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Posts Tagged ‘Bill McKibben’


Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Caught between a rock and a hard place, President Obama has chosen the rock.

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.

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.

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 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.

Read more about it at Business Week and Politico


Friday, September 10th, 2010

Environmentalist Bill McKibben has a flare for the dramatic. The author of Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet has organized “360,” a worldwide internet rally to keep the CO2 content of the earth’s atmosphere at 360 parts per million.

Now he has gone one better. McKibben is currently making a pilgrimage down the East Coast from Maine to Washington carrying a big of history – the solar panels that President Jimmy Carter once installed on the roof of the White House. McKibben received a write-up in the Washington Post yesterday and will try to present the panels to President Barack Obama over the weekend.

Whether the President will see solar panels as an opportunity to provide linkage to the need for climate legislation – or just another another reminder of the hapless Carter Administration – will soon be determined.

McKibben opines that failure to follow up on Carter’s initiative has meant forfeiting the solar future to China:  “I sat not long ago with Huang Ming, China’s leading solar entrepreneur, in his space-age Sun Moon Mansion in Shandong Province looking over the stats: his HiMin Solar Energy Group has put up 60 million such systems across China–he estimated that when 250 million Chinese take a shower, the hot water is coming off their roofs…"

In a biting symbol of the passed torch, he keeps one of the Carter panels in his private museum.” In an interview at SolarFest in Tinmouth, Vermont last July. McKibben acknowledged that nuclear power will have to be part of any worldwide effort to reduce carbon emissions. However, he said he didn’t like to bring this up in his public addresses. “It would split this movement in half,” he said, surveying the hordes of solar enthusiasts who camped for three days on a hillside farm. Most of the solar enthusiasts were also campaigning to close down Vermont Yankee, which provides one-third of Vermont’s electricity.