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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, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
April 20, 2007

Stephen L. Johnson
Hello again everyone. I’m pleased to join you on the Earth Day edition of Ask the White House.

As you can imagine, Earth Day is a big deal for us at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We see it as an opportunity for our nation to look back at our incredible environmental accomplishments. America’s air, water and land are cleaner today than they were just a generation ago – and under the Bush Administration, this progress continues.

Earth Day also serves as an annual reminder that environmental responsibility is everyone's responsibility. A cleaner, brighter future starts with each and every one of us. This Earth Day, President Bush and I are encouraging all Americans to make a difference for our environment, one action at a time.

Steven, from Idaho writes:
What is the White House doing to slow the process of Global Warming?

Stephen L. Johnson
The President is taking action to address global climate change. His administration has invested over $35 billion to advance climate change science and promote carbon-reducing technologies. That’s more money than any other country in the world has dedicated to this issue.

By implementing an aggressive yet practical strategy, we are on track to meet the President's goal to reduce greenhouse gas intensity 18 percent by 2012, while continuing to grow the American economy.

And we’re not just focused at home. Earlier this month, I returned from a trip to India, where I discussed with my international colleagues ways to promote economic growth in their nation, while reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
Administrator Johnson: You can't read a newspaper without seeing an article on GLOBAL this or CLIMATE that. It appears from the article's that we are destroying the EARTH Are we doing anything that help's the earth?

Besides just trying. and if so what has been the BIGGEST help so far? Thank You

Stephen L. Johnson
Good question, Cliff. While most of the time we are focused on the challenges ahead, Earth Day gives us a chance to look back at how far we’ve really come.

The first Earth Day in 1970 served as a wake-up call to our country. Back then, a river was so contaminated it caught on fire, entire towns were abandoned because they were built on top of toxic material, and air pollution was so thick that in some cities people actually had to change their shirts twice a day. We’ve spent the last 37 years cleaning up our environment, and this Earth Day we can all celebrate the fact that our air is cleaner, our water is purer and our land is better protected than just a generation ago.

But the biggest change is in the way Americans view their role in protecting the environment. Three decades ago, many people saw environmentalism as a passing fad. Today, more and more communities, companies and individuals are working to out-do each other in “going green.”

The newspapers you are reading reflect the reality that the United States is shifting to a “green culture.” Americans are realizing that environmental protection is not just EPA’s responsibility, it’s everyone’s responsibility. And this “green culture” will be the driving force behind our nation’s continuing environmental progress.

Kit, from Provo, Utah writes:
I'm Kit, a biologist from Utah. I've studied global climate change for the last few years. I am aware of the Supreme Court's decision to act now to help slow and prevent global climate change for the worse. I wanted to know how you, Mr. Johnson, are reacting to this decision? What is the US government and the EPA planning on doing? Is there anything I can do to help the EPA in my location, to help global climate change? My services are at the EPA's benefit.


Stephen L. Johnson
Thanks, Kit. It’s always good to hear from a fellow scientist.

EPA and the Bush Administration take seriously the challenge of global climate change, and we are discussing actions to meet the Supreme Court’s decision. I appreciate your willingness to be part of the solution. Environmental responsibility is everyone’s responsibility, even in the case of climate change.

Earth Day is a good opportunity to remind each and every one of us of our own ability to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses we emit in our daily activities – commonly referred to as our “carbon footprint.” And some of these actions may be easier than you think.

The next time you are shopping for a new computer, television, or even a light bulb, consider the advantages of buying an ENERGY STAR product. By purchasing an energy-efficient model, you’ll not only reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted in order to power your appliance, you’ll save money on your electric bills.

In order to determine the size of your household’s carbon footprint – and for tips to lower your individual contribution to climate change – I encourage you to visit the Personal Emissions Calculator on EPA’s Web site. It can be found at,

Sraddha, from League City writes:
What can I do to help my community to be clean?

Stephen L. Johnson
Thanks for your question, Sraddha. There are many simple, everyday choices you can make to help protect your local, and our global, environment.

For starters, you can reduce your carbon footprint by taking public transportation, carpooling, or walking when possible.

You can use water more efficiently. An average American household that fully adopts water efficient products and practices can save up to 30,000 gallons of water per year. That’s enough to supply a year of drinking water for 150 thirsty neighbors.

And finally, you can remember that age-old saying, reduce/reuse/recycle. It takes a quarter of the energy to make a new aluminum can from recycled ones, rather than from raw materials.

Daniel, from Lakeville, CT writes:
Besides climate change, what is the next biggest environmental challenge to the United States and what is the Administration doing to solve it? Thanks.

