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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 20, 2006

President Bush Welcomes Recipients of the President's Environmental Youth Awards
Room 450
Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building

2:59 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Please be seated. Thanks for coming. Welcome. Glad you're here. Sorry I'm a little late. I just finished having a lunch with President Hu Jintao of China, a very important lunch. I hope you forgive me for running a little late. But thanks for letting us come by to say, "hello." I'm proud to join Steve Johnson in honoring young Americans who have given time and energy to help make this country a better place. We're really glad you're here.

You're serving as young stewards of the environment, which means you're setting a good example for what it means to be a citizen. It's like what we call citizenship in action. And you're helping make America a wonderful place. And so we're really glad you're here. I'm glad to be a part of the award ceremony.

I want to thank all the administrators from the EPA who are here, but I particularly want to thank Steve and Debbie for joining us, as well. We're here to honor, Steve, in case you don't know it yet -- (laughter) -- 49 young Americans who are helping to protect the natural heritage of our country. I appreciate the fact that you're setting good examples, too, by the way, and by doing what you're doing you're showing people how to lead and how to be a responsible citizen.

I appreciate the rain gardens that were built in places like Massachusetts and Michigan, to catch runoff and prevent it from polluting local rivers and streams. That's a smart idea; thanks for doing it. In New York, folks here have organized volunteers to stencil warnings near neighborhood sewers. That's a good way to help protect the environment, isn't it?

In Pennsylvania, folks here built an environmental demonstration house to showcase environmental products and technologies. It makes a lot of sense to showcase new technologies. After all, technologies are going to help change the world in a positive way so that we can be good stewards of the environment.

As a matter of fact, one of the technologies that are -- a part of the technological revolution that we're pushing hard here is to change the way we drive our automobiles. One of these days we're going to have what they call hybrid plug-in batteries. You'll be able to drive your car for the first 40 miles on electricity. That seems to make sense. It does a couple of things. One, it helps to improve the environment, but it also makes us less dependent on oil. And one of my hopes is that one of these days the cars you drive won't be using any oil, but will be using hydrogen as a way to protect the environment. So those of you who are working on new technologies, thanks. It's a smart thing to do. That's exactly what this government needs to be doing more of, as well, and will be doing more of.

I'm proud to welcome folks from Georgia, and your club called "The Creek Freaks." (Laughter.) When I first heard the name, I thought it might be like a band or something, you know? (Laughter.) I welcome the folks from Arkansas, who are clearing trash. By the way, the Creek Freaks are helping to protect wetlands. I don't know if you know this, but we've increased the wetlands by a half-a-million acres over two years. That's a really important initiative. And for those of you who are helping do that, I want to thank you very much.

In Arkansas you've cleared trash and developed projects to stabilize the banks of a local stream. Thanks for coming, welcome. If you happen to get close to Texas, tell them, "hello."

In Missouri, you restored a portion of a park adjacent to a school to a native prairie. I don't know if you know this or not, but Laura and I are fortunate to own some property in Central Texas, near a town called Crawford. You've heard of it, Richard. (Laughter.) One of our projects is to restore as much of our land as possible to native grasses and wild flowers. We've got buffalo grasses, blue stem -- little blue stem grass. And interestingly enough, we've converted about 50 to 60 acres of our land to -- so we can provide seed for people so they can then plant little blue stem. And it's a neat project, and I would encourage ranchers and farmers to be able to find ways to help plant native grasses, just like the kids from Missouri have done here.

In Alaska, you built a grated wall that provides access to a local creek. That makes sense, you know. People ought to be allowed to have access to nature, but you want to do it in a way that protects the environment. It's one of the reasons why I proposed that we spend $5 billion on making sure that the maintenance issues in our national parks are improved, and we're on the way to making sure that happens. I believe in national parks, and I believe people ought to have access to national parks. After all, it's the people's parks. It's not a handful of people's parks. It's everybody's park. And the federal government has a role to maintain those parks. And we're doing a good job of that.

In California, eight-year-olders here launched a composting and recycling effort called, "The Wonderful Weird World of Worms." (Laughter.) That's kind of hard for me to say. (Laughter.)

Got some folks from Utah that built a hybrid land speed racer which he drives to school and races at the nearby salt flats to raise awareness about alternative fuel vehicles. I just talked to you about the hybrid plug-in battery and hydrogen. There's another alterative fuel that we need to use in our vehicles, and that's ethanol. I don't know if you study that in your schools, but it's possible to make fuel for automobiles from corn. As a matter of fact, we're doing quite a bit of that in the Midwest -- or sugar. Sugarcane is pretty good for making fuel -- ethanol.

But we're close to some breakthroughs, some technological breakthroughs that will enable us to make ethanol from wood chips and compost. And when we hit that, all of a sudden, you're going to see ethanol all across the country. It makes sense to drive our cars from agricultural products, doesn't it, as opposed to oil?

And so thank you for setting such a good example. We're really glad you're here. You know, good environmental policy requires federal effort.

You know, good environmental policy requires federal effort, but it also requires state effort and local effort and volunteer effort. All of us need to pitch in to make -- to conserve the land and make this country as beautiful as can be. And by being here today you're showing a strong commitment for the future of our country. And we're blessed that we've got people like you that are willing to do what you did. (Applause.)

So I want to welcome you. I want to welcome you all; I want to welcome your teachers. Thank you for being here. Thanks for teaching. I want to welcome your parents. I really appreciate you raising such good folks. And I welcome the EPA Administrator to announce the awards. God bless, thanks for coming. (Applause.)

(The awards are presented.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming. Congratulations.

END 3:14 P.M. EDT

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