Energy secretary talks sustainability at Lisner Auditorium

Kicking off a three-day environmental conference hosted by the White House and the University, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced plans to install solar panels and a solar hot water heater on the roof of the White House Tuesday morning in Lisner Auditorium.

Chu said the White House will install the solar technology in order to begin a culture of leading by example in the promulgation of sustainability efforts.

“Around the world, the White House is a symbol of freedom and democracy. It should also be a symbol of America’s clean energy future,” Chu said, adding that the U.S. is on track to double its renewable energy capacity by 2012.

The announcement came on the heels of the one-year anniversary of an executive order signed by President Barack Obama charging the federal government to be a leader in the crusade to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve and efficiently use resources and measure and report greenhouse gas pollution.

“Science is predicting that we’re altering the destiny of the earth,” Chu said, adding that people must take action now for the sake of future generations.

“Humans are changing the climate, but we can do something about it,” Chu said.

University President Steven Knapp joined Chu and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in delivering opening remarks for the 2010 GreenGov Symposium, held at GW Oct. 5-7 in partnership with the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

The symposium – symbolic of GW’s efforts to promote sustainability on campus – was designed to bring together members of the public and private sector to discuss innovative ways to foster a more green government.

“George Washington, like many institutions of higher learning, has strongly embraced sustainability, both as an academic subject and principle guiding all operations,” Knapp said.

Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House CEQ, said the White House has also replaced Styrofoam products with compostable products, and discussed first lady Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden.

“This symposium is about turning a mission into practice and engaging minds and experiences from inside and outside the federal community to do this in a way that fulfills that enormous promise,” Sutley said of Obama’s energy efficiency challenge.

Vilsack said the American experience and economy are being redefined and the country can use energy in a more innovative, creative way.

“You are very much involved in this part of the effort to redefine the American experience in addition to the important work that you’re doing in terms of conserving natural resources and creating a more sustainable ethic in this country,” Vilsack said.

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