Open for Questions: Earth Day from the South Lawn

Uploaded by whitehouse on 21.04.2011

Sahar Wali: Good afternoon. Happy Earth Day!
And welcome to today's Live Facebook Chat with White House
Council and Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley;
and Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy
and Climate Change, Heather Zichal.
Today we'll be taking your questions live.
You can submit your questions by visiting
I'll now turn it over to Chair Sutley.
Chair Sutley: Well, thank you, and it's great to be here with all of you on
the South Lawn of the White House.
And you can see the preparations for the Easter Egg Roll are well underway.
And we are very glad to be here and glad to be joined
by my colleague and my friend Heather Zichal.
We're here today because it's Earth Day.
And, you know, we all share this small blue planet.
And on Earth Day, you know, we need to challenge ourselves to
make a positive difference through community service and
responsible stewardship of our environment.
Protecting our planet is an ongoing effort that calls
on every American to take action on behalf of the communities and
the places that matter most to all of us.
Millions of Americans over the years have heeded that call.
As a country, we've made tremendous progress through
the protections in our Clean Air Act and our Clean Water Act.
And more recently in the actions that have been highlighted in
the President's America's Great Outdoors Initiative.
These initiatives and these programs ensure the protection
and preservation of our most precious resources: The air that
we breathe, the water that we drinking and the outdoor places
that we enjoy.
Our efforts don't stop there and they can't stop there.
When it comes to the environment,
we have to think about the future and the legacy that we
leave for the next generation and the generations after that.
You know, the truth is the effects we see and feel every
day from the impacts of climate change and the overuse of our
natural resources our world is changing.
So the question we have to ask ourselves is,
will we lead this new world by transitioning to a clean energy
economy or will we leave the world behind?
We can't be left behind.
We have to seize and invest in innovation and opportunities
today and ensure that our world offers a more healthy,
sustainable and better future for generations to come.
That's why the Obama Administration has made historic
investments in clean energy that will create the jobs of tomorrow
and a secure foundation for long-term economic growth.
Earth Day has become more than just a date on a calendar.
Communities across our country are coming together.
So I hope you'll continue to make every single day Earth Day.
And so I look forward to answering your questions.
Sahar Wali: Heather?
Heather Zichal: Thank you. And thanks for the opportunity to join you today.
On this Earth Day 2011 there are many issues on our environmental
agenda that are front and center.
One of those happens to be our energy policy.
The President today spoke specifically about our nation's
energy policy and certainly gas prices are on everybody's mind
today: The pain that consumers are feeling at the pump.
And what the President said today is that while there is
no short-term and immediate fix, what we can do is make sure that
we don't end up in this problem again.
To that end he's outlined an aggressive plan to transition
to a clean energy economy.
It involves three key components: One,
reducing our dependence on oil; two,
investing in a clean energy future including alternatives
to oil, natural gas and biofuels; and, three,
doubling down on our efficiency across the board.
Things that we do to increase the efficiency of our fleet
but also our homes and commercial businesses.
The last thing I wanted to highlight today is just,
you know, in line with the Administration's ongoing
commitment to ensure consumer protection,
Attorney General Holder today announced formation of an Oil
and Gas Price Fraud Working Group.
This working group will be looking for potential violations
of criminal or civil laws to safeguard against unlawful
consumer harm.
This is an important step that the Administration
announced today.
And with that, I think we're ready for your questions.
Sahar Wali: Great. I'll turn to our first question which comes from Tammy
Cochran and she asks: Why can't the government go green and save
tons of money?
Chair Sutley: Well, that's a great question.
And the government is working hard to make itself greener so
that we can save money, save taxpayers money,
and protect the planet at the same time.
President Obama asked and challenged all of the federal
government to really set very aggressive goals for reducing
energy use, increasing the use of renewable energy,
to make our buildings greener, to reduce water use and to
reduce waste.
And so I'm happy to report that the federal government is making
great progress on these, on working towards these goals
of reducing our energy use and increasing our use of
renewable energy.
And just yesterday, or two days ago,
we released scorecards that grade the progress that agencies
are making in greening the federal government.
