Julie, what past experiences has made you become an expert in Environmental policy and energy?
My past experiences in environmental policy and energy originated from academic knowledge and research. I have been researching environmental issues since January 2010 involving sustainable transportation, Environmental Foundations and Principles, Environmental Finance and Economics, Environmental Protection Law, Integrated Environmental Systems, Energy Fundamentals, Sustainability Policy & Practice, Renewable Energy Water and Food Sustainability, and Green Building.
I have also written several reports on the subject matter. For example, I wrote about the Pacific Gyre, also known as “The Pacific Garbage Patch” in thePacific Ocean; there are actually five Gyres around the world. Currently, there are no policies giving a particular country the responsibility of cleaning up the plastic pollution and other miscellaneous that is floating around in the oceans. Unfortunately, nobody “claims” the blame either. The Dead Zone, located in theGulf of Mexico, is another policy issue where no one will take blame. Pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals coming from farms, industries, and residences in the Midwest States are floating down theMississippi Riverending up in theGulf of Mexicokilling marine life. This is especially toxic in the Summer months. Every aspect of our life involves energy and environmental policy in one fashion or another.
In your opinion, what is the future of energy? Why do you believe this?
The future of energy is a bright one if Americans, our government officials, and other countries will allow the conversion from fossil fuel (dirty energy) to clean energy. People around the world are witnessing what the most popular source of energy (fossil fuel) has done to this planet and our ozone. However, oil is not the answer for today or the future, only the death of this planet as we currently know it. The future lies in alternative energy such as biofuel from algae or corn, hydroelectric, tidal, wind, and solar power.
We can also get a little sample of what the future could look like by watching the National Geographic Channel on shows such as Aftermath: World Without Oil which shows what would happen if suddenly the world ran out of oil. This show may be a little exaggerated but if gives us something to think about and that we cannot rely on this source of energy for all our needs. Whether or not we’ve reached Peak Oil, eventually this resource will run out and in the meantime we are polluting our planet and causing manmade climate change.
If people could change one thing they do (realistically), what would benefit the environment the most? Please, explain.
If people would use their voting power and speak out often when electing government officials we would see more change in protecting the environment. People tend to look at short-term issues instead of long-term solutions to environmental issues. We have failing infrastructure at all levels, whether it is energy, roads, bridges, drinking water, or our food system; everything is antiquated and needs updated through creative and innovative environmental policies. No one company can or even has the will to take on the responsibility; this it is a nationwide problem.
For example, I am writing my master’s thesis on the Department of Agriculture’s 2008 Farm Bill with an emphasis on the Title IV Nutrition Policy. Childhood obesity has become a national epidemic in the last few decades and Americans need to realize what the government has been feeding them. The Farm Bill was originally geared to subsidize farms to grow certain crops and not grow others. States were focusing on cheap ways of feeding children rather than the healthiest ways. First Lady Michelle Obama and Chef Jamie Oliver took notice of the lack of nutrition in school meals and what has gone wrong with our food system and have acted upon it. President Obama signed the Health, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 that requires schools to add more fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products to children’s diets. Jamie Oliver took the issue to the media, with the Jamie Oliver Foundation, and visited schools around the nation and investigated the nutrition that children were receiving.
Another example of voting power is choosing which government representative is focused on fossil fuel or alternative energy. We currently have a Republican majority in the House that strongly supports fossil-fuel based forms of energy while the minority Democratic members in the House largely believe we must go in another direction. We all know who owns these politicians on either side of the aisle – corporations. However, people still have a voting power of electing officials that believe in both creating jobs and clean energy; if we can find a way to reverse Citizens United and limit the ability of corporations to essentially buy politicians, and the voters elect more politicians that support clean energy, we may eventually get back on track.
You’ve done a lot of research on companies. Which fortune 500 company have you found to be the most environmentally-friendly? What do they do that gives them this distinction?
Johnson and Johnson (J&J) is one of the most all-around environmentally-friendly companies in my experience. For starters, their facilities are considered “green buildings” since they are built to Sustainability Baseline requirements for efficient utilization of energy, water and materials to reduce the building’s life cycle operating cost, minimize environmental impacts and improve indoor environmental quality for the health of occupants. Their research facility is also built as above and meets the LEED Gold Certification. J&J has been setting Healthy Planet 2010 goals since 1990 addressing transparency; energy use, carbon dioxide (CO2), and facility and transportation-related emissions reduction via their Climate Friendly Energy Policy; water use; paper and packaging; waste reduction; product stewardship; environmental literacy; biodiversity; and compliance and external manufacturing.
J&J has an auditing process, known as MAARS (the Management Awareness and Action Review System), that identifies and mitigates Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) risks that enables the company to proactively address issues and ensure compliance with federal regulatory requirements and J&J EHS standards. The process includes self-assessment, independent assessment, action planning, corrective action tracking and training. Each site conducts annual regulatory compliance self-audits, and these are supplemented by an independent compliance and management systems audit every three years.
