BP/Amoco Luncheon Announcement Atlanta, GA
Carol M. Browner, EPA Administrator
July 22, 1999
Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good afternoon. I want to thank Governor Barnes for that introduction and for inviting me here today. The things you are doing here in Georgia to control pollution, ease congestion -- and helping communities grow -- are truly becoming models for cities across the country and I congratulate you.
Let me also recognize EPA Regional Administrator John Hankinson, who joins me here today.
I also want to thank Rodney Chase for his kind words and for his company's support of several of this Administration's environmental initiatives for cleaner cars and cleaner fuels -- and most importantly, cleaner air for our children.
And now let me applaud BP Amoco for their decision to provide cleaner burning fuel to metropolitan Atlanta years ahead of schedule. I look forward to your future announcements that will provide even more Americans with cleaner fuel -- and cleaner air.
This is an important first step -- and you have taken it voluntarily. BP Amoco today has proven again that when we work together as partners -- refiners, automakers, all levels of government, and concerned groups and individuals -- we can ensure that both the economy and the environment prosper together in the century to come.
A growing economy and a thriving environment are goals in concert -- not conflict.
Now there are many important dates in history. And historians may want to quibble with what I'm about to say. But if you had to pick a single day that led to the creation of the modern world as we know it now, you might want to pick August 27, 1859, because on that day a former railroad conductor named Edwin Drake drilled a 69-foot hole into the ground near Titusville, Pennsylvania -- and discovered oil.
And soon all sorts of uses were found for refined petroleum: lubricants, lamp oils, varnishes, lacquer, patent leather, oil cloth -- and the list goes on and on.
But there was one dangerous, highly flammable, substance left over after the refining process that no one was sure what to do with -- gasoline.
Well, inventors around the world saw the value of an energy source like gasoline and within a year after the discovery of oil -- a year! -- the first internal combustion engine was built. And a year after that, the first gasoline powered vehicle was built.
That first automobile sped along at a mere mile per hour -- but inventors, tinkerers and engineers around the world saw the potential.
Soon cars would make travel easier. Trucks made shipping more efficient. Tractors led to improved farming techniques. The Wright Brothers hooked a small gasoline engine to what was essentially a glider -- and we had powered flight. And methods of mass production were introduced to bring all these new products to consumers at affordable prices.
Simply put, the oil that spouted from that hole drilled in the Pennsylvania countryside helped fuel a revolution in culture, commerce and community and set us on the path we still travel today.
But -- as is often the case -- this progress has come with a price. And we see it all around us.
Ironically, the ease of travel the automobile offers has made our journeys more tedious as we move further and further away from our cities. We are now driving our cars almost 60 percent more than in 1980. At EPA we estimate that all this extra driving will -- in just 10 to 12 years -- overtake all the gains we have made in reducing tailpipe emissions over the past quarter century.
The results are already starting to show. Already this year, for instance, Atlanta has had 19 days where ozone -- or smog -- exceeded what health experts tell us is are unhealthy levels. Compare that to just seven days in all of 1996.
And with this pollution come real health consequences.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that in one 15-year period, asthma rates for all Americans jumped by 75 percent -- affecting 15 million Americans. But it was the children who were hit the worst. Children under five years old, for instance, suffered a 160 percent increase in asthma rates. And now Asthma is the most prevalent chronic disorder for children under 17.
Besides being a health issue, congestion is a money issue as well. Americans can lose as much as two full work weeks a year stuck in traffic at a cost to the economy in wasted time and fuel of about $74 billion.
That's money up in smoke. How many schools could we have built? How many college educations could we have paid for?
We have come too far over the past 30 years in controlling air pollution to let all our hard work drift away on the clouds of soot and smog that belch from our tailpipes.
The Clinton Administration has put forth several programs and proposals to tackle these problems. Our goal for the 21st Century is an America that drives clean and grows smart.
On the automotive front, we realize the internal combustion engine will for the foreseeable future remain the primary system that powers our vehicles. But that doesn't mean we can afford to spin our wheels while we wait for new engine technologies. We must improve the ones we have.
So the President has proposed that starting in 2004 we begin to phase in both cleaner burning engines and cleaner burning fuels.
First, we are proposing to hold sport utility vehicles and light-duty trucks to the same national pollution standard as cars.
Second, for the first time ever we are treating tailpipe emissions and gasoline as a single system. Not only will manufacturers build cleaner cars, but refiners will be producing cleaner fuels that contain less sulfur. Sulfur not only pollutes our air, but it poisons the performance of the catalytic converters that are supposed to reduce tailpipe emissions.
We worked with both the automotive and refining sectors in developing these proposals. We also consulted with states, engine manufacturers, environmental groups, and air quality and health experts.
The result of these standards -- once fully implemented -- would be to cut emissions from cars and trucks by about 80 percent of what they are today. The affect is the same as if 166 million cars pulled off the road.
But cleaner engines and fuels are just one half of the problem. We also need to do something about the sprawl-induced congestion that is choking our roads -- and our cities -- while swallowing up our farmlands and open spaces.
According to the American Farmland Trust, more than 30 million acres of farmland have been lost since 1970. Thirty million acres! That's that's like paving over most of Georgia.
President Clinton and Vice President Gore have proposed a "Livability Agenda" that will give our states and local communities tools they can use to create healthy, livable communities and thriving economies.
One of these tools -- Better America Bonds -- is about the simplest law you could write to do the greatest amount of good. It's just a quick addition to the tax code.
With Better America Bonds, state and local governments will be able to issue nearly $10 billion in bonds to preserve open space, protect water quality or clean up brownfields. They will never pay a dime in interest and can wait 15 years before paying back the principal. Investors who buy the bonds receive tax credits equal to the interest they would have received on the bonds -- a total of $700 million.
Now let me tell you what Better America Bonds is not. It is not a big government program. The federal government will not add one square inch of land to its inventory. All decisions will be made at the state or local level. We're not sticking our nose where it doesn't belong, we're just lending a hand where it's needed.
Other major portions of the Administration's Livability Agenda include a large transportation investment -- $1.6 billion -- to reduce congestion, encourage transit, improve air quality and provide grants to communities for smart growth planning.
Is this an ambitious agenda? You bet!
But when you hear -- as you inevitably will from some corners -- that it just can't be done, I want you to think back to that hole in the ground back in 1859. I want you to think about how one simple discovery led to another, and another, and another -- and helped remake our world.
When we apply ourselves -- as BP Amoco has shown us today -- there is nothing we can't accomplish.
The new century is now just 162 days away. And with it comes new challenges and responsibilities. This Administration is providing the tools our communities and our industries need to build a future that is both healthy and prosperous for our children and all the generations that follow.
As the generations before us provided us with prosperity, progress and the foundations of environmental protection -- we are duty bound to do the same.
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