Energy Conservation is Key
EPA Administrator talks green energy with Scholastic Kid Reporter
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson with Scholastic Kid Reporter Madison Hartke-Weber on April 18, 2009. (Photo courtesy Madison Hartke-Weber.)
Earth Day and the Environmental Protection Agency are both about 39 years old. They are approximately the same age, because the first Earth Day resulted in the creation of the nation's first agency to protect the environment and public health.
"Our air was so hazy that in parts of our country you couldn't see more than a block or two," said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in a recent interview with Scholastic News. "Rivers were literally on fire."
More than 20 million people turned out to protest on the first Earth Day in 1970. They wanted more regulation of industry and other polluters.
"No one expected anyone to come out," Jackson said. "Congress listened to the people and literally, within a year, the EPA was formed."
On Earth Day 2009, Jackson plans to testify before Congress to ask for more legislative support. As a member of President Obama's administration, she is asking Congress to approve new laws geared toward clean energy.
Congress has already taken action this year by setting aside $7.2 billion dollars of the economic stimulus package for the environment. The money will help create "green jobs," for example, organic farmers, solar panel electricians, and wind engineers. The money will also fund clean air and water projects.
One of those clean air projects will provide air filters on diesel-powered school buses.
"Kids sitting inside a school bus can face more polluted air than the ones outside," Jackson explained. "We have a filter we can put on school buses to help keep that air clean." The stimulus bill includes $100 million for new filters on school buses.
President Obama is also pushing a "Cap-and-Trade" program, which he says will stimulate the economy through energy conservation. Companies will be able to "trade" their unused energy credits to other companies that use more energy. The ability to trade credits provides an incentive to conserve energy.
"The cheapest way to move to green energy is to not use it [energy] in the first place." Jackson said. "Energy conservation would become much more important. Cap and trade makes it more economically smart to conserve."
Recently, the EPA issued a finding stating that greenhouse gases endanger public health. As a result of a two-year study, the EPA declared that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gas emissions are a danger to the public's health.
"This finding confirms that greenhouse gas pollution is a serious problem now and for future generations," Jackson said, adding that young people, like Scholastic News readers, are the ones who need to learn now about how to help in the future.
"It's going to come to your generation to implement the solution that my generation is putting into place right now," she told this Scholastic News Kid Reporter.
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Madison Hartke-Weber is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.