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Jun. 22, 2011

White House Solar Panels: Missed Opportunity

by Ira Flatow

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You know it’s a bad day at the White House when both the left and the right laugh at you. And they are both justified. Back in October, the President’s energy advisor, Dr. Steven Chu, said this: “The White House will lead by example. I’m pleased to announce that by the end of this spring, there will be solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity and solar hot water heater on the roof of the White House.”
 
Spring has come and gone and still no solar panels. Environmentalists have chided the WH for missing the deadline. So has Glenn Beck. I’d add my critical voice, too, just to make it a trifecta. Because I recall when Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the White House as a statement to the rest of the country: we care about getting off of foreign oil, energy conservation and developing new alternative energies. That was almost 40 years ago. President Reagan showed his feelings about all of this by pulling them off the roof. President Bush, the 2nd, didn’t put them back up, but he quietly installed them on various utility buildings on the WH grounds. (It was also under his administration as Texas Gov. that his state led the nation in wind power.)
 
To be fair to the Obama Admin. the President has toured the country encouraging alternative energy development and has handed out hundreds of millions of dollars to corporations to develop cleaner energy technologies.
 
But history shows that Presidents lead by example, if not by words. (Michelle gets it. She is growing veggies on the WH grounds.) And the symbolic act of putting solar energy panels on the WH roof would say to America that even in this time of fiscal problems, it’s still a good idea. And you can do it too.
 
Wouldn’t it have been better for this WH to have created a public re-dedication of the solar panels, rather to be known as the folks who took their eyes off the ball?
About Ira Flatow

Ira is the host and executive producer of Science Friday.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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