Dr. John H. Gibbons
Assistant to the President for Science and Technology
"Technology for a Sustainable Future"
1994 H. John Heinz Public Policy Symposium
September 20, 1994
I am pleased have the opportunity to join you today to talk about a new kind of energy in America... a spirit that is driving change here in our country and around the world.
I am speaking about a new sense of the vital, two-way interaction between the economy and the environment. This new economic spirit recognizes that care for the environment is a necessary ingredient in figuring the cost of doing business and the return on investment. This new ecological spirit recognizes that human economic development is a prerequisite to global environmental stewardship. The integration of these two forces -- economic development and environmental stewardship -- is the key to building a successful vision for a sustainable future, but they must be treated as inseparable factors -- not as independent and often antagonistic goals.
From his first day in office, President Clinton has focused on rebuilding the American economy and creating jobs as his top priorities in addition to his commitment to protect the environment. It has been just over one year since Congress approved the President's economic plan. Remember the dire predictions of the economic nay-sayers? We are already seeing major benefits:
The economy is growing. Real GDP increased by 4.0 percent between the second quarter of 1993 and the second quarter of 1994, even as federal spending declined by nearly 6 percent.
There are more jobs for American workers. Non-farm employment has increased by more than 2.8 million since August of last year. We've already passed the goal set in winter of 1993 to create 4 million new jobs by the end of 1994.
Business investment has expanded. Over the same time span, business investment in equipment expanded by 17 percent, setting a post-war record relative to GDP.
Housing starts are up. Housing starts increased by 15 percent during this period.
Consumer confidence has improved. (According to a Conference Board survey, consumer confidence surged by over 32 points, from 59.3 in August 1993 to 91.6 in July 1994, including a 4-year high in June.)
New businesses are being started at record rates. In 1993, more than 706,000 new businesses were incorporated the largest number ever recorded in a single year.
Inflation has declined. The past year saw the lowest level of inflation in 20 years.
Business failures and bankruptcies have declined. In 1993, fewer firms filed for bankruptcy than in any year since 1988.
Federal spending is declining. Federal spending is on the decline as a percentage of GDP and is projected to be lower during the Clinton Administration than during either the Bush or Reagan Administration.
Our federal work force is being reduced to its lowest level since the Kennedy Administration. As part of reinventing government and reducing spending, the Administration has reduced the size of government substantially. By 1999, federal employment will be cut by at least 272,000, thereby reaching its lowest level in more than 30 years.
The annual federal budget deficit has been cut. The budget deficit for 1994 is projected to be $85 billion less that it was projected prior to passage of the President's economic plan. This year will mark the first time in two decades that the deficit has declined two years in a row. If we stay on course, 1995 will be the first time there have been three consecutive declines since Harry Truman was in the White House. By 1998, the deficit is projected to be cut in half, in absolute terms, from where it was projected in the absence of passage of the President's economic plan.
Moreover, most economic forecasters see a bright future for the economy in the months ahead a sustained period of moderate growth and low inflation. The outlook is for a broad-based expansion that extends to all parts of the country.
Clearly, our economic plan is working.
But economic growth by itself, important as it is, is not enough. Our goal is to build a sustainable economy an economy that provides jobs, security, and a good quality of life for all Americans without so much borrowing from future generations; and just as important restores and protects the environment to ensure the health and prosperity of our children and future generations. THAT is what I mean by a sustainable economic future.
When I say "sustainable future," I am not merely parroting the latest buzz-word circulating in America's academic institutions and Washington's political circles. A "sustainable future" is a very real concept. It is the notion that we can place America very firmly on a path that will ensure the future survival of our nation ... our economy ... our environment ... our way of life. We can build a future that provides a high quality of life for all Americans without exhausting the environment that supports us. We can exploit our incredible technological strength, the creative and proven capabilities of our industries and the innovative spirit of Americans to create a world in which future generations and the environment thrive together. Furthermore, we can create a world in which all nations are able to achieve their full economic potential without destroying the environment.
