Environmental Technology

Export Promotion Discussion With American Engineering Companies

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By Marc Lemmond

Last week I had the pleasure of joining Michelle DePass, Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs, as she talked to members of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) about EPA’s export promotion strategy.

ACEC’s Annual Convention and Legislative Summit was held from April 21-24 at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, DC. It was designed to provide an opportunity to obtain information about and discuss issues affecting the engineering industry through educational and social programs. Assistant Administrator DePass was joined by the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Manufacturing and Services, Nicole Lamb-Hale, in speaking to ACEC’s International Committee. The Assistant Administrator discussed the progress of EPA export promotion work to date and plans for continued progress.

The export promotion strategy was launched last May by former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. In accordance with this strategy, EPA is working to help improve the domestic economy by facilitating exports of U.S. environmental technologies. The U.S. environmental technologies sector is globally competitive and important to our economy. In 2010, the industry had an estimated $312 billion in revenue, employed 1.7 million Americans, included 61,000 small businesses, and enjoyed an international trade surplus (Environmental Business International).

ACEC represents America’s engineering industry. Its membership represents more than 500,000 U.S. employees and more than $200 billion of economic activity annually. Environmental consulting and engineering involves analyzing, measuring, and developing strategies to address environmental issues. Engineering helps to translate individual environmental products into effective environmental solutions for clients across the spectrum of industries around the world. ACEC members were particularly interested in addressing what they felt were unfair foreign procurement practices and boosting EPA awareness of technological advancements in environmental technologies.

EPA’s Trade and Economics Program works with the Office of the United States Trade Representative and other federal agencies on issues relating to the nexus between trade and the environment. Through this work, EPA encourages transparency, fairness, and cooperation to promote the trade and environment agenda, and advance environmental stewardship. Assistant Administrator DePass explained that EPA’s export promotion strategy is not designed to endorse any specific company or technology, but provides a mechanism to link EPA analysis to U.S. environmental solutions providers and international markets.

We look forward to working with ACEC to emphasize the role of environmental consulting and engineering in international environmental solutions.

About the author: Marc Lemmond works to implement EPA’s Export Promotion Strategy as a part of the Trade and Economics Program in the Office of International and Tribal Affairs.  He has extensive public and private sector experience with the environmental technologies industry.  Marc holds a Master’s degree in Science, Technology, and Public Policy from the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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China Strives for Clean Waters with EPA

By Sasha Koo-Oshima

All over the world, developing countries are faced with the challenge of trying to grow their economies despite finite water resources. The U.S. government, including EPA, is helping countries address some of their most pressing clean water needs while trying to develop international markets for U.S. businesses that specialize in environmental technology. Last December, I traveled to China as part of a U.S. delegation to help China develop a long-term plan to maximize the country’s water resources in the face of a growing population and the potential impacts of climate change.

Our delegation included representatives from 20 U.S. companies, which consulted with Chinese government officials on a host of issues like water and energy efficiency, wastewater treatment and water reuse technologies. The impressive turnout by these companies shows a genuine interest in the growing Chinese marketplace. I’m enthusiastic that the Chinese government, which has set aside about $5.5 billion over the next eight years to develop a series of ground water-related strategies, has shown such strong interest in a growing sector of the U.S. economy.

The U.S. is already a world leader in producing advanced water technologies. According to the Department of Commerce, the U.S. environmental technology industry in 2008 generated approximately $300 billion in revenues, $43.8 billion in exports, and supported almost 1.7 million jobs. The U.S. share of foreign environmental technology markets has continued to grow and given the U.S. environmental technology industry a positive trade surplus for the past decade, and our work with the Chinese government is helping further the National Export Initiative, an effort by the federal government to expand overseas markets for U.S. businesses.

Above all, the most productive part of our meetings with the Chinese government centered around the exchange of ideas. Human capacity and knowhow, as much as any device or piece of machinery, is what’s needed to achieve any goal. I’m particularly excited about a partnership that’s developing between communities near Liangzi Lake in China and Minnesota Lake here in the U.S., where the two “sister lakes” are identifying strategies to help one another address common issues.

Business is all about relationships, and the relationship EPA is developing with China is not only helping China address some of its most pressing environmental problems, it’s enabling U.S. companies to take advantage of the growing global demand for environmental technology. And it’s all in the name of providing clean water to communities and businesses.

About the author: Sasha Koo-Oshima is the Senior International Water Policy Advisor for the EPA’s Office of Water, and has worked on China’s water quality and water resources development for nearly a decade. Sasha formerly served as the principal officer on water quality for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Agency and in the Scientific Secretariat of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

A Global Effort

By Erica Arnold

In August, I had the incredible opportunity to learn from and exchange ideas on sustainability with students from Japan, Poland, and Thailand. At the Toshiba Youth Conference 2011 in Bangkok, Thailand, four other students, two teachers and I had the honor of representing the US at a week-long environmental science seminar sponsored by the Toshiba Corporation.

The seminar theme, “Achieving Harmony with the Earth,” enabled us to understand that even with today’s reliance on technology and consumer goods, it is still possible to live at peace with the environment. Truly immersing ourselves in nature, we slept in tents surrounded by the beauty of Thailand’s tropical forests. We even ate our food wrapped in huge banana leaves and drank from hollowed bamboo shoots. In this inspirational setting, we presented the most pressing environmental problems of our countries and discussed solutions we could work towards in the future.