And you can see those scorecards at
Sahar Wali: Heather?
Heather Zichal: I think, you know, Nancy said it best,
that the Administration believes investing in efficiency and
green clean energy solutions saves money across the board and
that's why we've spent so much time and effort in that space.
Sahar Wali: Great. Our next question comes from Denise Martin who's asking:
Why can't we put a greenhouse or a garden on the lawn of the
White House where we are sitting to make it a symbol of green?
Chair Sutley: Well, the First Lady has brought back the garden on the White
House lawn so and it produces food that the White House uses.
And it's all part of an effort to show Americans,
remind Americans how we can make healthy food and our communities
healthier and greener by using things like community gardens.
So all across America you see more and more farmers markets
and more and more access for people to healthy food and food
that's grown locally which also has the benefit of reducing the
environmental footprint of producing that food.
So we have a lovely green lawn here today and a lovely garden
just close by.
Sahar Wali: Our next question comes from Kimberly Autrey who asks that
we please talk about how we are going to invest in more electric
recharging stations and will offer incentives to those who
wish to buy electric cars.
Heather Zichal: Well, thanks for your question.
The President set a bold but achievable goal of having a
million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.
In order to achieve that goal there are a handful of things
we need to do.
The Administration, from the beginning,
has been investing in charging stations throughout the country.
That funding came through the Recovery Act and we built on
those investments through the budget,
the President's budget proposal for FY12.
The second important thing that we're doing is trying to help
bring the costs for consumers of those new advance technology
vehicles down by supporting tax credits for consumers.
Sahar Wali: Great. Our next question comes from Vicky Washington who says
she would like to get into the business of going green.
How can she get started?
Chair Sutley: Well, I think there are lots of resources for people who want to
go into business and go green and one great way is through the
Small Business Administration that has resources available
for people who are getting in to small businesses and
who want to go green.
Also lots of local communities have resources available.
But I think, and then the last thing I'd say is the federal
government is trying to go green as well in how it buys
goods and services.
And so the General Services Administration and the Small
Business Administration are working together to help the
federal government's own suppliers become greener and
find more business opportunities in green businesses.
But I'd have to say also that it's a really a terrific time
and a terrific opportunity at this time in our country
to be going green.
There are huge opportunities as the clean energy economy grows
and really great opportunities to invest in our communities and
to grow jobs here at home.
Heather Zichal: And just to build on that, I think there are a number of
programs in the federal government through even the
Department of Energy and USDA where they're grant and loan
programs that are helping small businesses across the country
invest in the clean energy technologies of the future and
helping break dependence on oil while we're bringing prices down
for consumers.
Sahar Wali: Wonderful. I want to remind folks to ask your questions
live please go to
and submit your questions at the Facebook page.
Let's take our next question, this one comes from Katie Roehas
John who asks: Do you think we can make our communities
healthier and greener by curbing the use of toxic chemicals?
Chair Sutley: Well, there are now more and more products available for
communities, for people to use in their homes that are less
toxic that reduce toxic, the exposure to toxic chemicals
in your home or in your school, in your community.
There are practices, for example,
for what are called integrated pest management which are
available around the country to help deal with, you know,
pest problems and taking care of your lawn in a greener and more
environmentally friendly way.
There's a lot of resources that are available from the
Environmental Protection Agency at and from
your state and local environmental agencies.
But there's real -- there are lots of alternatives available
and also practices that you can take,
simple practice that you can take in your own home to reduce
the amount of toxic chemicals you use.
Other things you can could to reduce your
energy usage at home.
Reduce your water use at home.
And it's a great way for people to contribute to their own
families and their own communities.
Sahar Wali: Great. The next question goes back to energy and,
sitting in the sunshine, talks about solar energy.
The question is from Ron Zamora and he asks: When will we make
solar energy affordable to the average customer?
Heather Zichal: The Administration has made significant investments in
solar energy.
Specifically at the Department of Energy we have a number of
research and development programs that are every
day working to improve the solar technology,
bringing the costs down and improving the technology.
The second piece of that is through
manufacturing incentives.