Let’s say someone wanted to start participating in protecting our environment, what organization would you tell them to contact? Tell us about the organization.
There are actually a variety of small ways that someone can protect the environment and help themselves at the same time. For example, one way is using Freecycle.org to give away unneeded household items or junk sitting around in the garage gathering dust. While doing Spring cleaning, someone can post an item on Freecycle and another person responds that they will take it and they come get it. Everything is free; however, they have rules of no alcohol, anything illegal, or anything too large like a car or house. People can also participate by recycling their glass, plastic, computer equipment, electronics, paper products, and old plastic bags at stores. If there is no recycling facility in their community they can petition their local governments to establish one or develop a relationship with a private recycling company. If there is an existing recycling facility but none in their neighborhood or apartment complex they can see what it takes to set up regular recycling service. Best Buy also provides recycling bins for electronics. One can recycle their eyewear by donating them to their local eyewear store or local Lions Club.
If you want to go bigger on donations or help, there are also unique ways of donating such as Heifer International where you purchase a “gift” of an animal, such as a goat, chicken, cow, and the animal is given to a community in need throughout the world. People can be provided with milk and eggs and a way to sell extra food items. If two animals are donated, their offspring can assist others in need.
What are your views on the EPA?
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is vital to this planet’s survival; without it, nothing inAmerica(and since we’re all tied together as a planet, the world as well) is protected from pollution, chemicals, and possibility the death of society. The EPA is in charge of concerns of water pollution that has a serious impact on all living creatures, drinking water, household needs, recreation, fishing, transportation and commerce; air quality and pollution; climate change of temperature, precipitation, and wind; emergencies of natural disasters and hazardous substance spills; green living to reduce environmental footprint and green labeling for biodegradable, organic, and recycling; health and safety which covers air quality, asthma, beach monitoring, carbon monoxide, marine, lead (paint, dust, and soil), mercury, mold, radiation protection, radon, and UV Index; land and cleanup such as trapping chemicals as they move through soil, storing and breaking down chemicals and wastes, and filtering and storing water; pesticides, chemicals, toxins, and waste in homes, schools, and businesses.
What do you feel the United States is doing wrong with their environmental policies? What are they doing right?
TheUnited Statesis still focused on short-term issues of dependency on cheap energy from foreign countries. Reliance on fossil fuel has created more wars and deaths of both civilian and military people and the cost has caused a budget deficit not only in theUnited Statesbut also among countries that have participated in wars with us. TheU.S.needs to concentrate on longer-term goals of fixing the broken-down infrastructure and using alternative sources of energy such as wind, water, and solar. Environmental policies need to be revised to reflect a need for change. We need tax incentives to use alternative energy and cleanup existing polluted areas such as the Pacific Gyre. Corporations need to be taxed heavily when using dirty energy such as coal or fossil fuels to help inspire investment in cleaner energy sources.
United Statesis installing wind turbines and solar panels across the nation, especially the military such as the Marines and Navy. The Obama Administration has established several programs for the environment, and has by Executive Order instructed all administrative agencies to severely reduce their energy use and greatly improve environmental impacts.
The Recovery Act includes unprecedented funding for programs and projects that will protect the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior alone oversee nearly $11 billion in Recovery Act funding for projects that vary from green job training to marine habitat restoration to water quality improvements.
President Obama has established the first comprehensive National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, our Coasts, and theGreat Lakes. The National Ocean Policy helps us prioritize our efforts and resources to address the most critical issues facing our oceans and establishes a comprehensive, collaborative, regionally based planning process to ensure healthy ocean and coastal resources for the many communities and economies that rely on and enjoy them.
The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 marked the most extensive expansion of land and water conservation in more than a generation. TheAmerica’s Great Outdoors Initiative was created to work with the American people to develop a community-based conservation and recreation agenda that makes sense for the 21st century.
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by EPA, the Department of the Interior and the Army Corps of Engineers to take action to minimize adverse environmental and health impacts of mountaintop coal mining.
The Obama Administration is aggressively working to reduce pollution in the air we breathe. They have set ambitious new fuel economy standards (CAFÉ standards) for cars and trucks that will raise average fuel economy to 35.5 miles per gallon for model year vehicles 2012-2016. They are also developing the first-ever national fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for commercial trucks, vans, and buses built in 2014-2018, and developing the next generation of fuel efficiency standards for model year 2017-2025 cars and light trucks.
The Administration is taking comprehensive action to ensure the integrity of the waters Americans rely on every day for drinking, swimming, and fishing, and that support farming, recreation, tourism and economic growth. They issued draft Federal guidance to clarify which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act nationwide, launched innovative partnerships and programs to improve water quality and water efficiency, and created initiatives to revitalize communities and economies by restoring rivers and critical watersheds.