Statement of John H. Gibbons

Director, Office of Science and Technology


before the

Committee on Environment and Public Works

United States Senate

May 21, 1993


Mister Chairman, memb ers of the Committee, thank you for thisopportunity to testify on how the Administration and this Committee can worktogether to accelerate the development and application of new environmentaltechnologies, an effort that will both protect the environme nt and generatenew, high-paying jobs.

As you know, the Administration is deeply committed to protecting theenvironment, and believes that technology has a key role to play in this area.The FY94 budget request included a number of new initiative s that willaccelerate the development, dissemination, and application of environmentaltechnology, such as:

(1) expanding Federal funding for the development of environmentaltechnologies, energy conservation technology, and alternate energytech nology;

(2) implementing an energy tax that will reduce energy use and associatedpollution;

(3) expanding energy efficiency programs by 35 percent to improve the energyefficiency of Federal buildings, Federally-subsidized housing, transportation ,and industry;

(4) expanding the Environmental Protection Agency's Green Lights program inorder to encourage more businesses to utilize more efficient lighting andappliances; and

(5) accelerating the clean-up of hazardous waste sites.

I n addition, just a few weeks ago, on Earth Day, the President released awhite paper on protecting the global environment, which included the followinginitiatives:

(1) doubling the use of alternative fuel vehicles in the Federal fleet;

(2) u sing Federal purchasing power to buy energy-efficient computer technologyand other environmentally-friendly products like recycled goods; and

(3) producing a Climate Action Plan that will call on American creativity andingenuity to find new technolo gies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

These programs are a key part of the Administration's overall environmentalstrategy, which includes significant new investments in environmental programsin FY94 and over the next five years. These in vestments will pay hugedividends for years to come in terms of a cleaner environment, better healthfor our citizens, and reduced energy consumption. In addition, this investmentwill create new jobs in the rapidly growing environment products and servi cesindustry, an industry the United States has historically dominated but in whichother countries, particularly Japan and Germany, have become leading players.


The President firmly believes technology can help provide solutions to many ofthe environmental problems we face. It can help us detect, monitor, and treatpollution, but more importantly it can dramatically reduce the amount ofpollution produced in the first place. For example, the most cars produc edtoday emit less than 5 percent of the pollutants produced by cars on the roadthirty years ago. This improvement was made possible by electronic fuelinjection, catalytic converters, lighter materials, and dozens of othertechnological innovations. T echnology has led to similarly dramatic reductionsin pollution from steel mills, chemical processing plants, and hundreds oftypes of other facilities as well.

In many cases the technologies used to save the environment can save money aswell. T he Vice President often points out that pollution is a sure sign ofinefficiency since, after all, pollution represents wasted materials and wastedenergy. Thousands of U.S. companies have found that pollution prevention makessense not only for the envi ronment, but also for their bottom line. MichaelPorter, from Harvard University, has argued that companies in countries withstricter environmental regulations tend to use more advanced technology, whichmakes them more competitive in world markets. In addition, companies forced todevelop new technologies to meet strict regulations have been in the forefrontin selling environmental technologies in other countries adopting similarregulations.

A wide range of technologies can be called "enviro nmental technologies." Ifyou list every technology that can be used to clean up or prevent pollution,you end up with a very long list that would include almost all the "criticaltechnologies" that the Defense Department, the Commerce Department, OSTP, andalmost every major country have determined are key to their economic well-beingand national security, including:

(1) advanced materials;

(2) advanced manufacturing;

(3) computing and telecommunications technology;

(4) micro-electr onics; and

(5) biotechnology.

This shows how difficult it can be to define the phrase "environmentaltechnology" and how futile it would be to consider environmental technology inisolation from other technologies.

Sometimes I find it useful to divide environmental technologies into twocategories. Congressman George Brown and others have called these twocategories "dark green technologies" and "light green technologies". Darkgreen technologies are developed to solve particular e nvironmental problems.For example, a filter or a treatment process that removes lead or hydrocarbonsfrom water would be an example of a dark green technology. The catalyticconverter is another example.

On the other hand, light green technolog ies may serve many purposes, mostunrelated to environmental protection. For instance, advanced manufacturingtechnology was developed to reduce defect rates and thus improve quality andproductivity; but it can also reduce waste and energy consumption. Thedevelopment and use of such technologies can be justified without evenconsidering the environmental benefits. Yet, it may be that light greentechnologies will, in the long run, provide more environmental protection thandark green technologies. Cl early, for our policies on environmental technologyto be effective, we must promote the development and use of both shades ofgreen technology.