The President's budget included a program known as 48C which
doesn't have the most exciting name in the world but it's a
very important program that allows us to develop the
capacity domestically to manufacture solar panels
around the country bringing this technology to homes and
businesses across the country and helping bring down the cost
for consumers as well as bringing down the emissions
and saving, improving the carbon footprint of our
homes and businesses.
Sahar Wali: Nancy?
Chair Sutley: Well, there are, in addition to the programs that are available,
there's also for, in many states,
there are rebate programs and programs to help make solar
more available, easily available to homeowners.
And last October we announced that we would be putting solar
panels back on the most famous house in America,
the one that's right behind us, the White House.
We're working hard to get that done and that will help to show,
I think, the ordinary house/homeowner that solar,
solar energy, you know, has applications everywhere,
including their own homes.
Sahar Wali: Great. Let's turn a question about our oceans.
Ted Bola asks: What are you doing to confront our
plastic-polluted ocean problem?
Chair Sutley: Well, we know our oceans are very much under stress.
And we know how much our country and our planet depends on our
oceans for, not only for fish and for recreation,
but for security and navigation,
commerce, and important environmental functions
that our oceans provide.
And so we take the challenges that are confronting our ocean
being, you know, pollution and climate change, overfishing,
very seriously.
And the President last year asked us to do a
couple of things.
One was to develop a national ocean policy that states the
goals of the U.S. in preserving and protecting our ocean and
marine resources.
And it boils down to that healthy oceans matter.
And then also for us to work together, all the agencies,
all the agencies across the federal government who have
a piece of, have some piece of their programs that affect the
oceans to work together on a number of priority issues,
including pollution that comes off of the land into the water.
That's the source of a lot of the plastic pollution;
that's a big problem.
So we're working very hard on that.
And also to try to understand sort of what the uses of the
ocean are and how we can make sure that there are
not conflicts, that we're not having, for example,
energy development in sensitive fisheries and to make sure that,
you know, our navigation and our security needs are being met.
But the oceans are very important for many communities
around our country.
They are very important for our economy and they are very
important for our relations with other countries.
So we're working hard to make sure our oceans are protected
and healthy.
Sahar Wali: Thanks, Nancy. The next question comes from Heather Lewis.
And she's asking, she's been looking forward to the day when
she can buy a hydrogen car that runs on a fuel
cell and not the power grid.
Earlier this week she heard the Administration may not
be supporting hydrogen and favoring plug-in cars.
Can you please discuss the reasons, if this is true,
and how is increasing energy usage better for our dependence
on fossil fuels as opposed to hydrogen cells?
Heather Zichal: Thank you for your question.
The Administration is investing across the board in a number of
different technologies to help bring lower-cost solutions to
consumers, to help alleviate the pain at the pump,
but also to invest in a wide array of technologies.
You know, specifically for our cars and trucks,
one of the most important things that we know the Administration
can do is to increase the efficiency overall.
That's why one of the first initiatives of the President
after coming into office was to direct the Department of
Transportation and the EPA to come up with a new proposed
standard for model year 2012 to 2016 cars and
trucks to increase the efficiency.
A more efficient car means every time you're going to the gas
pump you're pumping less gas and you have a lower bill.
So it's a good thing all around.
And the President's proposal and the new car standards,
we call it the National Car Program, over the life of the
program, will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil.
And that's about 3,000, an average of $3,000
for a consumer.
So, you know, we are out there every day working on solutions
to tackle gas prices.
And, you know, whether it's a natural gas vehicle,
a more efficient plug-in vehicle or a hydrogen car,
across the board we know we need to invest in a wide array
of technology so we're not just dependent on oil.
Sahar Wally: Thank you, Heather.
Our next question comes from Jenkins Williams.
And he's asking: What is the federal government doing about
traffic-related air pollution?
Heather Zichal: Well, so, it's a great question and I think one that dovetails
very well with the program that I just talked about,
the program to increase the efficiency of the cars.
When a car and truck is more efficient that means you've got
less pollution.
So the most point thing we can do we are doing.
That's improving the efficiency.
And the other exciting thing is that it doesn't end with just
our cars and light-duty trucks.