A "sustainable future" is not just another bumper sticker of the environmental movement. In fact, it is the key to our survival. Make no mistake about this: restoration and protection of our environment is every bit as much of a threat to our long-term, future security as the Communist threat during the Cold War, or the smallpox virus was to previous generations of humanity.
Consider for a moment, just how great this threat is.
As highlighted at the recent Cairo conference, the world's population, which is growing at a record rate, combined with growing per capita consumption, has put us on a collision course with our natural environment. Environmental degradation has become apparent all over the planet on all scales from local air and water pollution, to global loss of plant and animal diversity, to alterations in the earth climate system. Clearly, our relationship with nature has changed profoundly.
Two years ago, the world met at the Rio Earth Summit to re-examine our relationship with spaceship earth. There we pledged to work for sustainable development and to protect the environment for future generations.
Since the birth of the modern environmental movement, there has been a concerted effort to remedy the rift with the rest of nature. We have made much progress. The quality of our air and water in the U.S. has improved in many places thanks to strong environmental laws. The people here in this room the scientists, the engineers, the policy makers, the industry leaders have been instrumental in that effort.
However, we still have far to go:
-- Last year, millions of people in major US cities such as Milwaukee, New York and Washington DC had to boil their water in order to protect themselves. Thousands got sick from their tap water; some died.
-- 70 million Americans 1/3 of our population live in communities where the air is dangerous to breathe.
-- An entire generation is growing up unable to swim in our rivers and fish in our streams. More than a third of our rivers and lakes are not suitable for fishing or swimming even though we have made a commitment to make them so 20 years ago.
-- Municipal landfills and hazardous waste sites mar our landscape and threaten human health. One in four Americans lives within four miles of a toxic dump site.
On a global scale, the size of the environmental challenge is immense:
-- The world population growth is on an upward momentum. While fertility is fortunately on the decline, the absolute increase in population per year is reaching record numbers.
-- Around the world, depleted water supplies and centuries of land misuse have turned what used to be good farmlands into deserts and millions are forced off their land and have become refugees.
-- At the same time, almost all major ocean fisheries are classed as fully exploited with large numbers of fish species being so thoroughly harvested that they are no longer viable food supplies.
However, President Clinton and Vice President Gore have a vision of a future where our economy and environment both thrive. It is a vision in which technology thoughtfully applied environmental technologies and the businesses which produce them play a key role in transforming our future in attaining a sustainable future.
The President's vision recognizes that the United States has a unique and challenging opportunity today. We have won the Cold War and our international security concerns have changed. With that change comes new opportunity for the United States an opportunity to focus our attention and our resources more directly on economic, environmental and social concerns.
President Clinton's vision of a sustainable future recognizes the scope and immediacy of these concerns. It seeks to approach them with a strategy similar to that which led America safely through the Cold War years. This is a strategy that pits America's strengths against the threat. . . .the same strengths that proved their mettle in the past technological innovation and commercial excellence.
For more than four decades, America was able to rely on its technological superiority and private enterprise to offset the numerical military advantages of our adversaries, and still at the same time build the world's most robust domestic economy. Now, we have the opportunity to exploit this same strategy in the environmental arena. The world class scientists and engineers in our laboratories government and civilian and the tremendous capacity of our industrial base can now focus their innovative skills and business know-how on achieving victory on the environmental front.
It was the government-industry partnership that enabled our success in the Cold War. It was that partnership that generated the public and private investment required to generate yesterday's technological breakthroughs necessary to ensure our national security. We must now turn our attention to guaranteeing the long-term environmental security of the planet. We must take advantage of that same kind of partnership to achieve technological transformations in the environmental arena in biotechnologies; in information, energy, and materials technologies; and elsewhere.
Technology and commercial enterprise are the keys to a sustainable future for the United States. But we must exercise care we must ensure that we invest in the right technologies.
-- We must invest in appropriate technologies that is technologies that are carefully tailored to the task at hand, the environment overall and have long-term economic benefit.