At the conference, we also focused on breaking our dependence on using finite resources such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Keeping the many services nature provides for us in mind, we practiced ways to utilize our natural resources in a sustainable manner. At a farm just east of Bangkok we made our own biodiesel fuels from leftover cooking oil, used earthworm urine to create natural fertilizers, and even learned how to calculate the amount of CO2 certain trees absorb from the atmosphere.

Continuing on our adventure, we spent a day at the Royal Nature Conservation Center, a learning center for the development of sustainable agriculture and energy generation. There, we constructed our own waste water purifiers from microorganisms. It was inspiring to see the Thai people teaching others how to live simply off the land.

As inspiring as the hands on activities and magical ambiance of the Thai landscape was the passion of the conference executives. I realized that everyone, even high school students, can help planet Earth.

We all aren’t engineers or scientists with the skill sets to develop new eco-friendly technologies. And we all do not live in environments where we can use leaves as plates. However, if we exchange ideas and learn to work with people across the globe, we can come up with better solutions that move us all towards a greener tomorrow.

Find out more about sustainability

About the author:  Erica Arnold is a senior at Hinsdale Central High School in Illinois and plans to study environmental engineering in college next fall.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Science Wednesday: Smart Investments: Technology for the Planet and the Economy

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

About the author: April Richards is an environmental engineer with EPA’s Office of Research and Development, where she helps manage EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. She recently organized the SBIR kick-off meeting for the new early-stage technology developers that received funding from EPA.

We recently held our kick-off meeting for new small businesses awarded EPA funding to develop innovative technologies for solving environmental problems. It was so exciting to have a room full of entrepreneurial engineers and scientists putting their collective brainpower toward solving such important issues as climate change, air pollution, renewable energy, infrastructure, and water quality monitoring.

“It’s great to know EPA wants us to succeed,” was one company’s way of summing up the meeting. We sure do!

The original idea of the SBIR Program was to tap into the wealth of engineering and scientific expertise of small businesses to address federal government’s pressing research and development needs. Given that small business (particularly in technology) is often referred to as the “engine of U.S. economic growth”—providing the majority of the country’s new jobs—this idea makes more sense now than ever before.

There’s never been a better time to match the need for economic growth with environmental protection through the creation of “green jobs.”

There is so much potential for developing technology that both benefits the environment and keeps the U.S. competitive in the global market. As EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a recent e-mail to Agency staff, we shouldn’t have a “false choice of a strong economy or a clean environment.” The concepts are mutually beneficial.

New, “green” technologies that use less raw and toxic materials, generate smaller streams of waste, and emit fewer emissions are good for the environment and the bottom line. For example, several of the SBIR companies represented at the meeting are exploring ways to harvest what is now considered waste to create building materials, cleaner energy, or other valuable commodities.

Companies face many hurdles getting their technologies into the marketplace, where they can ultimately have a positive impact on the environment. But the potential is tremendous, and it’s reassuring to know that so many smart people are working on this common goal, and with some help from EPA, can develop technologies which help the planet and the economy.

For more information about EPA’s efforts to match technology innovation with environmental needs, visit: http://www.epa.gov/etop/

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Hollywood Doesn’t Always Portray Things From the Right ASPECT

About the author: Jeffrey Robichaud is a second generation scientist with EPA who started in 1998.  He serves as Chief of the Environmental Assessment and Monitoring Branch in Kansas City.

Movies require you to suspend your disbelief, but when you watch a film that hits close to home it can be tough. I have a friend in federal law enforcement who squirms when cardboard cutout agents run across the screen. Action flicks don’t do his profession justice, but at least his job is sometimes glorified on celluloid. The only two movies I can remember featuring a prominent EPA employee are Ghostbusters and the Simpsons Movie, neither of which ever made a kid say, “Man, when I grow up I want to work for the EPA.” On the off-chance your youngster was inspired to seek out public service please let them know we don’t inspect unlicensed nuclear storage facilities, nor do we have a fleet of helicopters. We do however, have one cool plane.

photo of front of plane with a group of people standing nearbyEPA’s Airborne Spectral Photometric Collection Technology, known as ASPECT, is an aircraft equipped with sensors that allow for surveillance of gaseous chemical releases from a safe distance. ASPECT gives emergency responders information regarding the shape, composition and concentration of gas plumes from disasters such as a derailed train, factory explosion or terrorist attack.

Since its inception ASPECT has flown over several fires, provided support during the Olympics and Columbia shuttle recovery, and supplied some of the first aerial images of the devastation along the coast during Katrina.

view of city horizon with a large plume of blue smoke rising over a highwayThis was the scene in Kansas City outside our office windows in 2007 when a chemical facility went up in flames. ASPECT deployed and was instrumental in verifying that while ominous, the fire did not present a significant health threat to the community (the white signature you see below is the fire).>overhead image from plane with white area indicating fire

Most of the technology you see in movies is sheer fantasy, but EPA’s high-tech plane and the scientists who operate it are worthy of a spot in the next summer blockbuster. Here’s hoping for the appearance of an EPA scientist who isn’t a bad guy (although with my face the best I could hope for is Thug #4 in the next straight to DVD clunker).

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.