Press Briefing by Director of the White House Office on Environmental Policy Kathleen McGinty, Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary, Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner
The Briefing Room
1:23 P.M. EDT
DIRECTOR MCGINTY: Okay, I guess we'll get underway. I'm Katie McGinty, the Director of the White House Office on Environmental policy. I'd like to welcome you all here today, as well as Secretary O'Leary, Secretary Pena, Administrator Browner who will be joining us in a moment, Science Advisor Jack Gibbons, NOAA Administrator James Baker, and Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Jim Lyons, who joined us here today.
In April, the President charged us with two goals: First, he asked us to develop a strategy to reduce greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000. But, second and importantly, he asked us to energize the American people, to take this challenge on.
Rather than creating more bureaucracy and red tape, the President asked us to tap into the best and brightest ideas of the American people. This plan solidly accomplishes both of the President's objectives. We will reduce emissions by 1990 levels by the year 2000. Moreover, this plan is in the spirit of our Reinventing Government initiatives. It is reinventing relationships between government and the private sector. These new relationships can help both government and the private sector work better and incur less costs.
We started our efforts in June when the White House hosted the White House Conference on Global Climate Change. The interest of the public was more than apparent at that point. We invited 300 people, but more than 800 showed up eager to share with us their ideas and their success stories.
Three main principles guided the development of this plan. First, we knew that returning greenhouse emissions to their 1990 levels is an ambitious goal. But we also knew that taking on this goal would generate significant economic opportunities.
Second, we were aware that many successful programs in the public and private sector offered models of tapping these opportunities. So we were determined to target our programs to the investments in energy efficiency and other technologies which can reduce emissions, create jobs, and make our economy more competitive. We knew that there were proven winners out there, and we knew that we wanted these winners to become the foundation of our plan.
Third, we were determined to respect the bottom line of the federal budget, as well as the bottom lines of American businesses and workers, and this plan does both. It saves the federal government money, and it spurs investments in the private sector that cut costs there as well. The action plan delivers for the environment, for the economy and for the budget.
This action plan represents the work of many offices in the White House and across the Executive Branch. We have been through an exhaustive and, I know no one will disagree, an exhausting exercise to produce this plan. In particular, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Transportation have contributed an enormous amount of resources and energy to the development of this plan, and have forged a relationship among themselves during this process that will be critical as we seek to achieve success in this regard.
Secretary O'Leary, Secretary Pena, Administrator Browner heeded the directive that the President laid down in April that the action plan should be a clarion call not for more bureaucracy or regulation, but instead for more American ingenuity and creativity. The programs at DOE, EPA, USDA and Transportation will implement as a part of the action plan do not grow the bureaucracy or impose regulatory burdens, but instead combine public resources with private sector initiative to get the job done.
This is a solid plan. I think it's creative, it's ambitious, and importantly, it's catalytic. It will energize our efforts in the United States to deploy new technologies that protect the environment and stimulate the economy. And, very importantly, it will also catalyze efforts around the world to take on this pressing problem. For the environment and for the economy, we are eager to begin this effort.
With that, I'd like to turn the mike over to -- Administrator Browner's not here yet -- Secretary O'Leary, if she'd like to join us for a moment.
SECRETARY O'LEARY: I'll be happy to start, Katie. Thank you. I think I can pick up on the themes that Katie and earlier the President and the Vice President have laid out for us. But I want to do it in a much more direct way. I want to remind you that voluntary is not a dirty word. In point of fact, what "voluntary" connotes is an agreement among parties of equal standing with full knowledge who agree, in fact, to accomplish something.
In this instance, as Katie has pointed out, we are tapping resources, the capability, not only of the private sector, but state and local government and some know-how on the part of the federal government to accomplish the goals that have already been so well laid out.
Another point I'd like to make is that the states play a vital part in this and make it easier for the federal government now to implement a voluntary program. Now, some worry what happens if this agreement does not work. Well, as has already been pointed out, for the transportation sector, very quickly a task group in the White House will start to work on efforts to take a hard look at what more we can do beyond the 12 percent that the transportation sector is providing.
However, the point to be made is that the goals for the 21st century can be met under this very flexible and excellent plan. It's cost-effective and it's flexible, permitting regions of the country, states and localities are to implement the programs that already work for them and to do it without the very heavy had of the government.
