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And I think-you have asked how can government efficiently spur this greening movement, and it's very apparent with the 3350 that setting the target and getting out of the way was a very effective way to do that. And I think it surprised many people who were convinced that this was not going to happen.
Mrs. MORELLA. Last year—well, actually, September of 1992, I did a field hearing in Montgomery County, Maryland,
on green technology, but it was the very time when the report by OTA called “Green Products by Design” came out, and that stressed looking at the whole life cycle of a product and making changes in a product's design to reduce the overall environmental impact. Volkswagen, Europe's largest car manufacturer, has made changes in its car design so it's easier to recycle all car parts, and these changes, I think you would agree, would be good for the environment and eventually good for Volkswagen's bottom line.
Are you all familiar with that report? You may have even alluded to it earlier. Do you find benefits from it? There are so many reports around we wonder how they're utilized.
Mr. CASCIO. That was an excellent report. But it did underscore one important thing, and that was the ability to do technical, scientific life-cycle assessments, which we're still not there. I just bring up a couple of examples to illustrate how difficult these things are. We still have not resolved whether polystyrene cups or paper cups are better for the environment. If something that simple
Mrs. MORELLA. That baffles me, too.
Mr. CASCIO. If it's that simple, something that simple cannot yet be resolved, how will you resolve whether a Volkswagen or a Cadillac is better for the environment?
We don't know if disposable diapers or cloth diapers are better for the environment. If we can't figure that one out, how can you figure out the difference between one television set produced in Hong Kong and one produced in Peoria?
Mrs. MORELLA. Okay. Why can't we figure these out?
Mrs. MORELLA. I don't even know, when I go to a grocery store and they say, "Hello. Paper or plastic?" I am not sure which is environmentally sound.
Mr. CASCIO. That's exactly right. It's six of one, half a dozen of the other. The plastic is no worse than the paper. And the fact of the matter is that when you do these things intuitively you come to conclusions. You immediately decide that paper is more environmental than plastic. You immediately decide that a paper cup is better than a polystyrene cup. And in each instance you're wrong.
In each instance it's not. Okay. Because when you do the lifecycle assessment you find out that it's six of one and half a dozen of the other.
And so if we can't do something that simple, how are we going to do the very complex thing? That's, again, why I go back to the ISO standards. The ISO technical people are really working hard to try to figure out how to do these things. And until we have that technical basis to make these analyses, we cannot make these decisions with a snap of a finger.
Ms. WEVER. Yes, I want to jump in here on this one too because even when we have the answer at the macroscale which says paper is better or plastic is better, when you come down to the prospect of actually manufacturing it, you're going to have site-specific differences. In some areas, the transportation costs are very high.
So when you really try to look across the entire spectrum of all the parameters that affect manufacturing, it's not simple at all. So even a generic answer at this level is not always going to be the right answer when it comes down to the level of the shop floor.
We need tools, and this is why I think it's going to be very important for government and others within the private sector, within academia and so on, that will create life-cycle analysis tools that can actually be used practically, not just by esoteric, Ivory-Towertype folks, but people already down—all the way down to the shop floor, the man who asks, “should I use a disposable garment on the floor in an area that doesn't have to be cleaned, versus one that is cleaned up
It really depends upon the environment that surrounds that plant, and the entire life cycle of handling that particular garment. So they need to have practical tools that they can use themselves within their own operations.
Mrs. MORELLA. We'd almost need to have a computer where you press “Locale,” “Environment,” you know, et cetera. All the different factors that should be utilized.
Ms. WEVER. Right. Mrs. MORELLA. Well, I hope that we can arrive at that, Mr. Chairman, in some way in this bill that we have a draft before us. Thank you.
Mr. VALENTINE. Well, I thank the lady, and her questions and answers give me an opportunity, kind of as a parting shot, to raise a caveat. We talk about synthetic products and properties. Sometimes when I look at all these, this new modern-day plastic plumbing, the pipes, you know, that they put in in these new homes, I have to think about an experience of mine, which is a true story. Now, I hate to have to issue that to begin with, because everything
should be true. But years ago, in my other life, this has been about 35 years ago now, in New York, I purchased a beautiful garment which was a cross between a sweater and a jacket. It was kind of a light tan color, had a great big thunderbird thing on the back of it, you know. It was a rate thing. I wore it only to the State Fair and tractor pulls.
I got a lot of compliments on it. I hung it in a special place in the closet. And about 10 years after I had purchased it, I went there one day and saw all this—it had a beautiful thick lining. I saw this white snowy stuff down on the floor in the closet under my beautiful garment, my coat of many colors. And I took it up, and as my hands touched it, the lining, which was some synthetic, was disintegrated and fallen apart and flaked down to the floor, just like falling snow.
And so I hope that doesn't happen to the T-shirts, and these plastic pipes. So when we talk about things we don't know about, one more thing—in my other life also, I have spent a number of years serving as a school board attorney-county where they build
a lot of schools. And we were going through the era then where no matter what anybody would tell those people, they would build schools with a flat top, let the water puddle up there. That was good.
And what was correct in synthetic materials to make that roof completely waterproof and sealed we found in many instances the new technology had leapt ahead and there was a problem with that and it had to be replaced with something, some new product in the future.
So I think they no longer build flat-top school houses in Nash County. But for every action there's an opposite and equal reaction. So I hope that the things, the wonderful things that we do to take the place of other things, those synthetics will last forever.
So I know you'll be happy and relieved if I recognize Mr. McHale, who just joined us, for a parting shot. Mr. MCHALE. Mr. Chairman, I thank you. I thank the witnesses
I for their enlightening testimony.
Based on the quality of that testimony, its depth and coverage, I have no questions.
Mr. VALENTINE. Anybody else?
Thank you all very much for this contribution. And the meeting stands adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 3:20 p.m., the subcommittee was recessed, to reconvene subject to the call of the Chair.]
NATIONAL INITIATIVES IN GREEN
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 1993
SPACE, AND TECHNOLOGY, SUBCOMMITTEE ON TECH-
Washington, DC. The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10:34 a.m. in Room 2325, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Tim Valentine (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
The CHAIRMAN. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to today's hearing of the Subcommittee on Technology, Environment and Aviation.
This morning we are pleased to have with us a distinguished panel of witnesses to discuss the role of government as a partner with industry in promoting more environmentally sound economic growth.
Very soon, several members of this committee will formally introduce legislation to promote the widespread development and use of environmental technologies. This bill, entitled the Environmental Technologies Act of 1993, addresses a broad range of areas in which the role of government can be made more effective.
The bill that calls for a more coordinated government, not more government; it is a bill that recognizes that environmental health can be a plus for economic growth, not a minus; and it is a bill that directs the government to cooperate with industry and educational institutions in a proactive way to achieve environmental and economic goals, not in an antagonistic, command and control manner.
Products and processes that more efficiently use materials and energy, reduce pollution, and control and clean up waste add to the competitiveness of U.S. industries. This competitiveness advantage grew in importance, I believe, yesterday when the House took a major step toward opening more doors for increased export by passing NAFTA. The export of U.S. environmental technologies will surely benefit from this treaty.
The importance of environmental technologies in U.S. exports is also being highlighted by the administration. In a few days, the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee will announce the release of their task force report. This report lays out measures that the government can take to facilitate the U.S. presence in this important international market. Preliminary indications are that this report is consistent with the directions of our legislation.