We have been waiting for the moment when the "new" residents of the White House would tell the nation that they are restoring solar to the nation's home-and we have been waiting, and waiting... And some are getting just a little bit tired of waiting. Earlier this year, Obama was offered a free rooftop array worth $107,900, according to the article in USA Today, which could reduce the White House's electricity bills by as much as 81%. What a deal!-but the offer was not accepted. Now one environmentalist took it to the White House steps. Environmentalist Bill McKibben of the group 350.org recently tried and failed to convince the President to reinstall a solar panel on the White House roof that Jimmy Carter had originally put there in 1979.
In case you don't remember, Carter placed 32 solar panels atop the White House, but they were removed after President Ronald Reagan took office. Reagan also allowed Carter's solar tax credits to expire in 1985, setting the solar industry back twenty years.
McKibben was interviewed on National Public Radio, and this was his version of events of what happened when he wanted to return one of the 32 solar panels to the White House:
We got down to the White House, and we had a meeting with the president, the leader of the Council on Environmental Quality and the Greening the Government initiative and things. And you're right. You don't need to go check Google Earth quite yet to see the panel on top of the White House because it's not there, nor is the sort of full, new array that a company called Sungevity had promised to provide free of charge.
They wouldn't really tell us why they couldn't put it on. In fact, they just kept saying there's a deliberative process underway, or something. My suspicion, I've got say, is that they were worried that in the junior high school lunchroom that our political life has become, touching the Carter panel would give them kind of electoral cooties, you know, a few weeks before the midterm elections.
And the fallout from Obama's refusal to place solar on the White House is coming from many quarters. Jeremy Shere in an article published by Reuters. "If..., President Obama is serious about pushing renewable energy, he should indeed install a solar system on the White House-a brand new one showcasing the latest and greatest in solar PV technology." And in a guest blog on Scientific America's website, Stephen and Rebekah Hren needled the President even more:
Many people feel inclined to wait on the sidelines until some breakthrough makes solar energy "work" or until it becomes "affordable." Some of those people are apparently the Obamas, who have refused to allow free installation of solar panels on their roof! But even though solar installations are generally not free, they are still a good deal.
If you want to learn more about the trail of the Carter panels, then you ought to see a new documentary film. As reported earlier this month in the Boston Globe, "A documentary film used the panels as a backdrop to explore US oil dependency and the lack of political will to pursue alternative energy. Swiss directors Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller followed the route of the panels in the hourlong film ‘A Road Not Taken.'''
Much has changed since Jimmy Carter installed the solar panels on the White House, but the reasons are even more germane today than they were 30 years ago with US continuing dependence on foreign oil and the overwhelming evidence of climate change. Obama can restore the alternative energy mantle to the White House by this one symbolic act. Installing home solar panels on the White House may not solve our energy problems, but there is a huge amount of symbolism in having one of the most recognized pieces of real estate in the world adorned with solar modules