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Public Statements

Earth Day 2011: Reasons for Optimism and Pessimism


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Today, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement on Earth Day:

"Forty-one years ago, twenty million Americans participated in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. While much has been done to improve the environment since the first Earth Day, 2011 brings reasons for significant pessimism and optimism on the environmental front.

"Optimistically, the past year has brought into the mainstream what seemed like environmental dreams just a few years before. Both GM and Nissan introduced electric vehicles this model year, allowing people to pay less than a dollar a day to drive their daily commute, all without significant changes in routine. Rather than stopping to fill up the tank at nearly $4 a gallon, owners of the new electric vehicles simply plug their car into the outlet in their garage.

"Likewise, alternative energy is rapidly becoming mainstream, with homebuilder Meritage Homes announcing a "net zero" solar home for less than $200,000. A net zero home means that the home produces as much electricity (normally through wind or solar) as is expected to be consumed.

"Plant based packaging, is also rapidly becoming mainstream in the marketplace as well, as I realized recently in 7-Eleven where they are now selling "re:newal" bottled water that comes in bottles made from domestically grown corn and other plants rather than plastic made from imported oil. These bottles can biodegrade over time, or compost in a commercial composting facility in just 90 days. Pepsi also has a plant-based bottle they plan to roll out in 2012.

"All of these are exciting new developments that have occurred just within the past few years and give credence to the President's call to "launch a clean energy economy that will create millions of jobs that can't be outsourced." But what is most exciting about all of these developments is that these are being introduced in the marketplace today, as corporations understand the benefits of providing environmentally friendly products that reduce costs for both them and the consumer.

"Unfortunately, just as American businesses are recognizing the benefits of "going green," Republicans in Congress have been using their new majority in the House to attempt to slash funds for alternative energy research and environmental protection.

"Despite the successes of the past 41 years Republicans have launched an all out assault on the EPA's attempt to regulate and limit the amount of carbon dioxide that is polluting our air. Power plants pump 650 million tons of carbon dioxide into America's air every year, yet they came within one vote in April of eliminating the EPA's ability to regulate carbon dioxide pollution.

"Possibly the most glaring example of their environmental short-sightedness can be seen if you come up and visit the cafeteria in the House of Representatives where I work. Where we used to have takeout containers made of biodegradable paper and plant-based beverage cups, one of the new majority's first acts was to have everything replaced with Styrofoam. Aside from being made from imported oil, Styrofoam is also virtually non-degradable and has been shown to leach styrene into food. This decision bucks what corporate America decided long-ago: Styrofoam is bad for the environment and bad for business -just think: when was the last time you saw Styrofoam at McDonalds or Starbucks?

"We've come a long way in forty-one years and the progress we see in the marketplace and in the reduction in pollution has been significant. Now is not the time to rest on our laurels. We must be vigilant so we continue to move our country forward in both environmental protection and a green jobs economy. We cannot afford to allow our environmental progress to shift into reverse."

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