I want to talk about the two partnerships that were represented out on the lawn earlier today. The first would be this partnership, this agreement between the federal government through the Department of Energy, and the public and private sector representing the utility industry. As John Rose so very eloquently pointed out, it's the right way to attach and attack a problem involving a large section of the energy sector. John waved these letters around -- I want to point out to you that there are 60 letters from CEOs of public utility companies, as well as the Tennessee Valley Authority, committing to greenhouse reductions to help us meet our goal.
More formally today, I had the honor on behalf of this administration to sign a compact. It is a clear agreement between the motor industry's key representatives in the Department of Energy, some 40-plus of those, again agreeing to initiate a voluntary program which, quite frankly, pulls together known technologies that reduce energy consumption to cause us again to meet our goals in a very effective way.
Why is it effective? Because common-sense goals that really attach to payback in a timely fashion, that bring information to companies who would not normally get that information will help us accomplish this goal.
As Katie has pointed out, I'd also like to make another point which will be lost on so many of us. And this is from someone who has worked in another administration at a time when often, EPA and the Department of Energy could be expecting to send messages to one another across the Mall in not so very polite language. (Laughter.)
What's happened in working on this project and the months that we have been a team -- been made into a team -- is an important fact that we have learned to work with one another well, and we are all focused on the same goal.
You would not have noticed, after the official discussion was over, the number of people working within this administration who were signing each other's global climate change reports. I would like to point out to you that I believe that this, too, is a high water mark in what government is all about and its relations. And you can expect that we will achieve the goals we have set out for ourselves, because this collaboration exists between the private sector, the public, and within this government. I'm delighted to be a part of this effort, and I think it stands now my opportunity to introduce my colleague, the Secretary of Transportation, Federico Pena.
SECRETARY PENA: Thank you very much, Secretary of Energy. I'm also very pleased to be a part of this effort and want to commend both Secretary O'Leary and Administrator Browner for their leadership. But transportation, as all of you know, is also a very important part of this effort, since automobile and truck travel accounts for nearly a third of such emissions and will continue to grow. And because of that, we are initiating a series of steps to reduce vehicle miles traveled and to enhance the market for more efficient technology and cleaner fuels. Let me tell you how we will do it.
First -- and a very important part of our effort -- is granting urban commuters the option of cashing out employer-paid parking. Now, for many people, this may seem to be a very small initiative, but let me give you some facts.
The voluntary tax law change will give many commuters the option of receiving the value of their paid parking in the form of taxable income while preserving the deduction for employers. Today, U.S. companies spend about $52 billion a year -- let me repeat that -- $52 billion a year -- on free or discounted parking for their employees. In a study the Department of Transportation did some time ago, we found that 95 percent of Americans who drive to work have either wholly paid or partially subsidized parking. So we are talking about an enormous cost and an enormous impact. This program, we believe, will be to encourage car pooling and greater use of mass transit, reducing congestion and pollution while raising an estimated $1.3 billion in revenue -- I'm sure the budget office will be happy to hear that -- in new federal revenue by the year 2000. That comes from the taxes paid by the employees who decide to cash out and pay taxes on these incentives.
Let me say that the state of California -- for those of you who don't know this -- started this program in 1991. And it has been relatively successful, even in the face of the fact that the federal tax law had not been changed. We believe that once we get this program through the Congress and the federal law amended, programs like the one in California will be more successful and, of course, we'll be able to do this on a national basis.
Point number two, our second strategy has to do with encouraging consumers to buy tires which are more efficient. That's a labeling program which we are now authorized to do. We will do that. We think that will save about $2.7 billion in energy costs by the year 2000, and stimulate greater competition among tire makers to produce fuel-efficient tires.
Number three. We will work with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation and others to hold a series of conferences around the country with local transportation officials to explain how infrastructure planning and spending must be adjusted to conform to the new Clean Air Act rules.
Number four -- and the Secretary mentioned this earlier -- we will launch a one-year effort, led by Mr. Gibbons, our ScienceTechnology advisor, the Office of Environmental Policy and also the NEC for a year effort to look at a number of other strategies which we believe are critical to dealing with the transportation emissions that we know will be coming beyond the year 2000. And in those strategies, we'll be looking at everything from CAFE achievements or greater fuel economy and others which will be part of this year-long effort that work will be completed the end of next year, and I think that will give us the biggest bang for the buck.
So I simply want to say we're very pleased to be part of this effort. The efforts in the area of transportation, we believe, will yield a reduction of eight million metric tons of carbon equivalent by the year 2000. So we're happy to be a part of this effort and congratulate all those who are part of it, also.
Do I introduce Carol?
DIRECTOR MCGINTY: Actually --
SECRETARY PENA: Do I not introduce Carol?
