Will President Obama Put Free Solar Panels on the White House Roof?
You'd put solar panels on your roof if they were free, but will President Obama. "It's complicated," the White House responded when Bill McKibben and 350.org asked if they'd install the panels Sungevity agreed to donate. To hopefully tip the balance, and make a good symbolic point, McKibben and crew are currently on the way to Washington from Maine, bringing with them one of the solar panels that President Carter installed, but was then removed by President Reagan. We Haven't Thought Carefully Enough About the Future
When it was installed back in 1979, Carter said, "A generation from now this solar heater [TH note: the panel wasn't a solar PV panel, as urban legend has made it but a solar water heating panel] can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be just a small part of one of the the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people."
Well, as anyone who has lived through these past 30 years clearly knows, by and large the United States didn't really embark on that exciting adventure--even with the growth of the environmental movement in the past ten years. Largely that's because, as McKibben rightly says, describing why the still-working panels were removed by Reagan, "we stopped thinking carefully about the future."
Maldives Prez Is Installing Their Free Panels
But back to the present moment... Sungevity has also agreed to donate a new solar array for the roof of the presidential residence of Mohamed Nasheed in the Maldives. Nasheed took them up on the offer and will be installing them on October 10th as his effort in 350's 10-10-10 campaign.
We Need to Rebuild the Withered Environmental Movement
As for the motivation of all this. Over at Yale e360, McKibben writes,
The point of all these panels, of course, is not that we're going to solve climate change one roof at a time. (Obama is doing lots of good practical things already--his "greening the government" effort is retrofitting federal buildings across the country with insulation, for instance). The point is that they help build the movement that we allowed to wither away.
Wither away? McKibben takes a shot at those groups who, in the run up to COP15 and before, thought that the best way to get climate legislation passed was to continually dilute the strength of the bill until it wasn't worth a thing, and still hasn't been passed.
Too many groups convinced themselves that they could slide some legislation through Congress, make deals with industry, get things going without a fight. It was worth a try, but it didn't work--the fossil fuel industry, the most profitable enterprise known to man, beat us.
The solution? McKibben continues the call that it's going to take hard work and a grassroots movement to make meaningful strides in stopping climate change. The fossil fuel industry and entrenched political interests are going to continue beating us, "until there's a real, broad-based, popular, noisy movement underway in this country, a movement that can provide a currency (bodies, passion) equal to the currency the billionaire Koch Brothers can pony up to defeat climate legislation."
More on that here: A Symbolic Solar Road Trip to Reignite a Climate Movement, and here: I'm Going to the White House.
Follow Bill and crew in their biodiesel van: Put Solar on the White House - Road Trip!
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More on Solar Power:
Obama's Grandma Gets a Solar Roof in Kenya
Take Action: Tell President Obama 'Put Solar On It!'
Obama's Earth Day Push for Renewable Energy