The Administration is working and will this summer announce
a final rule for medium and heavy-duty trucks so a new
efficiency standard.
And it's the first time that any administration
has ever done that.
Chair Sutley: Well, in addition to the fuel efficiency standards and the car
standards, truck standards, the Administration is also investing
in how we move around in general.
So things like investing in mass transit that will help give
consumers choices, more choices of how they get around but also
help to reduce air pollution and also investing more
sustainable communities.
We think about how our, how so many communities are dependent
on cars to get around.
If we, as communities can develop more sustainably,
there will be, you know, there will be fewer cars driving
around and less pollution and more opportunities for
biking and walking.
And so the Administration is making big investments
in sustainable communities as well.
Sahar Wali: Thank you.
Our next question comes from Frank Tellez who is asking
questions about bicycles and saying how about a rebate
program for adult bikes?
Heather Zichal: Well, I think we'll have to take up your recommendation
with Secretary Lahood.
But I think, you know, what is important is that,
and the point here that is that we need to be using any and all
modes of transportation and certainly bikes are
a great opportunity.
I wish I was riding my bike today.
But we will definitely take your recommendation
to Secretary Lahood.
And, you know, certainly the Department of Transportation
is doing lot as they think about new policies to promote livable
communities in the planning process.
Chair Sutley: And we see lots of communities around the country finding new
ways to encourage people to use other forms of transportation,
including biking.
Right here in Washington there's a great bike-share program.
There are communities across the country that have those kinds of
bike-share programs and they make it really easy to get
around a city by bicycle.
Sahar Wali: Great. Vinnie Amendolare asks: What are every day things that
every day Americans can do to make the largest impact
on our environment?
Chair Sutley: Well, I think the biggest thing that Americans can do is also
what's really good for them which is to save energy.
You know, our energy use has a huge impact on our environment.
It has a huge impact on our pocketbooks.
And it has a huge impact on our national security and our need
to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
And so there are simple things that everyone can do in addition
to the, you know, the programs that the federal government and
others are doing to invest in, you know,
research and development and to deploy new technologies that
will help save energy, but things like a program we call
Recovery Through Retrofit looking at what will help
consumers make simple changes to their houses to make them more
energy efficient by providing them more information about how
their homes use energy, simple tools to help to finance energy
efficiency retrofits and training for workers.
And then there are just the simple things we can all do by,
you know, walking or biking more.
You know, just using more energy efficient,
energy star products in our homes,
whether it's big things like refrigerators or just even
the lightbulbs that we use.
So there's lots of things people can do.
But the best thing they can do is to save energy.
Sahar Wali: Great. Our next question comes from Nancy Ambers Massar who's
asking: Can policy be strengthened to favor American
business that is in competition with foreign corporations that
do not operate according to current regulations?
Heather Zichal: Well, what gets at the root of the question is America's
ability to compete.
And just, I think, a little over a week ago,
Pugh issued a report that showed that America is behind China and
India in terms of its investment in clean energy.
And looking at the budget, and the President spoke to
this today, the budget proposal from the Republicans cuts those
energy investments by 70%.
That means we're going to have fewer jobs and we're going to,
you know, we're jeopardizing our ability to reclaim America as
the clean energy leader of the world.
So our budget is very focused on making sure that America remains
competitive and that we're creating the jobs of the clean
energy future here in America.
Sahar Wali: Great. Our next question is from Bobby D.
He says: Several states, including New York,
have started implementing no landfill policies regarding
electronic waste or e-waste.
Are you in favor of a U.S. government e-waste and no
landfill policy for federal government electronic waste?
If so, how and when would it be implemented?
Chair Sutley: So, that's a great question.
The federal government is a very large consumer of a whole bunch
of things and we have lots of electronic equipment,
whether computers and other appliances.
And we know this is a big problem for communities across
the country about how much of this waste is
going into our landfills.
So last -- a few months ago we asked the General Services
Administration, which is the buyer of many things for the
federal government, and the EPA, to develop recommendations about
how the federal government can reduce its contribution
to e-waste.
So that ought to be coming out very soon.