DIRECTOR MCGINTY: -- Carol, is, I think just called from the Hill. She has to testify. So she may get to join us, but I'm not quite sure.
SECRETARY PENA: Okay. That's fine. Can we take questions?
DIRECTOR MCGINTY: Yeah, if we could take some questions, then, to get started.
Q: A question to the Secretary of Transportation. Why do you think there's going to be such a high rate of participation in this parking program of yours, when the fundamental reason that people drive is because public transportation is lousy and you've seen the degradation of it in the United States?
SECRETARY PENA: I didn't hear the last part of your question: "One of the reasons that -- "
Q: One of the reasons why people continue to drive -- even if they're paying themselves -- is because you had a degradation of public transportation services in the United States.
SECRETARY PENA: Well, we've had it backwards for so long. There has never been a real monetary incentive for employees and employers to encourage people to take other forms of transportation. Now we will have that incentive, in a monetary reward both for employees and for the employer to continue to provide that option for employees who so want it. So, I think with the incentive, people are going to make a bottom line sort of wallet decision. And we think that many people, given the California experience, where we're seeing anywhere from ten to 40 percent of people participating in this program will give us the kinds of results we need.
But let's be very candid. This is a new program. This is a change in psychology. It will offer people new opportunities they have never had before. I think people want to make a contribution. If there's a little financial incentive here, I think it will work.
Q: Do you know offhand what percentage of people in California are taking the state up on that offer and what difference it makes?
SECRETARY PENA: Yeah, again, the ranges are anywhere from ten to 40 percent of use. It ranges -- and again, realize that in California, we don't have the change in federal law. So the negative tax law today, I think, still imposes an impediment to make the California law work even better than it is today. So I think with the law change, which can be done fairly quickly, with the leadership of Treasury, we'll be able to move on this fairly quickly.
Q: There are 50 initiatives in here. There's planning and coordination all over the place. Why not have a stiff increase in the price of gasoline and reduce its usage by half in 10 years or whatever, and let it go at that? Why not?
SECRETARY PENA: Sounds like a DOE question.
SECRETARY O'LEARY: Believe me. We tried that one. Remember us?
Q: You tried it once.
SECRETARY O'LEARY: Oh, and you're suggesting maybe twice in one session of the Congress? I think not.
The point to be made here is that the programs now on the line, all 50 of them, each of them has a proven track record. Now, that might to some seem a criticism. In other words, we're enhancing programs already existing, but we know that people answer to the responses that are included in these programs. It's pragmatic, it doesn't do egregious injury to anyone, and moreover, sends the right economic signal. That's why these 50 programs are right.
Q: Yes. On the CAFE, Secretary Pena, you have a oneyear program to study the possibility of CAFE standards increasing. I'd like to know if there is still a commitment to increase the CAFE, the fuel efficiency standard, as President Clinton promised in his campaign.
SECRETARY PENA: Oh, absolutely. Yes. And let's talk about that. First of all, let's remember that the first big, bold step was the clean car initiative, which Jack Gibbons provided leadership on. That will triple by a factor of three improved fuel economy when these new vehicles arrive, and will produce only onethird the amount of emissions that we see today with current automobiles. That is a dramatic and bold step, which we think is in the right direction.
In addition to that, this one-year effort will look at a number of other strategies which will be, for example, including incremental, yearly, over a period of 10 or 15 years, incremental improvements in fuel economy. So all of those strategies combined, we think will meet the President's goal as he outlined during the campaign.
Q: Just to follow up. Why do you need a one-year study? CAFE has been -- this is debated in Congress every year. Everybody's well aware of what's involved. This would seem to be a perfect opportunity to put that in the climate action plan. Why not?
SECRETARY PENA: Let me clarify this. This one-year effort is not going to focus only on CAFE. It will look at a number of different strategies. For example, a discussion of congestion pricing -- a number of other strategies that are available there. CAFE is simply one of many that will be considered during this oneyear period.
Q: Well, again, why did you decide not to put it in this climate action plan, an increase in the CAFE standards?
SECRETARY PENA: Well, again, we're trying to pick from a broad range of options to reach our goals. And this is the effort that we decided needed to get done.
Q: Well, were you concerned, for instance, about job loss? I know there have been many warnings by industry folks about what CAFE standards would reap in terms of job loss. Was that a consideration?
SECRETARY PENA: Well, I don't want to get into all the considerations, but let me simply say that we are committed to finding more fuel economy -- the President is committed to that, and we believe in engaging ourselves in this one-year effort as the best way to reach that objective.
