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Public Statements

Remarks by Senator John Kerry - Environmental Policy Address

By:
Date:
Location: Durham, NH


October  20,  2003
University of New Hampshire

I'm here today to lay out a comprehensive vision for how we create a cleaner and greener America.  How we can repair the environment today and protect it for tomorrow.  This is a cause that I care about a great deal and one that I've fought for all my life.  But this isn't just my fight.  I'm here on this campus because the fight for our environment is a fight for young people's future.  The decisions we make today are going to have more of an impact on your lives than on mine.  You need to be on the frontlines of that fight - and you deserve a President who is leading the way.

Some candidates seem only to discover the cause of the environment only on election years.  These politicians figure endangered species don't vote; our forests don't give campaign contributions; WorldCom has more political muscle than the White Mountains.

But for me, protecting the environment isn't just the cause of a campaign.  It's been the commitment of a lifetime.  My mother was a true environmental activist.  She started a local recycling program long before it was cool.  And when I was a young boy, she would wake me up in the early hours of the morning, take me into the woods and simply say "listen."   At the time, I wasn't so happy about being woken up.  Now, I understand she was teaching me about our responsibility to this world better than you found it. 

And when I wasn't much older than some of the students here today, I was honored to speak at the first Earth Day in Massachusetts back in 1970.  As a young person, I was angered at what we were doing to our country - rivers on fire from pollution, our forests being clear-cutted every day.  Since that time, we have made progress: removing lead from gasoline, reducing air pollution, reclaiming waterways, renewing land that had been lost to toxic waste, defending and expanding our national parks - and we have even saved our national symbol, the bald eagle, from extinction.

But George W. Bush is taking us in the wrong direction.  He is the kind of politician who would cut down a tree and then climb on its stump to give a speech about conservation.  Since he has made it easier to clear cut acres of forests, we can expect plenty more campaign speeches about the environment.  But the American people won't be fooled by his rhetoric.  They know his record.

This President has not only refused to act, he has set back the cause of environmental protection.  President Bush broke a campaign promise to reduce the harmful carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.  Instead of enforcing the law, he's taking environmental cops off the beat and letting power plants hundreds of miles away pollute New England's air.  Instead of renegotiating the Kyoto Treaty to improve it, he simply repudiated it - and isolated America in the world. 
He's made taxpayers instead of polluters pay for clean ups.  He's stood in the way of our efforts to make cars cleaner and more fuel efficient.  And despite all our efforts to stop him, he continues to want to open up our most pristine and sacred national parks and resources to destructive development and drilling.

The difference between us and George Bush is one of vision.  Where we see a pristine wilderness or a scenic coast, George Bush sees an oil field.  Where we see a beautiful mountaintop, George Bush sees a strip mine.  Where we see a pristine old growth forest, George Bush sees toothpicks.  And where we see an opportunity to join the global community to fight global warming, George Bush sees a chance to curry favor with his buddies in the oil business.

They don't think you are going to notice.  They think that the American people can be misled by false names.   Chop down mountainsides of old growth trees and call it Healthy Forests.  Increase the pollution in the air and call it Clear Skies.  They believe as long as they use the right words, the American people can be deceived.  But we don't get fooled that easy.

George Bush has put pollution ahead of preservation, campaign contributions ahead of conservation, special interests ahead of America's special places, Exxon ahead of the environment, parking lots ahead of parks.  It's time we put George Bush and Dick Cheney out of work - and on a bus back to Texas.  

Under President Bush, America's environment has become threatened, endangered, and imperiled.  I'm running to keep clean the water we drink, the air we breathe, the yards and parks in which children play and laugh, and the communities in which we live.  This is our commitment - and we won't back down.

For thirty-years, I have been fighting to protect the environment - and I've won important battles.  I pledge today that I will be "the true environmental President," but when I say it, its not just rhetoric - I have the record to back it up.  Over and over again, I've found myself at the forefront of the battle against the powerful corporations and their revolving door government friends who want to turn back progress on fuel efficiency, oil spills, and drilling.  I have pushed for America to take the lead in guarding the last pristine open spaces in the world like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to slow the destruction of coral reefs, and to stop the extinction of ocean life.  I've been a leader in battling global warming and worked with Senator John McCain to make America's cars cleaner and safer.

