Council on Environmental Quality Blog

  • Helping Communities Diversify Their Energy Sources

    Across rural America, biomass like wood pellets and wood chips is helping communities diversify their energy sources, create jobs, and save money on utility bills. At the Forest Service, we are working to support biomass projects that help us manage wildfire threats, and also serve as economic engines for rural communities. Last week, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced grants of $4 million for renewable wood energy projects that will provide 20 small businesses, tribes and community groups with the technical engineering and design services they need to explore installing wood heat and electricity projects. 

    Woody-Biomass-to-Energy Projects

    A truck is filled with wood chips as part of the process of turning wood into energy (Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture)

    As a native of New Mexico, and a member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe, I was raised to appreciate the importance of natural resources and the responsibility we all have to care for our lands. This sense of stewardship has been further enhanced by my 27 years in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, as well as my prior experience as New Mexico State Forester, chair of the Council of Western State Foresters, and co-chair of the Western Forestry Leadership Coalition.  I understand that improving the condition of our forests will improve economic opportunities for our tribal and rural communities.

    The Forest Service is facing challenges associated with drought, wildfire, invasive species and unprecedented outbreaks of insects and disease. In 2012, the Forest Service estimated that between 65 and 82 million acres of national forests and grasslands are in urgent need of restoration -- more than four out of every 10 acres.

    Building relationships and longstanding partnerships with tribes, states, private landowners and other stakeholders will help us address the issues facing the landscapes shared by us all – what we call an “all-lands, all-hands” approach. Working collaboratively with our partners, the Forest Service has announced a schedule to boost restoration and thinning programs by 20 percent each year in areas that face the greatest danger of a catastrophic fire. If we can use some of the woody biomass byproducts of these treatments for heat and electricity, we can leverage this restoration even further.

    One of the grants we recently announced will go to Nulato, Alaska, to help the community design a wood-heating system to serve the local school and water plant.  This will reduce dependence on costly fuel oil and create local jobs in delivering the wood through local businesses. In Tahola, Washington, the Quinault Indian Nation will design a thermal woody-biomass-fired energy system to serve their community facilities. In Superior, Montana, a wood pellet boiler has the potential to lower energy costs at the Mineral County Hospital’s new critical care center.

    The grants build on President Obama’s strong record of supporting rural economies through the White House Rural Council. Established one year ago, the Rural Council has focused on maximizing the impact of federal investment to promote economic prosperity and improve the quality of life in rural communities. You can learn more about the Forest Service’s grant program and work to advance woody-biomass-to-energy projects here.

    Arthur “Butch” Blazer is Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture

  • Growing Our Economy Through the Great Outdoors

    It comes as no surprise that all living things require clean land, air and water. Does the U.S. economy require the same? A new report from the Outdoor Industry Association says, yes! According to the report, recreation in the United States supports 6.1 million jobs and drives $646 billion a year in direct consumer spending on recreational gear and travel. Even during these challenging economic times, the outdoor industry has been growing at a steady rate of 5 percent annually.

    President Obama has proposed a $450 million investment in the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for fiscal year 2013. The LWCF is a critical tool for protecting our forests, parks, rivers, open space and local sports fields.  By using revenues from oil and gas drilling to invest in Federal, state and local conservation efforts, the LWCF has been used over the last 50 years to provide recreational opportunities in nearly every county in the Nation. Congress should follow the President’s lead by funding the LWCF, which will protect and enhance the local and state parks enjoyed by fly fishing enthusiasts around the country.

    At the American Fly Fishing Trade Association, we understand the importance of protecting our public lands and fostering the economic contributions of outdoor enthusiasts. Manufacturers and retailers of fly-fishing products are not looking for a handout. What we envision is our Nation’s leaders working together to protect the public lands where citizens can use our products and ensure future generations have the same opportunities to recreate as we do today.  We should all be able to agree that protecting the public’s access to the outdoors now and for future generations is not only common sense, but also the ideal job creator.

    Ben Bulis is the President of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association

  • Advancing National Security Through Energy Security

    Recently, I had the great privilege to watch our highly skilled sailors doing what they do best, and to witness the U.S. Navy's most sophisticated air and sea platforms perform complex operations using advanced biofuel and energy efficient technologies.

    Last week during RIMPAC, the largest maritime exercise in the world, the U.S. Navy successfully demonstrated the Great Green Fleet, a Carrier Strike Group's aircraft and surface ships, on advanced biofuel to test the fuel's performance while conducting operations, including: fueling helicopters and jets from the deck of a nuclear-powered carrier; completing arrested landings of aircraft onto a carrier, the first ever using biofuels; refueling a destroyer while underway; and air-to-air refueling.

    The demonstrations confirmed that advanced biofuels can be integrated seamlessly for the user and perform the same as traditional fossil fuel.  The demonstration also showcased energy efficiency technology that increases combat capability. 


    The Great Green Fleet

    The guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton is participating in the Great Gleen Fleet demonstration at the RIMPAC 2012 exercise (Photo from United States Navy, Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Eva-Marie Ramsaran)

    The Navy is pursuing alternatives because the nation’s reliance on foreign oil is a significant and well-recognized military vulnerability. The ability to use fuels other than petroleum is critical to our energy security because it will increase our flexibility and reduce the services' vulnerability to rapid and unforeseen changes in the price of oil.  A $1 change in the price of a barrel of oil, for example, results in an approximately $30 million change in the Navy budget.    This is why the Navy will only purchase operational quantities of biofuel blends when they are competitive with petroleum, period. We simply cannot afford to do it otherwise and will not do it.

