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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Stephen L. Johnson
Stephen L. Johnson
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

February 8, 2007

Stephen L. Johnson
Good afternoon, everyone. It is a pleasure to join you once again on this forum to discuss America's environmental progress.

These are truly exciting times for our nation's environment. America's air, water and land are cleaner today than they were just a generation ago. And under the Bush Administration this progress continues.

Since EPA was created over 36 years ago, we have laid a strong foundation to shift America into a "green" culture. Today, instead of just EPA employees working to protect the environment, we now have over 300 million Americans as environmental partners.

Americans have begun to embrace the fact that environmental responsibility is everyone's responsibility. At the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we are working to educate citizens and provide everyone the tools to make a real difference in their environment.

With that, I'm happy to get to your questions.

Aleman, from Baton Rouge writes:
What measures are being taken to stimulate the balance between emvironmental protection and economic development? What role does "renewables" factor into this equation?

Stephen L. Johnson
Renewable fuel is a great example of where environmental protection and economic growth can advance hand in hand. In his State of the Union Address, the President announced his goal to put America on track to produce 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in just 10 years. Our nation is too reliant on foreign sources of energy, and by promoting fuel produced from homegrown crops, we can jump off this treadmill of dependency.

In addition to being good for our energy security and good for our economy, renewable fuel is good for our environment because it produces fewer air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions.

Hunter, from 4th Grade Saranac Elem School Saranac New York writes:
I am in 4th grade and I am very worried about global warming. I want my future to be safe. What is our country doing to help? Why don't we have laws that make car makers make cars that use less gas? Why doesn't our government help people who have other ways to make energy invent them? My class is trying to help out. What can we do? We will write to children all around the country and world and ask them for help too.Hunter

Stephen L. Johnson
It’s encouraging to see even our youngest residents eager to make a difference for their environment.

The President is concerned about the effects of climate change as well. Which is why, since 2001, the Bush Administration has invested more than $29 billion to study climate change science, promote energy-efficient and carbon dioxide-reducing technologies, and fund tax incentive programs. That’s more than any other country in the world. And just last month, the President laid out a plan to increase the fuel efficiency of America’s cars.

But there are things that each and every one of us can do to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses we emit in our daily activities – commonly referred to as our “carbon footprint.” Small things like swapping out a traditional light bulb with an energy-efficient bulb, taking public transportation instead of driving a car, or purchasing Energy Star appliances such as TV’s or computers that use less energy are ways each of us can reduce our carbon footprint.

You’d be surprised how quickly the results add up. In 2005 alone, by using Energy Star products, American’s saved $12 billion on their energy bills and prevented the release of greenhouse gases equivalent to 23 million cars – that’s the number of all the cars in the state of California and Illinois combined.

Tracey, from Michigan writes:
Hello,As a Michigander, I am very concerned about the protection of inland lakes. What kind of things has the EPA accomplished in recent years to safeguard our fresh waters? Thank you for taking the time and answering questions in this online forum.

Stephen L. Johnson
Thanks for your question, Tracey. Lakes are a vital resource for both the health of our environment and the health of many local economies.

Inland lakes can be impacted by several different types of pollutants, including nutrients from things like fertilizer, human or animal waste and toxic chemicals. These pollutants can increase the growth of algae, kill fish and make people sick. For years, EPA has been working with our state and local partners to put in place water quality standard regulations to protect and restore waters impacted by pollution.

President Bush is focused on restoring and protecting our lakes, including some of our nation’s more important environmental treasures – the Great Lakes. In addition to investing around $500 million annually for Great Lakes water quality programs, the President requested $57 million in the 2008 budget to fund EPA’s efforts to reduce toxics and protect wetlands and watersheds.

