The quest to bring solar panels once more to the roof of the White House has ended in defeat.
Not since President Jimmy Carter added a 32-panel array in 1979 has renewable energy had a starring role at the world's most famous address. Two campaigns, one led by a coalition of solar power companies (Globama) and the other from a student group (Put Solar On It) at Unity College, had proposed reinstating the panels. The former had even offered a free array valued at more than $108,000.
After meeting with the Unity College group (which environmentalist and author Bill McKibben joined in support), the White House declined their gift of an original panel from Jimmy Carter's array saying, "they would continue their deliberative process to figure out what is appropriate for the White House someday."
McKibben added, "it would be nice to deliberate as fast as possible, since that is the rate at which the planet's climate is deteriorating."
In an official statement, the White House said:
"Representatives from the White House met with the group to discuss President Obama's unprecedented commitment to renewable energy including more than $80 billion in the generation of renewable energy sources, expanding manufacturing capacity for clean energy technology, advancing vehicle and fuel technologies, and building a bigger, better, smarter electric grid, all while creating new, sustainable jobs ...T hey concluded by reiterating our continued commitment to promoting renewable energy development."
If true, it's a shame that politics once again trump what would have been a wonderful expression of support for green energy and sustainable building. The White House is one of the most photographed buildings in the world — and even a small array like Carter's would have been a great symbol of support for a more diversified clean energy future.
Said Amanda Nelson, one of the student's involved in the "Put Solar On It" campaign, "I didn’t expect I’d get to shake President Obama’s hand, but it was really shocking to me to find out that they really didn’t seem to care. They couldn’t even give us a statement…. They did stress it’s a slow process, and I recognize that. What we did today maybe will help a year from now. But right now it didn’t happen."
Alas, it appears that Jimmy Carter really was way ahead of his time. Who would have thought that in 2010, this would still be such a difficult concept for an administration to grasp?