DIRECTOR MCGINTY: Let me, if we could, just take a minute. Carol Browner has been able to join us now. And we'll have her give us a statement.
SECRETARY BROWNER: I apologize. We were in a small group with the President, and he kept talking. So I am very, very sorry. (Laughter.) Let me just briefly explain what our piece of this from the Environmental Protection Agency is. But, first, let me start by saying what I think is the most significant about the announcement today is the fact that it is a real plan, it has more than 50 specific details, and there is money to make this plan happen. That has never happened before.
You've had discussions about global climate change for a very, very long time, yet you've never had an administration that's been willing to put the resources into achieving real reductions. And that is what we are, in fact, going to be doing. The plan builds on a number of in-place, very successful programs from the Environmental Protection Agency, our Energy Star programs. The Energy Star Computer Program is one that many people, I think, can relate to. We worked with the industry in a partnership to develop a mechanism for putting your computer to sleep when you're not using your computer. It achieves a 70 percent reduction in energy use.
Computers, personal computers, are the largest increase in energy use right now in terms of where we're seeing the increases. So, a real reduction.
The work we did with Whirlpool in designing a refrigerator that would use less energy -- again, these are ongoing programs that we've already had successes. We're going to be building on these programs to get energy efficiencies. The work that we're doing on methane, another significant problem when it comes to dealing with climate change -- back in February, we announced a partnership with natural gas companies to trap, reuse the fugitive emissions they have from their pipelines. We started with 13 companies. We now have 26 companies working in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency.
More than 50 percent of the pipelines, the natural gas pipelines are now part of this program. So we believe there are tremendous opportunities here with the funding we will put into these programs to do what we need to do, but we also are very realistic in terms of the monitoring, the oversight, the evaluation that will need to take place. And if we find in two or three years from now that we are not making the kind of progress to put us on the track where we need to be in terms of the President's commitments, then we can modify the plan.
This is a flexible document in terms of changing in the future, and I think we all recognize that and we are all committed to any changes that are necessary to ensure cleaner air, to ensure better energy efficiency, and, quite frankly, to ensure a better future for our children. Thank you.
Q: You say there's money to make this happen. But the document says the administration will commit $1.9 billion in new and redirected funding. Do you have a breakout of how much is the new funding and how much is the redirecting?
SECRETARY O'LEARY: I can tell you for the Department of Energy the emphasis is on the redirective plan -- (laughter) -- earlier this morning I was heard to say that I think the contribution for the Department of Energy simply for the first full fiscal year of the program is $222 million, and I fully expect to take that out of my own hide. I'm prepared to do that. And, more importantly, you should all know that we're not going to do that out of any other existing energy efficiency or R & D programs. We know how to recycle, and we'll do it.
Q: How much is new? Do we know how much is new of the $1.9 million?
SECRETARY O'LEARY: What's the delta on the new? Someone help me here. It's probably 45 percent, 60 percent.
SECRETARY BROWNER: I can answer it for our agency. The amount of money that we will be putting into this is approximately $70 million, of which about $15 million is new money to the agency in terms of our programs. That is in addition to -- I need to be very clear about this -- the money that the President has already called for in terms of the environmental technology programs that we're involved in, which we see as a component of these programs where we work with businesses across the country to advance environmental technology energy-efficient technologies.
Q: Secretary Browner, last year the Vice President said or wrote, the time has long since come to take more political risk and endure much more political criticism by proposing tougher, more effective solutions in fighting hard for their enactment. Can you point to me any political risky things you're doing in this plan?
SECRETARY BROWNER: Oh, I think there's a lot of risky things we're doing. We're counting on the fact that we can all work together. Environmental protection in this country has long been built, and it has been a very adversarial, distrusting process. And what we're saying is we believe there's another way to do this, that we believe by working together in partnerships -- you know, fundamentally, I think we all share the same goals. We're going to build on that. We're going to come together in a way that we haven't come together. That is risky. I mean, it is absolutely risky.
The other thing that I think is unique about what we are announcing today is that we don't have to wait for Congress to act. We can start tomorrow. We can go out and we have these programs where they exist, we can build the programs; where we're creating new programs, we can begin the process. You could have put together a plan that called for a tremendous amount of congressional action, and it might well have been three, six, nine, 12 months, 18 months before we actually had the changes in the laws. We're not doing that. We're going to start today to put in play and to build on the programs to get us the real reductions.
