By Alia Conley
October 15, 2010

LINCOLN — Being green means creating jobs, and the United States is behind other countries in the fight to attain energy sustainability, Christine Todd Whitman said Thursday at a press conference.

Whitman, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, spoke as the second lecturer in the E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues, a lecture series presented at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on Thursday night. The Nebraska Humanities Council also sponsored the lecture, which is this year’s Governor’s Lecture in the Humanities.

Her speech, “Staying Ahead While Going Green,” focused on energy policy and environmental issues both nationally and internationally.

Whitman stressed the importance of investing money for research and development of new energy technologies. She said the United States needs to follow the lead of other countries.

“It’s amazing to see how far ahead of us China is, as far as a number of different forms of energy they’re bringing on: clean coal, nuclear, solar,” Whitman said. “The rest of the world is moving green.”

She said some people think the government should push environmental issues aside to focus on the economy, but stressed that the two can go hand in hand.

If U.S. officials can take advantage of environmental sustainability, “we can create jobs here in this country by doing this right,” Whitman said. “It doesn’t mean stopping economic growth, it means enhancing it.”

Young people are the citizens who should rise up and become involved in government, Whitman said. She wants them to learn the issues, go to council meetings and, most importantly, vote.

Whitman noted that a grassroots movement created the EPA, and said there’s a great environmental consciousness in the Nebraska community, such as the Green Omaha Coalition.

“The only way we are going to affect a change is by getting involved, because this is a democracy, not a spectator sport,” she said.

She thinks every citizen can do his or her part to save energy and help the environment. By 2030, demand for electricity will be up 28 percent, and little changes are effective, Whitman said. You don’t need to radically change your lifestyle.

Homeowners can use compact fluorescent lightbulbs, buy energy-efficient appliances, unplug cords when not in use and replace furnaces every 10 years.

City governments and companies can produce more green buildings using solar, wind or geothermal energy, set greener building standards and create more bike paths to make it simpler for people to choose biking over driving.

Those simple steps will have a cumulative impact on reducing our energy use, Whitman said.

“If you give people tools, they’ll generally do the right things,” she said.