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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks at the Richard Stockton College Energy Symposium, As Prepared

02/22/2012
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As prepared for delivery.

It is wonderful to be back in New Jersey with all of you. Thank you for inviting me to be a part of this event today and welcoming me to this very beautiful campus. I say that as someone who did some learning in the environment of this state – as a student in chemical engineering at Princeton learning about water protection and ecosystems – I know the extraordinary educational value these surroundings can have. So I thank you for showing how beautiful this state can be, for giving your students the irreplaceable opportunity to learn in and explore the 400 acres you have, and for no doubt inspiring them to see the stake they have in a healthy and protected environment and to carry that with them into their lives beyond this school.

Congratulations to President Saatkamp and the entire Stockton College community on your 40th anniversary. I hope you’re enjoying celebrating everything that has happened here over the last four decades – and looking ahead to another 40 years. The EPA recently hit the same milestone – our agency was created at the end of 1970, just before Stockton was formed. We had the chance to look back over a range of accomplishments in the last 40 years: restoring thousands of waterbodies, cutting harmful air pollution by more than half, all while the US GDP grew more than 200 percent. I say that by way of pointing out that this school, in its 40 year history, has become one of the many educational institutions around the country that is advancing the science and producing the talented people that the environmental movement and the EPA have relied on for 40 years and continue to rely on today. The work you are doing is going to be even more important as we look ahead to the next 40 years. Which brings me to our discussion today.

As I was thinking about the milestones and considering our topic today, I realized that this is probably the most interesting time in the last 40 years to talk about the future of energy. There are things happening today that were science fiction when EPA and Stockton opened their doors. We have historic investment, innovation and implementation of clean energy technology throughout the public and private sectors, we are taking great strides in energy efficiency to ensure that we are getting the most out of the power we produce, and we are seeing new businesses opening their doors and hiring workers in communities across the nation.

And at a time when we are throwing open the doors of these new possibilities, we also face incredible challenges. We still have progress to make in cleaning our air – especially when it comes to the carbon pollution that is changing our climate. We also must find ways to accommodate continued growth, and build sustainable communities. Just a few years ago we reached a point at which more people on the planet are living in urban areas than in rural communities. As we look ahead to the next 40 years, the vast majority of people added to the global population will be born in cities. Not only do we have to find a way to produce the energy needed for billions more people, but we have to find efficient, effective ways to deliver that energy on the grid. With all of this in mind, our most immediate concern is the need to revitalize the American economy. We have an urgent need to continue creating jobs, and to increase the pace of job creation as we recover from the historic downturn that began in 2008.

Since the day he took office, President Obama has been clear that we need to do more to create jobs and foster economic growth. Thanks to actions taken by this administration, the economy is growing again. The US has added a total of 3.2 million private sector jobs over the last 22 months, American manufacturing is creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s, and the American auto industry is coming back – while developing fuel efficient vehicles to save drivers money and cut pollution from our skies. This is a good start, and we have to ensure we keep moving ahead. What we can’t do is go back to an economy based on outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits.

That’s why last month President Obama provided a blueprint for creating an economy that’s built to last. His blueprint was founded on four pillars: revitalized American manufacturing, more affordable education and a fair shot for American workers, a renewal of the American values that have made us both a land of opportunity and an economic superpower, and a new era of American energy innovation and production.

Obviously, the energy pillar is the most relevant today. But I believe that all of the four pillars – from manufacturing to education to renewing our values – are connected. For example, we want to make American manufacturing facilities more efficient, more sustainable and more cost-effective, giving American companies incentives to keep jobs on our shores and make their products here. The EPA has a program called E3, for “Economy, Energy, Environment” that is specifically designed to help manufacturers excel on all three of those fronts.

Another pillar is built on A Fair Shot for American Workers. We want to ensure that students and workers get the education and training they need. President Obama has outlined plans to connect our colleges to specific industries in need of new workers, and to help small businesses get up and running. He also proposed extending support for students paying down their student loans, and urged Congress to reform an immigration system that allows immigrants to come to the US and get educated – and then tells them they can’t stay once they’re finished. All of these things are vital to our energy future. If we are going to have an innovative energy sector, then we need to make sure we are producing the best innovators in our schools. And we need to make sure they have a chance to put their ideas to work here in the US.

Third, we have been urging a return to American Values – values of fairness for all, and responsibility from all. It is critical to our economic success that everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules. This is a place where the EPA has an important role to fill. Our mission day in and day out is to protect the health of the American people by keeping pollution out of the air we breathe, keeping toxins out of the water we drink, and keeping harmful chemicals out of the lands where we build our homes and our communities. It is consistent with American values to say that industry should not be allowed to dump untreated sewage into waters we use for the shower or to make a cup of coffee. It is consistent with those values to say that automobiles should meet standards that keep dangerous lead pollution out of our air, and that – as a rule EPA finalized last year says – power plants should have commonsense limits placed on their emissions of mercury, a neurotoxin that affects children’s brain development. As the president said in his State of the Union address, we “won’t back down from protecting our kids from mercury pollution, or making sure that our food is safe and our water is clean.” The fact is, we cannot create an economy that is built to last by putting our nation into a race to the bottom for the weakest health protections and the most loopholes in our environmental policies.

The alternative is to foster broad innovations in American Energy. The president has made clear his intention to use every possible tool to foster a new era for American energy. We have called for an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy – a strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs. Over the past few years, renewable energy use has nearly doubled. In 2011, the United States reclaimed the position as the world’s leading investor in clean energy. But staying on top will depend on smart, aggressive actions.

A new era of American energy means more than solar panels or increased use of cleaner natural gas. One good example is our work with the auto industry to make vehicles more efficient. Last year the EPA took part in setting clear, national standards for fuel economy in American vehicles. That effort will cut our oil consumption by billions of barrels, allowing us to import less. It will also keep pollution out of our skies and save drivers more than a trillion dollars at the gas pump. That change has also sparked innovation throughout the auto industry and its supply chain – from companies developing components to innovators making advanced batteries. In North Carolina an advanced battery company called Celgard recently hired 200 employees and is adding 250 more. They are one of many companies operating in the US that have dramatically increased our global market share for advanced batteries. Another example is the company Alcoa, which will be investing $300 million in an aluminum rolling facility in Davenport, Iowa to meet anticipated demand for their aluminum from the auto industry. Their investment is going to create 150 new jobs. I saw another example in Seattle at a local company called EnerG2 that is working to enhance energy storage capacity for batteries, and another example at a company called Mission Motors that uses green manufacturing techniques to build power trains for automobiles. They are doubling the size of their local workforce in San Francisco. These are just a few of the companies creating new products and new opportunities in the energy sector. They are examples of why the president made American Energy a pillar of our long term growth. They are an illustration of why – as I said – this is the most interesting time in decades to be talking about our energy future.

I’m proud to serve a President who has said that we can’t wait on these issues. I’m proud to serve a President who knows that EPA’s health protections are vital to the American people – and that the choice between our economy and our environment is a false choice. And I’m proud to serve in an administration that is committed to an economy that’s built to last. As President Obama said: no challenge is more urgent; and no debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while more Americans barely get by. Or we can build a nation where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.

In this make or break moment for the middle class, we have great opportunities to serve the American people and strengthen our future. A strategy to grow our economy by simply doing less is not sufficient to the challenges we face. It is not how we meet the needs of the people we serve. We are committed to a new era of American energy – and we are counting on the people in this room to help us get there. We need the companies, the innovators, the educators and the students who are going to see this effort through to step up. That is why I’m excited to see you all here today to move this effort forward, and I’m glad to be with you. Thank you very much.