But also, the other thing I wanted to say is that, you know,
the President has challenged the federal government to lead,
to be a leader in sustainability.
To lead by example.
And so one of the important pieces of leading by example
is reducing the waste that the federal government produces
because if we don't produce the waste it doesn't have to go to
a landfill and that's a lot easier on our environment
and on our communities.
And I think the federal government is doing pretty well
but there is also more we can do in coming up with and a strategy
that will help us manage our own electronic waste as well
as providing opportunities for public/private partnerships to
reduce electronic waste is something that's going to be
very important for us going forward.
Sahar Wally: Great. And it looks like we've got time for a couple more
questions here so I'm going to take one from Patricia Milenie
who asks: How does the Obama Administration propose to
protect people with asthma and other respiratory diseases from
air pollution?
Heather Zichal: So, the Administration -- obviously a lot of what's
going to help address the health impacts is through
investing in clean energy.
But another important tool ensuring our ability to do
that is to protect the Clean Air Act.
This is a tool that for decades has protected public health and
the environment.
And just last year alone saved 160,000 lives.
The Administration is committed to,
despite some attempts to rollback those protections,
is committed to a strong Clean Air Act.
And that's a tool that also allows us the opportunity to
put new rules in place to reduce harmful pollution like mercury
and other air toxics.
Chair Sutley: We've seen the benefits that the Clean Air Act has brought
to our cities.
My hometown of Los Angeles, California,
used to have almost over 300 days a year where the air was
so polluted it didn't meet health standards,
and now it's really a handful of days.
But certainly there's more that we can do.
The Clean Air Act, as Heather said,
has been a tremendous tool with great benefits for Americans.
The EPA just released a peer review report that said,
you know, over the period from starting 1990 and projected out
to 2020, that the benefits in terms of improved health,
improved productivity, and the health of our communities,
the benefits of the Clean Air Act outweigh the cost
by 30 times.
And that's a pretty good investment for our country
and for the health of our communities.
Sahar Wali: Great. And I think we've got time for one last question.
This question comes from Pauline Villinger and she's asking: I've
been hearing about using methane gas from trash for
fuel and electricity.
Why aren't all of the landfills in the U.S.
adopting this technology?
Trash is plentiful and it would create more green jobs.
Heather Zichal: Well, I think the EPA has a specific program called the
Methane To Markets Program that is helping create energy through
methane at landfills and obviously that's
incredibly important.
And what the Administration is focused on is improving
our ability to generate clean electricity across the board.
That's why during the State of the Union,
the President proposed a clean energy standard of 80% by 2035.
And the cool thing about a clean energy standard is that
it allows you to take a number of energy sources,
we're not picking winners or losers,
we're taking all of those clean energy sources,
whether that's clean coal or wind,
in helping us achieve that goal while we're reducing greenhouse
gas emissions and creating jobs.
Chair Sutley: Well, and I think as part of a clean energy standard,
things like, you know, land -- generating electricity from
landfill gases there is tremendous possibilities
for benefits for our communities.
You know, these landfills are located around the country and
it gives the people, the cities and the communities
an opportunity to basically turn trash to cash by using
the gas that's generated out of those landfills to generate
electricity and sell electricity or use the
electricity themselves and save money.
And so we see communities across the country taking advantage of
those opportunities in landfills and other sources of methane gas
in their communities.
Sahar Wally: Great. Before wrapping up let's answer one more question asking
if it's possible to install solar panels on public schools
in the United States?
Heather Zichal: Well, it's certainly possible and something that the
Administration is looking to provide new incentives to do.
The great thing about installing solar panels is not only do you
have all the jobs you create while you're actually
constructing the solar panel and installing it,
but for many schools that are dealing with budget constraints,
the investment of solar power allows schools across the
country to cut energy rates because you're generating
your electricity from the sun.
So it's a great investment across the board and something
that we're committed to doing.
Sahar Wali: Great. I want to thank everyone for joining us today with this
Live Facebook Chat in honor of Earth Day with Heather Zichal,
Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate
Change; and White House Council Chair on Environmental Quality,
Nancy Sutley.