By Sarah M. Wong, Marquette University Law School
The United States has entered a heightened state of environmental awareness. America's history of industrialization and consumerism in the early 1900s resulted in the realization that an increasing rate of industrial growth wrought a devastating effect on the environment. This growing environmental awareness has peaked in the contemporary era. In the 1990s and the early 2000s, environmental issues were pushed to the forefront of American consciousness. Political leaders have become advocates for the environment, and their work prompted more Americans to recognize the environment as a top priority on the country's political agenda. The American sentiment is evident in President Obama's goals for the new decade: creating a clean energy economy and reducing pollution levels.
This Comment addresses the environmental problems that confront the U.S. and the steps that the government has taken to solve them. Specifically, research funding and patent protection have provided the green industry an incentive to increase research and development of green technology. For example, one of the recent programs to help improve the patent protection of green technology, the Green Technology Pilot Program ("Program"), accelerates the status of green technology through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) patenting process. The author suggests that the Program become a permanent feature within the USPTO and that it be expanded to allow maximum access. Finally, she recommends that the USPTO receive more funding (and keep the funding that it generates) to help alleviate delays, and the U.S. should be more receptive to green technology licensing in developing countries.
The American people's reliance on foreign oil, coal, and other nonrenewable sources has irreversibly affected not only the country's environment but also the country's economy and national security. In the 1960s, environmentalism began to gain popularity, and the 1970s energy crisis opened the door for environmental legislation in the U.S. The energy crisis demonstrated American dependence on fossil fuels and raised many questions about the country's energy policy and the security of its energy supply. This realization led to many changes as environmentalism became more mainstream and the country started to develop alternative sources of energy and fuel efficiency.
Since the 1970s, the environment has remained a concern. The Argo Merchant (1976), Exxon Valdez (1989), and "BP" Deepwater Horizon (2010) oil spills all serve as unwelcome reminders of the devastation wrought by human intervention on the Earth and of the fragility of nature. President Obama referred to the "BP" Deepwater Horizon oil spill as "the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced," and this oil spill serves as just one example of how our consumption has negatively affected the environmental landscape. Global warming has also evidenced the effects that people's use of nonrenewable energy has had on the environment. Environmental scientists have been aware of and concerned about the change to the climate for the last thirty to forty years; however, only recently has climate change been acknowledged and recognized by the general public. Scientists warn that in the future, global warming may cause coastlines to erode, ecosystems to disappear, and weather patterns to shift and change the way people live. The U.S. remains the second highest producer of carbon emissions (only behind China), which is largely attributed to coal consumption, the most carbon-intensive energy source. To curb these emissions, new sources of energy need to be developed.
All of these phenomena placed the environment at the forefront of U.S. governmental policy. Political methodology aside, improvements in green technology, green conservation, and reduction of greenhouse gases are progress measures for which to strive.
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