Q: But you're just delaying the fight with Congress on what the environmentalists are saying is the single biggest step you could take, which is an increase in the CAFE standards.
SECRETARY BROWNER: Well, again, we think that we can get tremendous and significant reductions in these programs. We've said that we are open to modifications in the plan if we do not find ourselves on a track, and if that's the case, then all of the issues that we looked at will have to be revisited again in terms of how we achieve these reductions.
SECRETARY PENA: Let me just amplify a bit on the question of risk. Because I think it's important that we put this in broader perspective. Remember where the United States was a year ago. We were being dragged into an international treaty because we were seen not as providing leadership to the world on this question. Here we are in the first few months of this new administration with a president who has laid out a bold initiative with very specific, detailed steps on how to reach our goal by the year 2000. We are now ahead of every other country who signed that document. No other country has been as specific as this President has in such a short period of time to move this agenda. That is great risk. You can measure all accomplishments in the plan that we have released of today. I think that's the greatest risk of all.
Q: Secretary Pena, I wanted to ask -- how different do you think the climate change plan now will be from the one that's submitted to the United Nations, since we're so far ahead of the curve?
DIRECTOR MCGINTY: We -- this plan, as has been said, is comprehensive. We have reached into every sector of the economy because of the contribution that every sector of the economy makes to this problem, and we have reached for those things that are proven successes. Because, again, as Administrator Browner said, our window of opportunity here is narrow and we need to build on those programs that have proven success in reducing emissions.
Now, in six months time, we will have a follow-up to our June conference that we had on climate change where, again, 800 people shared with us their best ideas. During the course of this process, we have kept in touch with those 800 people to draw on their ideas and to see how we could refine and enhance the program that we were putting forward. In six months time, we'll meet with them again. If there are new ideas that come forth at that time, we're going to sit down, roll up our sleeves and work on this so that we've got the best and most effective plan that we can have.
SECRETARY O'LEARY: Katie, can I just add a bit? The interesting thing about this plan, if you look at some of the documents that we shared with you earlier this morning at the Department of Energy, is we make our goal for the 21st century. This was pointed out on the lawn earlier, that tremendous challenge comes for us as we move into the 21st century. And so I think we're doing ourselves well to take this deep breath, get started and allow ourselves the time to think through the effective measures that will be just as economic to take us further into the 21st century. And if the gentleman was looking for the risk, I think it is there. To plan it well and to begin to think it through, so that we're not injuring an economy which should be well on its way to very dramatic recovery.
Q: Have you set a deadline for yourselves in terms of -- and can you quantify that, too? You know, how much of the reductions do you have to see by what date before you are compelled to take a more command and control approach? I mean, what's your Dday for saying this voluntary approach is working?
DIRECTOR MCGINTY: Sure. Well, we will continuously monitor this program. The President has directed me, Dr. Gibbons, and Bob Rubin to head an effort in the White House, again, bringing together all the agencies so that we are constantly monitoring our progress in enlisting companies and new partners in the initiatives we've laid out, and also in setting up a mechanism so that we can monitor and measure the emissions reductions that we are seeing.
In addition to the six month -- the review that we will undertake in six months -- we also will undertake a comprehensive review of the plan in two years time to make sure at that point that the computer models and the other things that we have at our disposal will tell us that, indeed, the partners that are coming on board are installing the technologies they need to install, improving their efficiency, reducing their costs and reducing emissions.
Q: On page 30 you talk about this plan to leverage a $1.5 billion in private investments for the federal dams and this will yield lots of savings. Is this investment the federal government should have made before?
DIRECTOR MCGINTY: There are clearly energy efficiency opportunities out there that the federal government to date has failed to tap. In fact, I think the federal government is one of the sorriest energy losers in the country, and we are working to turn that around. Secretary O'Leary has taken this on and the President has called for a major initiative to make sure that the federal government is a leader and an example in demonstrating what can be done with energy efficiency. And, indeed, I might note that he is starting right here at home with the effort he has called for to "green" the White House.
We have had a comprehensive analysis done by the Department of Energy, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency to review our operational procedures around here and make recommendations as to how we can improve the efficiency and the operations of this building. We're about to enter phase two of that program where we've had a team of leaders from the American Institute of Architects, the environmental community and others that have come in now and advised us on some of the changes that we can make. So, the White House will be a showcase of what can be done and achieved if we put our mind to it.
Thank you all very much.
END1:54 P.M. EDT
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Director of the White House Office on Environmental Policy Kathleen McGinty, Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary, Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269161