Stephen L. Johnson
Great question. While climate change attracts much of the attention, it’s only one of the environmental challenges EPA’s world-class scientists and employees are working to address.

I would have to say that maintaining and sustaining our nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure is one of the biggest environmental challenges facing us today. Clean, safe water is critical for our nation’s livelihood and health. Communities across the country are confronted by an aging infrastructure – in some cases, their water pipes and sewer systems were built around the time of World War II.

We must make sure that people understand that investments in water infrastructure are investments in their communities. EPA is working with our state and local partners, as well as the private sector, to help our citizens appreciate the value of water. Improving our water infrastructure is not just an EPA challenge, or a local challenge – it’s everyone’s challenge.

Kell, from Austin, Texas writes:
How do you respond to the oft leveled criticism that, while talking as if it had done much to aid the environment, the current administration has been, hands down, the worst steward of our planet ever?

Stephen L. Johnson
As someone who has worked at EPA for over 26 years, I whole-heartedly disagree with that criticism. However, let’s not talk about opinions – let’s instead look at the facts.

Fact – Since 2001, air pollution emissions across America have declined by 10 percent.

Fact – Two of the five most health protective clean air rules in EPA's history – the Clean Air Nonroad Diesel Rule and the Clean Air Interstate Rule – were adopted during the tenure of President Bush.

Fact – We recently primed America’s pumps with ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel –the single greatest achievement in clean fuels since the removal of lead from gasoline. Fact – Through EPA’s Brownfield’s redevelopment program, we’ve made more than 1,300 acres ready for reuse, leveraged more than $5.9 billion in funding and created more than 2,900 jobs since 2001.

And that’s just a few of our many successes.

I’m proud of our nation’s environmental accomplishments under President Bush, and I look forward to continuing this progress by working with all America’s citizens to hand down a cleaner, healthier world.

Ann, from Wakefield Country Day School VA writes:
How can small schools utilize the EPA resources to promote Earth Day, recycling, and alternative energy?

Stephen L. Johnson
I would encourage you to go to our Web site, There's a wealth of information on recycling, greening our homes and schools and steps to reduce energy and water consumption, just to name a few. I'd like to remind people, everyday should be an Earth Day. Small steps taken everyday can result in a positive change in our environment.

Saawan, from Wakefield Country Day School VA writes:
What does the EPA believe is the best type of fuel to use in cars to reduce global warming?

Stephen L. Johnson
Are you in the same class as Ann? If so, you must have a great teacher.

We know that renewable fuels such as corn ethanol and ethanol from cellulosic biomass (switch grass, yard clippings, etc) reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That is why President Bush is so supportive of moving our fuel supply to renewable sources. The development of and use of renewable fuels is a real hat trick for our country. They are good for energy security, agriculture and the environment. Of course, we encourage people to purchase the most efficient automobiles – not only will you reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, you'll save money on fuel costs.

The President is continuing to invest our nation's resources into developing new technologies, such as hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, to help us jump of the treadmill of dependency on foreign oil and improve the environment.

Woody, from Orange, TX writes:
Dear Administrator Johnson: There is just as much research stating man does not cause "global warming" as there is that declares that we do. How is the EPA getting out both sides of this controversy?

Have a great weekend, Woody Orange, TX

Stephen L. Johnson
Both President Bush and I believe that man's activities do contribute to climate change. The United States is an active participant in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which is an international group of scientists who are studying the science of climate change and its potential impacts. There have been two recent IPCC reports that affirm what the President and I believe, which is why we are committed to an aggressive, yet practical strategy for addressing global climate change.

Steve, from Germantown, MD writes:
How does EPA view it's role in building a culture of sustainability?

Stephen L. Johnson
Great first name!

As our nation celebrates our 37th Earth Day, we are continuing to equip our growing army of environmental stewards with the tools they need to accelerate environmental protection and instill a culture of sustainability – what we like to call moving to a "green culture."

Just yesterday, I was in Pittsburgh and visited the David L. Lawrence Center – which is the world's first green convention center. The roof of the facility captures rain water, which is then treated and re-used in the building. The benefits add up quickly…over the course of a year, this efficient feature saves the equivalent of the annual water use of 132 Pittsburgh households, and reduces the amount of storm water that would otherwise enter the sewer system.

EPA is pleased to help communities, businesses, and individuals understand the environmental and economic benefits of "going green."

Stephen L. Johnson
Thanks for another great session of Ask the White House. I want to apologize for not getting to everyone’s questions. However, the volume we received is yet another testament to our nation’s shift to a “green culture,” with more and more Americans eager to learn how they can protect our precious natural resources.

Thanks again, and I hope everyone has a wonderful – and productive – Earth Day.