Council on Environmental Quality Blog

  • 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

  • Reducing Asthma Disparities

    As a primary care pediatrician and leader of the Community Asthma Prevention Program of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, I am very excited about the Coordinated Federal Action Plan the Obama Administration recently announced to reduce asthma disparities. For years there have been a number of disparate efforts from various federal agencies to address asthma disparities; yet the gap in asthma-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths still exist. Asthma is a disease that is impacted by a host of environmental, health and social factors. Therefore it’s no surprise that efforts made in a singular fashion have not worked in the past. This Coordinated Federal Action Plan represents the coming together of 16 federal agencies to use their collective strengths to collaboratively and systematically reduce, and someday eliminate, asthma disparities.

    This plan recognizes the importance of the community’s involvement in efforts to reach disparate populations and the importance of collaboration among healthcare providers, community agencies, and social support systems. The following two strategies resonate with my experience in taking care of children with asthma:

    • The standardization of training and certification of Community Health Workers (CHW) and utilization of CHW’s in care of at-risk asthmatics

    The Community Health Worker is often the unsung hero in the frontline effort to intervene in the disproportionate burden of asthma on disadvantaged communities. These highly trained lay health educators are effective in working together with families to increase self-management skills and to remove asthma triggers as well as provide care coordination services. CHW’s are often the glue that connects caregivers to the healthcare system, community resources and social support systems and a key driver in community efforts to reduce asthma disparities. Given their important role in working with the most vulnerable populations suffering from the burden asthma places on their lives, standardization of curriculum and certification of CHW’s is a necessary step in providing wrap around asthma care to reduce asthma disparities and asthma costs.

    • Promoting collaboration across all systems that serve children with asthma including health care, housing, schools and childcare settings

    While disseminating best practices in implementing asthma guidelines is a step in improving overall asthma health outcomes, it is essential that the asthma care plan accompanies the child where they live, learn and play. Strategies toward this goal include: creating communication channels via federal interagency and private partnerships to provide comprehensive services to the people most affected by asthma; sharing data (including asthma care plans) between health care and school/childcare systems; and equipping federally qualified health centers and hospitals who serve disadvantaged populations to implement best practices.

    The Coordinated Federal Action Plan provides guidance for approaching asthma disparities in a holistic fashion recognizing that patients live in the “real” world where their housing, health and education are all interconnected. Using all resources available and intervening in an integrated, collaborative manner will give us the greatest chance for finally closing the gap on asthma disparities.

    Tyra Bryant-Stephens is Director and Founder of the Community Asthma Prevention Program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

  • Advanced Vehicles: Advancing Our Communities

    Editor's Note: This blog introduces readers to Jules Toraya, Project Manager at the City of Atlanta's Mayor's Office of Sustainability.

    Today at an event held at the White House, the Obama Administration recognized  innovators in the auto sector, and the positive impacts the resurgence of the auto industry is having in communities across the country. As the leader of the City of Atlanta's plug-in electric vehicle readiness strategy -- and an officer currently assigned to the Inactive Reserves -- I was honored to be recognized and to engage in a conversation on this topic.

    My interest in advanced vehicles and clean energy is tied to my history as a Captain in the U.S. Army. After two tours in Iraq supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, I became motivated to find ways to reduce petroleum consumption and minimize the need for the Department of Defense to secure America's oil supply chain. 

    In my last year of active duty, I volunteered for Clean Cities Atlanta and the City of Atlanta's Mayor's Office of Sustainability to help make Atlanta Electric-Vehicle (EV) ready -- and ended up working as a full time administrator on a Department of Energy EV Community Readiness Project with the Center for Transportation and the Environment. Now, I am also coordinating a local public-private partnership, Plug-in Georgia, which is taking a regional approach and working with communities throughout Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina to ease the deployment of EVs. As more plug-in vehicles become available, they are likely to become popular since the Southeast is home to some of the lowest electric utility rates in the country. Atlanta EV infrastructure is building as more plug-in electric vehicles become available. This past Memorial Day in Atlanta, City Council opened Atlanta's first Neighborhood Electric Vehicle Charging Station to the public in honor of those who have been killed in Operations Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn and Enduring Freedom. 

    Today's event with diverse industry, labor and government leaders reiterated how far we have come in developing advanced vehicles that reduce our country's dependence on foreign oil, and grow jobs in our communities. The Obama Administration's new fuel economy standards, developed in partnership with stakeholders, will encourage even more innovation, and save consumers trillions of dollars at the pump. Mayor Kasim Reed has pledged that the City of Atlanta will become one of the top 10 most sustainable cities in the United States. Supporting advanced vehicles will help us achieve this goal, and keep our communities healthy and strong.

    Jules Toraya is Project Manager at the City of Atlanta's Mayor's Office of Sustainability