-- We must invest in effective technologies those that provide immediate and future environmental improvement and generate market opportunities.
-- We must invest in ethical technologies those that contribute to the public good not just at home but in the developing world. In this case, as we market our technologies in developing countries, we must ensure that they contribute to a sustained future for other nations as well.
-- And finally, we must invest in transformational technologies those technical achievements that offer an almost revolutionary approach to environmental remediation and protection. We may not know precisely what those technologies are today, but we have some idea where they may be found in bio-technology and material science, for example.
There are those who say that a clean environment and a growing economy are incompatible. I'm here to reiterate -- emphatically -- that this is not true. The President and Vice President have long held that by promoting and investing in environmental technology and in our industrial infrastructure and cost-based pricing in our economy, we can both enhance our economic growth and improve our environment. In fact, our focus on environmental technology will yield new and exciting opportunities for business which translate directly into economic growth and employment.
Clearly, a working partnership with the business community is a critical part of our strategy. The environmental industry plays a key role both domestically and internationally in meeting the environmental challenge, improving the quality of people's lives, and in creating jobs for Americans both here and abroad.
As I view it, we must take a three-fold approach to achieving our strategic environmental goals:
1) First, we need to clearly define the role of government in meeting the interdependent environmental and economic challenges of the future. In our view, government must define a new role as a catalytic investor in technology for a sustainable future. It must play an active partnership role in identifying opportunities for technological innovation, for commercializing government-developed technology and facilitating business opportunities in the environmental arena. And it must be a leader in integrating public purpose with market processes to ensure our partnership yields broad and sustained benefit to the nation. The "public good" will set technological priorities; the market will decide the specific investment. These new processes will enable the government to share the investment risk of regulatory change and evolving public policy.
Under President Clinton's leadership, we have taken the first steps in that direction.
-- Last fall we embarked upon the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, known as the Clean Car Initiative, through which the Federal Government is working with the American auto industry to produce a family car that competes in the market, has vastly lower emissions, and is three times as energy efficient as today's vehicles.
-- We are working closely with the Western Governors Association, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense to advance remediation and other environmental technologies through the Develop On-Site Technologies, or DO-IT, program.
-- President Clinton's Climate Change Action Plan is mobilizing federal agencies, companies, State and local governments, and citizens across the nation to make use of existing technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions cost-effectively.
-- We have established an interagency Environmental Technology Initiative, coordinated by the Environmental Protection Agency, to advance our research-and-development activities and regulatory policies to promote technological innovation. As part of this initiative an interagency Environmental Technologies Office is being established with participation from the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, the Department of Commerce, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and other federal agencies.
2) Second, we must implement policies that will support the commercialization and marketing of innovative environmental technologies by American industry. In this area, for example, we have developed and are implementing an Environmental Technology Export Strategy to help our firms sell their products in a complicated and highly competitive international marketplace.
And we are continuing to support ongoing technology development programs with proven track records. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund Innovative Technology Evaluation, or SITE, program has successfully demonstrated a range of technologies under real world conditions at Superfund sites. By verifying the performance and reliability of these technologies the program promotes the use of innovative technologies that might not have otherwise attracted the attention of those responsible for waste remediation.
What is important about these kinds of programs is that many of the technologies that they foster,are not only more effective, but less costly than standard treatments. EPA found that innovative technologies tested under the SITE program led to average cost savings of more than 60 percent in several regions of the country.
3) Finally, this Administration is fundamentally shifting U.S. environmental policy. We are encouraging more flexibility in the regulatory process in exchange for achieving measurable performance-based goals. We are moving towards pollution avoidance by embracing the tenets of industrial ecology to minimize both energy use and waste production. We are encouraging innovative partnerships between Federal and State governments and industry to achieve environmental goals.
