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The White House Goes Solar. Why Now?

Do solar panels at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue indicate an 11th-hour push for climate legislation?

By Elizabeth McGowan

Oct 6, 2010

No doubt McKibben feels somewhat vindicated. The White House spurned the activist in early September when he asked President Obama to reinstall solar panels salvaged long ago from the West Wing. The panels were put up in 1979 at President Jimmy Carter’s behest and subsequently removed by President Ronald Reagan—who also let federal renewable energy subsidies expire. They were donated to Maine’s Unity College in the 1990s.

After Tuesday's news, the nonprofit was so overwhelmed with media inquiries that it released a diplomatic statement from McKibben, a scholar in residence with Middlebury College’s Environmental Studies Program in Vermont.

“The White House did the right thing, and for the right reasons. They listened to the Americans who asked for solar on their roof, and they listened to the scientists and engineers who told them this is the path to the future,” McKibben said. “If it has anything like the effect of the White House garden, it could be a trigger for a wave of solar installations across the country and around the world.”

In addition, online petitions surfaced as clean-energy backers encouraged the chief executive to act. For instance, Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, asked the president to go solar during an Earth Day ceremony at the White House in April.

“Obama needs to hear that the most important piece of his legacy is for him to do something significant about energy and environment,” Parenteau said. “I don’t who is going to tell him that.”

He then paused before suggesting that it’s a likely role for the first lady, who he suspected was already an instigator with the rooftop solar decision.

“Who knows,” Parenteau added with a laugh. “Maybe Michelle convinced him. I’m sure there’s some pillow talk on this issue.”


See Also

Are Moderate Republicans & Obama's Leadership Keys to Federal Climate Law?

Could GOP Election Victories Improve Odds of Climate and Energy Law?

Obama Planning New Stimulus Package Rooted in Green Jobs, Sustainable Growth


Another Solar rooftop?

This location will use solar as an assistive power supply for making electric cars.

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