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.