Vanessa, from Florida writes:
Hii just curious, why did you decide to become the administer of the U.S

environmental protection agency and what are the requirements to become one? thanks Vanessa (14)

Stephen L. Johnson
That’s a great question. When I started at EPA just a few years out of college, I never pictured myself as the head of this 17,000-person Agency … but 26 years later, here I am. About two years ago, I received a call from the President of the United States, asking me to lead EPA. I don’t care who you are, your reaction would be the same as mine was – wow!

But truly, it is an honor to be the Administrator of the premier environmental Agency in the world. The job requires a passion for science, a willingness to make tough decisions and a desire to serve the American people. And not a day goes by that I’m not reminded of the unique opportunity I have as EPA Administrator to make a lasting difference in our world.

Sue, from CA writes:
How do we deal with global warming?

Stephen L. Johnson
President Bush and I believe that science and technology are the keys to addressing an issue like global climate change. Technologies such as clean coal. Technologies like Energy Star products. Technologies that promote the use of alternative sources of energy, like solar, wind and nuclear.

The Bush Administration will soon site the first FutureGen Coal Fire Power Plant, which is a power plant that has nearly zero greenhouse gas and air pollution emissions. Also, we are working with industries to capture the release of methane – a potent greenhouse gas – from sources like landfills, and use it to power their businesses. And internationally, we are collaborating with developing or transitional countries, like China and India and South Korea, to advance clean energy innovations while promoting economic growth.

Through an investment of nearly $3 billion a year, we are developing the technological solutions today which will drive our environmental successes tomorrow.

Christy, from South Dakota writes:
What are some suggestions for the average American to improve energy efficiency in our households and save money at the same time?

Stephen L. Johnson
There are a number of steps that every household can take to improve energy efficiency in their home, for example:

When homeowners need to buy appliances, ranging from computers to refrigerators, consumers should look for the Energy Star label. The Energy Star label means that not only is the appliance in the top 10% of their market, and it’s also the most energy efficient.

In addition, homeowners should replace all of their incandescent light bulbs to Energy Star compact fluorescent light bulbs. These lights last at least 3-5 years and are significantly more energy efficient.

In the year 2005, Americans by buying Energy Star products saved $12 billion in energy costs and saved green house gas emissions, the equivalent to 23 million cars. That is the total amount of cars in California and Illinois combined.

There are many other ways that a consumer can improve energy efficiency in their homes. Please visit the Energy Star Web site:

Jennifer, from Texas writes:
We've heard a lot of back and forth about climate change from scientists on both sides of the issue. I'd like to know what you think. Do you feel that global warming is mostly manmade or a natural progression?

Stephen L. Johnson
The US has had an unparalleled commitment to trying to understand the science of global climate change and to develop the technologies to address it. Since 2001 the Bush administration has invested $29 billion in climate change science, technology, and tax incentives – more than any other country in the world. Because of this investment, the United States was a major contributor to an international scientific report (IPCC) on climate change that was just released last Friday. The IPCC report was a result of hundreds of scientists from around the world getting together to evaluate the science of climate change.

The scientific conclusions reached in that report concluded that global climate change over the last 50 years is very likely the result of human activity. I certainly support the scientific conclusions that they reached.

In the US, we have and continue to, invest in the science and the technologies to address green house gas emissions.

For example, under the President’s leadership we are moving off the treadmill of dependence of foreign oil towards renewable fuels and clean coal technologies, which will result in zero emissions.

This is part of a comprehensive, aggressive yet practical plan to address global climate change.

Margie, from New Jersey writes:
What has been the most rewarding part of your experience in the administration?

Stephen L. Johnson
The most rewarding experience has been to serve the president and the entire nation to improve the environmental quality not only today, but also for generations to come. Knowing that our air will be cleaner, our water purer, and land better protected is very rewarding.

Stephen L. Johnson
Thank you for your questions and for your interest in finding solutions to our country's environmental challenges. I encourage you to visit EPA's Web site,, for the most up-to-date information on what all of us can do to protect our shared environment.

Thanks again, I look forward to the next opportunity to chat on "Ask the White House."