In July, the Vice President released the report Technology for a Sustainable Future: A Framework for Action. That report outlines a comprehensive strategic framework for advancing environmental technologies, including current initiatives and possible next steps. This document points us in a number of directions which I believe will have important and beneficial impacts on our environmental industries. The Administration is striving to:
-- Assure that the federal regulatory and policy-making process is directed towards facilitating the development of prevention and monitoring technologies critical to achieving sustainable development over long-term and balancing that goal with the development of control and remediation technologies needed to address nearer term environmental problems;
-- Increase the overall resource and environmental efficiencies of our technological infrastructure by adopting a systems approach to technology built on the tenets of industrial ecology;
-- Forge public-private partnerships and federal-state partnerships directed to advancing the development, commercialization, and diffusion of environmental technologies, both here and abroad;
-- Shorten the time from research and development to commercialization and export of environmental technologies;
-- Promote the use of environmentally sound and socially appropriate technologies in developing nations throughout the world.
We believe these ideas are important building blocks of a National Environmental Technology Strategy. But we want to know what you think about it. We want your collective wisdom.
This fall, the President's National Science and Technology Council is conducting a series of workshops to extend the development of our strategy. More than 25 workshops around the country will develop a concrete set of recommendations of what we must do in terms of R&D, demonstration, verification, market stimulation, export promotion, and information dissemination to bring environmentally critical technologies to market. I hope that you will use these workshops or contact us directly with your ideas to help us build a partnership that will ensure we achieve the President's vision of a sustainable future environmentally, economically, and socially.
The workshops will lead up to a White House Conference on Environmental Technology in December designed to highlight key elements of our emerging strategy and build the partnerships needed to turn our ideas into reality over the coming months and years. On Earth Day, 1995, we will release our National Environmental Technology Strategy.
Our focus will be developing a national policy and partnerships that will enable the private sector to produce and commercialize the environmental technologies that will be a bridge to a sustainable future.
World markets for environmental technologies are expected to exceed $400 billion per year by the end of the decade. Japan, Germany and other countries are making determined commitments to capture those markets. America must not be left out; we must move aggressively. We must start turning American ingenuity into American products. Too often products are "invented in America, "but made abroad." We want environmental products invented and made in America.
We must also think about ways to help developing countries leap-frog outdated technologies, to opt for clean technologies and avoid some of the costly mistakes we made as we industrialized. Our nation is spending billions of dollars cleaning up the problems of the past. Today, we have the capacity to prevent pollution and avoid the costs of cleanup. The challenge is to find ways to assist developing countries in financing to pay for environmental technologies, to provide them information and technical knowledge they need to apply, operate, and maintain them.
Innovation by innovation, we want to build a world transformed by human ingenuity and creativity, a world in which economic activity and the natural world support and sustain one another:
-- A world in which inexpensive water technologies will save the lives of thousands of children who now die everyday from contaminated drinking water.
-- A world in which increased energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy help us moderate climate change while supplying desired energy services.
-- A world in which technologies either prevent or, if not, convert our hazardous wastes into innocuous or even useful substances.
-- One in which the use of recycled materials spares our forests and other natural resources, where progress is not measured in terms of amounts of good and resources consumed, but in the amount of goods and services provided per unit of resources consumed.
-- A world in which the development, commercialization, and export of environmental technologies provides growing numbers of jobs for Americans, and benefits for our international partners.
We are at a critical point in global technology development. Yogi Berra advises, "If you come to a fork in the road, take it." The decisions we make today will determine whether we leave to future generations an attractive, livable world or an ever-escalating series of problems. More than ever, we must work vigorously to advance the twin goals of environmental protection and economic progress. Our success will depend on developing innovative partnerships between federal and state governments and industry, academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations. And we applaud the work you are doing to promote these interactions.
Times of tremendous challenge bring with them the potential for opportunity and change. Those of you here today have the power to help us bring about change the power to help build the bridge to a sustainable economic future. I look forward to working with you to achieve that goal, and I hope you will work closely with us in the months ahead as we work to advance the development and application of environmental technologies. Thank you.