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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.

Jim Connaughton
Jim Connaughton
Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)

April 21, 2006

Jim Connaughton
Good afternoon everyone. Tomorrow we celebrate Earth Day. It is now my pleasure to answer your questions.

Phyllis, from Jacksonville writes:
Shouldn't every day be Earth Day? Can you give some advice as to what average Americans can do on a daily basis to be energy and environmentally conscious?

Jim Connaughton
Phyllis, I'm very pleased you asked this question. All Americans can do things in their daily lives to help the environment. The EPA's Energy Star web site,, offers a variety of ways for individuals and businesses to protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. For example, Energy Star qualified lighting provides bright, warm light. It uses 2/3 less energy than standard lighting, generates 70% less heat, and lasts up to 10 times longer.

John, from Texas writes:
Last year the Presidential Commission on the Oceans, chaired by Admiral Watkins, released its report recommending wide sweeping government policy changes regarding use of the oceans. Environmental issues were high on the agenda (ie. fisheries are being wiped out). Does the Whitehouse have a plan for implementing the recommendations yet and is the president pressuring Congress to get it started?

Jim Connaughton
John, in fact the Administration has been working on this even before the US Commission on Ocean Policy released its final report. On December 17, 2004, President Bush signed Executive Order 13366 establishing the first-ever Cabinet-level Committee on Ocean Policy, which I chair. He also released the US Ocean Action Plan, which responds directly to the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. We have established a new ocean governance structure, and are making good progress on implementing the Ocean Action Plan. In addition to our work with our federal, state, local, and tribal partners, as well as the private sector, our international partners, and other interested entities, the Administration has submitted several legislative proposals to Congress including bills to improve our fisheries management, protect marine mammals, establish an off-shore aquaculture regime, and codify and strengthen the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Doug, from Boise writes:
Does the President still support the healthy forest initiative?

Jim Connaughton
Doug, the Healthy Forest Initiative started in 2002 under the President's leadership. In 2003, he proudly signed in to law the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, which expanded the effort. We have now cleared out dangerous underbrush and reduced the risk of catastrophic fire on more than fifteen million acres of land. By the end of this summer, we will have done this work on another five million acres. Our agencies have put together an outstanding website,, which has more information.

Kate, from Colorado writes:
According to Mr. Stephen Johnson of the EPA, "the US is making significant progress towards the president's greenhose gas reduction goals." On Monday, April 17, the latest figures on greenhouses gases were released, in accordance to the UN Climate Change Convention, and the US number has increased rather decreased. Who is correct? Thanks for you time.

Jim Connaughton
The President stated an ambitious goal in February 2002 to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of our economy by 18% by 2012. The term greenhouse gas intensity applies to amount of greenhouse gases emitted per unit of GDP. It is correct that greenhouse gase emissions are still rising. What we are aiming to do is first significantly slow the growth of emissions, then as the science jsutifies, stop it and then reverse it. That is exactly what happened with traditional air pollution such as carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide over the last century. Pollution grew through the 70s, it then leveled off, and has been declining by more than 50 percent as a result of a variety of mandatory, incentive-based, and voluntary efforts. We can expect the same outcome with respect to greenhouse gas emissions. Both EPA and the Department of Energy released reports this year that outlines our progress in detail. So what Administrator Johnson was talking about was the fact that in 2004, even as our economy grew by more than 4 percent along with a growth in population and energy use, our greenhouse gases grew by less than 2 percent. It puts us well on track to meet the President's goal. That is the kind of progress we like to see -- we are creating millions of new jobs and investment in new technology which is leading to fewer greenhouse gas emissions associated with this new opportunity.

Jim Connaughton
Thanks for your questions this afternoon. I wish we had the time to answer more. In the coming months, I will be spending a good deal of my time on our efforts to protect and conserve our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes. I will also be working to implement our new Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. We are developing action plans with Australia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea. This innovative public-private partnership seeks to improve each nation's energy security, signficantly cut the harmful air pollution that affects human health and natural resources today, while at the same time reducing the growth of greenhouse gases associated with long term global climate change. Our strategy is to open new pathways to accelerate massive amounts of investment in the new, cleaner and more efficient technologies that make sustained solutions to these challenges possible.

So much of the work your government does on a daily basis to improve the environment either is unknown or goes unacknowledged largely because it unfolds with the strong consensus of support accross the country and therefore does not present the conflict that tends to dominate public communications. The same is true of the countless acts of individual stewardship that occur all across the land I encourage all of you to work your way through each of the environment and natural resource agencies' website, which describe in great detail the thousands of initiatives your federal government and local citizens are pursuing in the U.S. and around the world to advance sustainable development and cooperative conservation. You can link to many of these sites from our CEQ website: