Caught between a rock and a hard place, President Obama has chosen the rock.â€¨
â€¨According to a report in Bloomberg News, Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu told a Washington conference yesterday that the President will re-install the solar panels put atop the White House thirty years ago by President Jimmy Carter and rescued from a museum recently by global warming activists.
“The White House will lead by example,” Chu said. The panels only produce hot water. Chu said a set of photovoltaic panels to generate electricity would also be installed by next June. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had them up there,” he said. President Ronald Reagan took down the panels after taking office in 1981. Ironically, President George Bush, Jr. had solar panels installed to heat some of the residence plus maintenance building but received neither credit nor opprobrium for the effort.â€¨
Unfortunately, environmental activists have called the President’s hand at the exact moment when he is being widely compared to Carter’s “failed Presidency.” Several magazines and cartoonists have recently offered illustrations of Obama looking in the mirror and seeing his Democratic predecessor from the 1970s. To his opponents, the solar panels could very well become a symbol of the continuity between the two administrations.â€¨
Obama has been put on the spot by global warming crusader Bill McKibben, a former New Yorker staffer and author of The End of Nature and Eaarth, which argues that climate change has already altered things so much that the earth has become “a tough new planet.” McKibben lives for years in the remote Adirondacks before “returning to civilization” three years ago by taking a teaching job at Middlebury College in Vermont. He is the originator of 350.org and is now leading the “10.10.10” effort – a worldwide Internet-oriented day of recognition of global warming that will take place on October 10th.
Last year McKibben tracked down one of the original solar panels atop a cafeteria at Colby College in Maine, loaded them onto a trailer and made a much-heralded progression down the coast, headed for the White House. On the way he appeared on the David Letterman Show. When he arrived in D.C. last month, White House met with him but declined to accept the panels. Now the administration has changed its mind – obviously stung by recent restlessness in the environmental ranks.
Ironically, McKibben is one of those rare environmentalists who is willing to admit that nuclear must play a part in preventing global warming. Interviewed last July at the SolarFest in Tinmouth, Vermont, where he was the keynote speaker, McKibben said he knew nuclear was essential to reducing carbon emissions but didn’t like to say so in public. “It would split this movement in half,” he said, gesturing to the youthful crowd, many of whom had camped on a hillside farm for three days.
He was right. Half the gathering was there to celebrate solar energy while the other half was campaigning to close down Vermont Yankee, the state’s principal source of power.