The most cost-effective way for the government to do this is by makingdevelopment of green technolog y an integral part of Federal technology programsthroughout the government. Our goal should be to encourage Federally-supportedresearchers developing new technologies to consider environmental applicationsof their discoveries, whether their work is su pported by the DefenseDepartment, NASA, the Department of Commerce, or some other agency.Unfortunately, too often agencies focus too narrowly on their missions and missthe opportunity to explore how the technologies being developed in their labsmight be used by other agencies and by the private sector to fulfill othermissions as well. For instance, the same sensors that the Defense Departmenthas developed to detect minuscule traces of nerve gas and other chemical agentscould be used to monitor and track air pollution--if the money and thetechnical talent were available to explore that possibility. In many cases,finding technological solutions to environmental problems does not requiredeveloping new technologies, it merely requires finding new uses for existingtechnologies.


Most scientists and engineers in Federal technology programs are not expertson the environmental problems facing this country and the world. One consequence of this is that Federal technology agencies may be devotingbillions of dollars to solving second-order environmental problems, whileoverlooking more pressing ones. In addition, even if researchers did identifya technology that might addr ess a pressing environmental pro ent ofEnergy, USDA, and elsewhere and puts environmental technology is on the agendaof every Federal research agency. Most importantly, this approach, by buildingon existing technology programs, can provide immediate, tangible results.

In cont rast, if we were to create a new, separate environmental technologyprogram within a single agency, it would take several years to build aneffective program. And it would probably be quite difficult to assemble allthe top-flight expertise you need in o ne place. Because environmentaltechnology includes everything from advanced materials to bioremediation toenergy conservation, you would need a large technical staff with a diversebackground. In addition, you would need people who understand business toevaluate whether a given technology could succeed in the marketplace.Assembling such a diverse staff at any one agency, particularly at an agencylike EPA, whose first priority is not technology, would be difficult,time-consuming, and costly. Creat ing a new environmental technology program atone of the technology agencies may take a little less time, but would requirereplicating much of the expertise presently available at EPA. Better to createa "virtual program"--similar to so-called "virtual corporations"--that combinesthe strengths and resources of several agencies. This has the added benefit ofmaking environment technology a priority at every technology agency rather thanrelegating it to one particular agency or program. This approach has beentried before in the 1970s with the Federal Interagency Energy/EnvironmentR&D Program, which proved to be very successful. Unfortunately, it waseliminated at the start of the Reagan Administration.

To provide high-level coordination for this program and other multi-agencyefforts, my office has created a subcommittee of the Federal CoordinatingCouncil for Science, Engineering, and Technology (FCCSET), which will focus onenvironmental technology. I chair the FCCSET and the acting chairman of thisnew Federal subcommittee is Joe Bordogna, the Assistant Director forEngineering at NSF. Other agencies involved include EPA, DOE, NASA, USDA, HHS,the Department of Commerce, and others. Working together, these agencies willidentify o pportunities for joint programs and coordinate their individualefforts to develop environmental technologies to ensure that there is noduplication of effort or missed opportunities. One of their first tasks willbe to conduct an inventory of on-going t echnology programs that are or couldprovide funding for development of new environmental technologies.

The Administration's efforts will help ensure the United States is at theleading edge in environmental technology. They will not only help us protectour environment but will also help American companies capture a larger share ofthe huge, growing world market for pollution monitoring, clean-up, andprevention technologies.


I commend Senators Baucus, Lieberman, Mikulski, and the other cosponsors of

S. 978 for their leadership on this issue. We share your desire to improveFederal efforts to develop and disseminate environmental technologies and lookforward to w orking with you on this legislation to achieve our common goals,including:

(1) providing better coordination between Federal agencies developingenvironmental technologies;

(2) redirecting Federal technology programs to focus more on protecti ng theenvironment;

(3) more closely linking the EPA regulatory process with technologydevelopment;

(4) accelerating the diffusion of environmental technologies;

(5) promoting export of environmental technologies; and

(6) encouraging the use of better, more cost-effective technologies for theclean-up of hazardous waste sites.

Since the bill was only introduced on Wednesday, the Administration has nothad time to fully review the legislation and so I am not able to providedetaile d comments on the language at this time. However, we are concerned thatsome of the more prescriptive provisions of the legislation will limit theflexibility of the Administration in achieving our common goals. Particularlyin an area like technology d evelopment, it is essential that the agencies havethe flexibility needed to take advantage of new opportunities as they arise,without being bound by old, out-dated, or inappropriate structures orrequirements. For instance, while we welcome your suppor t for an interagencyFCCSET committee on environmental technology--like the one we recentlyestablished--having such a committee and its functions specified in detailedlegislation could make it more difficult for the committee to functioneffectively and respond to changing demands and opportunities. Another concernwould be the number of annual reports required by the legislation and theEnvironmental

Technology Advisory Council created by the bill, which may in the future proveunnecessary or redun dant.

I will get back to this Committee soon with additional detailed comments onthe legislation and suggestions for ways to improve it. I look forward toworking with this Committee and other committees of jurisdiction to perfectthis legislat