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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 9, 1993
                       REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                    Old Executive Office Building

11:47 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Please be seated. Thank you, Mr. Vice President and Secretary O'Leary and my longtime friend Garry Mauro.

I want to thank this task force for a job well done. And I think -- I'd be remiss if I didn't ask the members of the task force who are here just to stand so we can be recognized. If you served on the task force, please stand up. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.)

I also know that we had about 250 others, many of whom are in this room who worked on the various sub-groups of this task force. And I thank all of you. I thank Garry Mauro, the Texas Land Commissioner, who has been my friend for more than 20 years, for his backbreaking work on this. I also want to thank the Staff Director, Tom Henderson, who is over here, who worked so hard on it. Thank you, Tom, for your work. (Applause.) Stand up. (Applause.) Thank you.

I thank Susan Tierney. And I want to say a special word of thanks to Hazel O'Leary for the statement she just made. One of my better predecessors, Harry Truman, once said that his job consisted largely of trying to talk people into doing what they ought to do without his having to ask them in the first place. (Laughter.) So I didn't even have to ask her to comply. She has removed a major part of my job. But I thank her for that.

Today I am directing the White House Office on Environmental Policy, headed by Katie McGinty, to cooperate with the Department of Energy in their ongoing programs to put these recommendations into action. These recommendations point the way to using the purchasing power of our national government to promote vehicles that run on clean, domestic fuels, including natural gas, ethanol, methanol, propane and electric power.

The federal government is one of the nation's leading purchasers of cars and vans and trucks and other vehicles. We buy tens of thousands of them each year, and even with the Vice President's reinventing government report, we'll have to keep buying a few. Your recommendations show how we can make the best use of that purchasing power by buying alternative fuel vehicles in cities where air pollution is most severe; where federal fleets are largest; where alternative fuels are available; where our efforts will be reinforced by state and local governments and private companies also committed to these goals.

The task force has identified cities where the federal investment will produce the biggest markets when linked with state, local and private efforts. Some of these cities are already converting their fleets, their buses, their service vehicles, their regular cars. By linking with these local efforts, a modest federal investment can help jumpstart locally and regionally significant programs.

Americans don't want federal bureaucrats deciding what's best on the local levels; and in this case, especially, one size does not necessarily fit all. But our efforts do serve three very important goals. First, we protect the environment. Second, we create new jobs by promoting the use of fuels that are produced in the United States and by encouraging American companies to build vehicles that use those fuels. Third, we reduce our reliance on foreign oil. Americans want a clean environment, secure jobs and a more independent country. And these alternative fuels help us to achieve those objectives.

We build on the successful experience at state and national level in government and in business. Garry Mauro has already converted the Texas state government's fleet of vehicles to clean domestic fuels. And you just heard Secretary O'Leary manifest her commitment to doing the same with the federal fleet. Many members of this task force have started to convert their companies' fleets of vehicles.

Very often I preach to the converted; today, I'm preaching to the converters, I think. (Laughter.) I can't believe I said that. (Laughter.) It's been a long week. (Laughter.)

I do want to say -- (laughter) -- I do want to say seriously that this effort is very important to me and has been from the beginning because it manifests two things that I believe very deeply, and I believe all Americans must come to believe if we're going to really take this country where we have to go.

The first is that protecting the environment goes hand and hand with economic growth as we move toward the 21st century. If you look at what's happening in this country and around the world, at the crying need to increase the rate of growth and at the same time to protect this planet, it is apparent that the future will be what we desire only if can achieve both great levels of environmental protection and higher rates of growth. If we fail at either one, and if we fail to reconcile the two, we do so at our peril and at the peril for the whole planet.

The second is that in a complicated, fast-changing world, government can best lead by example, not by bureaucratic fiat. I believe that very strongly. We have to try to create environments incentives, conditions in which the objectives we desire will be more likely to occur. And the recommendations of this task force achieve that objective very, very well.

So for all of that, I thank you all, those of you who contributed to this report. The best I can do is to do my very best to implement the recommendations of the task force. And I pledge to you that the Vice President and I and the office of the White House with the Office of Environmental Policy and with the Chief of Staff's well known-historic bias for natural gas, somehow we will find a way to make these task force recommendations come alive in the federal government and in the lives of the American people. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END11:54 A.M. EST