United States has always had issues regarding consumption and pollution. Such a big country does indeed need and emits much more than its European neighbor. Theodore Steinberg states in his book Down to Earth: nature's role in American history that "By the end of the twentieth century, the united states used more energy per capita than any other nation in the world". The Environmental Protection Agency was created to help sustainable growth and to find solution to environmental issue.However, despite its great efficiency in the past, the last decades have not been really prolific for the EPA. The tremendous list of all laws and regulation that have been presented and voted by the congress, though impressive, is obsolete. The laws are still being enforced today, but the obsolescence is translated through the fact that no laws have been passed for the past 20 years. The last concrete environmental law, the "Toxic Substances Control Act", is dated from 1976. The last law regarding economic regulation for corporation or lobbies dates back from 1995 with "Summary of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act". If those changes were important and needed, it is puzzling that no concrete changes, laws, legislation or economical regulation whatsoever have been passed or at least presented before the Congress in twenty years time. Regarding the annual budget of the EPA, it is interesting to note that it increased more and more over the years. This increase seems like a good sign and in many respect it is. Not only does it proves that American economy increased during the past decades but it also shows the growing interest in the environmental agencies.
Table of the EPA Anual budget since 1970 Fiscal Year Enacted Budget Workforce FY 2015 $8,139,887,000 FY 2010 $10,297,864,000 FY 2000 $7,562,811,000 FY 1990 $5,461,808,000 FY 1980 $4,669,415,000 FY 1970 $1,003,984,000 However, when looking at the program of the year 2010 (one of the year when the annual budget was the most expensive), we notice that the big funding that could be useful to a lot of causes is spent mostly on awareness conferences and exposition. Such examples are:
January 22 – 24 Go Green Expo - Los Angeles Convention Center, Los Angeles, CA March 19 – 21 Go Green Expo - New York, NY April 15 – 16 The 2nd Annual IEEE Green Technologies Conference July 12 – 13 Lean and Green Summit - Savannah, GA
The study of these figures is proof of the EPA decline. Its presence in the executive branch remains important, but it is indicative of the environmental crisis, of the obsolescence of the strategy and of the different interests and aims of policies. Indeed, regarding political investment, we cannot say that congressman and presidential administrations have environment in their minds. Once again Theodore Steinberg denounces:
If the Bush administration had been serious about addressing global warming, it could have instructed the EPA to use its authority under the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gases. Imposing tougher emission standards on new cars would have been one option. Instead, the Bush EPA argued that the act did not authorized it to take on global warming. (Steinberg, p.290-291)Here the Bush Administration thought about automobile corporations and the country economic interest before thinking about global warming (an uncertain threat at that time I suppose...), privileging lobbies before environment, preventing the EPA from doing its real job. Again recently (02/2011) politicians thought that the EPA had too much influence and wished to eliminate some of its power and ability to reduce its strength. Some even wanted to eliminate EPA completely and replace with a bureaucracy.This pie chart shows some impressive number. If it is true that the majority of Americans want to leave the EPA alone, there is still 25% of the country that wants to oust it (one quarter of the population which on the Usa scale is huge).
In the end the real problem appears to be is the following. According to environmental policy experts Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus American people do not care that much about environment. Protecting the environment is supported because it is an obvious thing to do but it is not supported very strongly. And that is why money is wasted in awareness campaign, why politics and lobby are allowed to make their interests pass before those of the environment. They claims that the environmental community's narrow definition of its self-interest leads to a kind of policy literalism that undermines its power. When you look at the long string of global warming defeats under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, it is hard not to conclude that the environmental movement's approach to problems and policies hasn't worked particularly well. And yet there is nothing about the behavior of environmental groups, and nothing in our interviews with environmental leaders, that indicates that we as a community are ready to think differently about our work.
But if the EPA has obligations regarding the United States government, independent NGO which are freer can be of assistance. Maybe those organizatiosn are the key of the environmentalist movement. In any case, this is proof that environment is not and probably never will be, the first concern of governments....