    Joining me at the demonstration was Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert, and the commanders of U.S. Pacific Fleet and U.S. 3rd Fleet.  Their participation signaled to the Navy and the nation the Navy’s commitment to pursuing alternatives to imported fossil fuels because we believe it is critical to our national security. 

    A viable advanced biofuels market can inject competition into the liquid fuel market, which could drive down the cost of liquid fuels and dampen price volatility.  We recently pushed more competition into the shipbuilding industry, which allowed the Navy to bring down the cost of our ships.  We can do the same for the fuel we purchase to power those ships and other platforms.

    The Navy has always led in energy transformations, moving from wind to coal, coal to oil, and then pioneering the use of nuclear power.  The Great Green Fleet was named in honor of the Great White Fleet that circled the globe beginning in 1907 and introduced America as a global power.  It comprised the most advanced ships of its time; battleships made from steel and powered by steam, and represented America’s greatness and ingenuity.  The Great Green Fleet demonstration continues our long tradition of energy transformation by powering the Fleet with alternative fuels.

    Ray Mabus is the United States Secretary of the Navy

  • Promoting Sustainable Health Care

    Health Care Without Harm President Gary Cohen

    Health Care Without Harm President and Founder Gary Cohen speaks during a panel discussion at the White House event on Sustainability and the Health Care Industry (White House Council on Environmental Quality)

    Imagine energy efficient hospitals that save money on energy bills to use for critical patient care, and that promote renewable energy as a community health and resilience strategy. Imagine hospitals that create healthy food environments to help address the epidemic of obesity and diabetes in our country. Imagine hospitals that lead society in reducing toxic chemical exposures , and that are reducing their waste, saving money and improving patient care at the same time. Imagine a health care system that redefines “community benefit” to include improving the living conditions of communities that hospitals serve, and focusing on the prevention of disease through environmental health in addition to treatment. Imagine a health care system that makes up over 20 percent of the U.S. economy and becomes the driving force for safer products, cleaner energy, and healthier communities.

    This vision is what the Healthier Hospital Initiative is bringing to reality today and is proud to share with the Obama Administration at the White House event on Health Care and Sustainability. We have created a roadmap for hospitals to embed sustainability into their core business model and are providing technical assistance to offer every hospital in America the chance to participate for free. Health Care Without Harm has joined with our sister organization Practice Greenhealth, The Center for Health Design and 11 of the largest hospital systems in America to create the Healthier Hospital Initiative and drive this movement in health care for healthier hospitals. We already have the participation of more than 600 hospitals and we aim to recruit 2,000 overall and track the progress of the sector in achieving our goals.

  • Making Plans for GreenGov 2012: Leading by Example

    The third annual GreenGov Symposium is taking place in Washington, D.C. September 24 - 26, 2012. Co-hosted by the Council on Environmental Quality and the Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO), the Symposium will bring sustainability leaders and newcomers in the federal, state, and local government, academic, non-profit and private sectors together to learn from each other, share ideas, and help develop innovative solutions to our energy and sustainability challenges. By design, the Symposium helps the Federal Community save energy, save money, and address our sustainability goals and targets under Executive Order 13514: Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance.

    Now, you can take a look at the preliminary agenda for the Symposium on With ten tracks over two days, the Symposium will have more than 50 informative sessions, including panel discussions with leading experts, best practice case studies, and new concept, 101-education sessions.  And, we are ensuring that some sessions will be webcast to allow those who cannot attend to share in the GreenGov experience. This year we are also hosting post-conference workshops and meetings on September 26, 2012, to allow for additional discussion and training related to sustainability. 

    The Symposium is unlike any other annual gathering, designed specifically for the benefit of government employees who are dedicated to helping their agencies and the Federal government lead by example in meeting sustainability targets laid forth by the President.  The work accomplished during the Symposium is beneficial to all levels of government, with initiatives targeting better management and fewer taxpayer dollars spent on government operations.

  • Promoting Sustainability Through Sports

    NFL Fullback Ovie Mughelli

    NFL fullback and environmental activist Ovie Mughelli gives the closing remarks at the White House's event on Sports and Sustainability (Photo Credit: White House Council on Environmental Quality)

    I am honored to speak today as part of a White House Event on Sports and Sustainability. As a professional athlete and an advocate for clean, healthy communities, it is a privilege to speak on behalf of athletes and sports arenas across the country who are working to promote a sustainable future.

    In 2008, I established the Ovie Mughelli Foundation to help educate children about how their environment affects them. Through the foundation, I have had the opportunity to work with leaders across sectors who share the goal of educating millions of Americans about promoting sustainability in today's world. We also share the Obama Administration’s commitment to encouraging measures that save energy, reduce pollution, and foster healthy and successful living environments.

    A major part of my efforts has been to leverage the opportunities I’ve gained as a professional football player to encourage not only adults but also young people to take action at home. With the promotion of practical lifestyle changes within our everyday communities, we have encouraged people to champion actions that keep their communities healthy, including through fun activities that combine sports with environmental education. Most importantly, the Mughelli team strives to foster leadership in the next generation to build a green movement that addresses their needs and concerns.

    It’s an honor to participate in this White House event – I plan to continue to work with others in the sports community and outside of it to raise awareness about the steps we can all take to provide for a healthy and sustainable future.

    Ovie Mughelli is a National Football League Pro Bowl fullback and founder of the Ovie Mughelli Foundation, a nonprofit organization that educates children about the environment