 2010. To this end, we will marshal our resources   grants, energy purchasing by the federal government, tax incentives, existing and new partnerships with businesses and other levels of government.

     As we work to bring competition to the electricity industry, we will carve a market share for renewables. And we will provide consumers with the right to know about air pollution
emissions from their utilities. When consumers start choosing their energy company, they can ask: What's the source of my home's energy? How polluting is it? What company can supply me with the cheapest, cleanest energy possible? In many cases, renewable energy will be the answer.

     We will look to an international greenhouse gas emissions trading program -- a common-sense system that allows a firm in one country to invest in a project that reduces emissions in another country -- and receive credits for reductions at home.

     This presents a world of opportunity for the renewable energy industry. For example, under a trading program, a U.S. company can build a solar power plant in one country, and then sell in the international marketplace what we call emission credits -- or credits equal to the amount of emissions reduced by this plant. Truly an innovative way to make clean technologies even more attractive investors.

     The possibilities are endless when we work together. We can find ways to meet the challenge of global warming, and at the same time promote strong economic growth.

    Unfortunately, on two fronts, the naysayers are on the march. Some of you may have seen a front-page New York Times story yesterday describing how some in industry are developing a strategy to discredit the immense body of science and confuse the American people about the very real need for timely, sensible action -- all of this in an effort to preserve the status quo and some might say their profits.

     On another front, a budget resolution has passed in the Senate that slashes funding for our efforts to address global warming, and most of the nation's other urgent public health and environmental challenges.

     Some in Congress also would rather try to discredit sound science and scare the public with dire predictions of economic calamity than take responsible, common sense steps to protect public health and the environment. We have seen this with our updated public health clean air standards for soot and smog. We have seen this with tobacco. Time and time again, the claims
proved false, the attacks failed -- but the costs have been high: delayed public health and environmental protections, higher costs, and unnecessary political rancor.

     Now we see it again with global warming.

     These people are on the wrong path.

     Addressing the challenge of global warming is not about ratcheting down our economy. It is about investing in new technologies that make our industries more efficient, more profitable -- and cleaner in the process. It is about developing America's technological leadership -- the kind that you, and other environmental technology industries, demonstrate every day.

     If we have proven anything in the last five years of environmental and public health protection, it is this. Today, we have some of the strongest protections in history, and our economy is soaring.

     Under the leadership of President Clinton and Vice President Gore, we have taken measures to improve our air quality -- the strongest measures in two decades -- that will prevent thousands of premature deaths each year, and improve health protections for people of all ages.

     We're cleaning up more of the nation's hazardous waste dumps -- in fact, more in the last four years than in the previous 12 years combined.  

     We are helping cities redevelop abandoned industrial properties.

     We have enacted new laws to protect the public, especially our children, from contaminants in our drinking water and harmful pesticides in our food.     Over the past five years, we have proved that you can have strong environmental protection and still have robust economic growth and prosperity.  When it comes to global
warming, we can do it again: building partnerships between governments, communities, and industries -- including the solar industry -- to get the job done.

     We owe it to our children -- to all the children of the world -- to give it our best effort.  

     Thank you.