It's been an honor and a fight I've loved to stand up for the environment in the US Senate.   But I've also seen that real progress takes a President who will shine a spotlight on the special interests that sneak behind the scenes to get what they want.   A President who will call powerful corporations on the carpet and call the American people to action.

The members of this Administration may only know how to dismantle and destroy, but we need a President who knows that Americans have the power to imagine and build. 

If I am your President, it'll mean the end of secret meetings for energy industry special interests.  I'll have a simple message for the lobbyists and polluters that call the Bush White House home: Don't let the door hit you on your way out. 

As soon as I step into the Oval Office, I will transform the White House into a hub of inspiration and innovation and lead America on the great endeavor of creating a cleaner and greener nation.

Today, I am releasing a comprehensive plan for how to take our environment back. Within the first six months of my taking office, here's what we will be able to accomplish: We will reverse the damage of the Bush assault on our environment and take aggressive steps to clean our air and water.  We will restore America's leadership on combating climate change and set America on a course to energy independence. 

But we won't just fix what they did wrong, we'll do even better. We will begin building a clean and prosperous and beautiful nation in the twenty first century by supporting smart growth policies for every community and by creating a Conservation Covenant to preserve those unprotected parts of America's natural beauty for the generations to follow.

As President, I will build a coalition for environmental progress and protection - with every worker, every business executive, every parent, every student helping us move forward - together.  We will enlist farmers and ranchers, hunters and fishermen, as stewards of the land and the water on which they depend on for their livelihoods.

We'll reward those who innovate, and charge those who pollute.  We'll give America's most powerful companies green lights and greenbacks to pull advanced technology out of the lab and off the shelf and put the American people back to work. 
We will bring the technologies of tomorrow to the roads and rails and homes of today. Instead of vast subsidies for dirty industries and obsolete technologies, we'll invest in a cleaner tomorrow. 

We will return America to its rightful role as a leader in the global battle against climate change, poverty, and the spread of disease.  Global problems know no boundaries.  The earth is a small planet where wind and water, poison and pollution know no borders.  

If we care about the national security of America, we can settle for nothing less than energy security for America. The dollars we spend at the pump can too easily be diverted to finance the very terrorists that would seek to destroy us. The threats that America faces today don't just come from gun barrels, they come from oil barrels - and we need to disarm that danger. I have a comprehensive plan to end America's reliance on Mideast oil within the next decade.  It's right for our security.  Right for our economy.  Right for our environment.

We have the technology to manufacture cars with far better gas mileage - and we can and must do it now. Not a single American needs to give up driving an SUV or a pick-up truck. But at the same time, we need to repeal the outrageous one hundred thousand dollar tax break for the purchase of luxury gas-guzzlers like Hummers. Americans have the right to drive whatever car they want - but they don't have the right to have the government pay for more dependence on foreign oil.

As President, I will put environmental justice center stage.  For too long, poor and minority communities have been overlooked when it came to the environment.  And for too long, polluters thought they could get away with breaking the law as long as it was in someone else's back yard.  Those days need to end.  Under a Kerry Administration, no community will have their environment overlooked.  They will have the power to fight back.  And the polluters won't get away with it any more.

What will America look like when we are done?  We will have pollution-free cars drawing their energy from redesigned fueling stations.   We will see gleaming high speed trains carrying passengers from city to city.   Our oceans and rivers and forests will move out of intensive care and back into health, so that they are once again teeming with life.  In rural America, people will be as connected as anyone living in the city; and our cities will see almost as much green as out in the country. 
America faces a choice: do we wish to be remembered as the last generation of the foolish - those who believed that the earth could be stripped without conscience - or as the first generation of the wise?

George Bush has offered his answer - time and again.

We need to offer a better answer.  We need to unlock the force of invention and imagination.   We need a President who will lead the country and the world in tackling the challenges we face.  We need a President who'll protect our rivers and lakes, our oceans and forests. We need to make sure our children's children know the true meaning of "America the Beautiful."

When it comes to our environment, George Bush and Dick Cheney have broken the trust of all Americans - but especially young Americans.  They've thrown a party for their friends - but left your generation to clean up the mess and stuck you with the bill.

I ask you to lead the way to a brighter future.  Enlist in the cause of protecting the environment.  Join my campaign for a clean, green America.  Go to johnkerry.com and learn more about the issues and how you can make a difference.  Your courage to do what's right can change the world and save the world for the young people of tomorrow.  I ask for your support in that commitment and that cause.

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