White House Gets Solar Panels Once Again

It’s interesting to note the ways in which the policies of the standing White House administration affect not only the country, but the White House itself, and in a very literal sense. Consider that President Jimmy Carter, while dealing with the oil crisis in 1979, decided to install 32 solar panels on the West Wing roof of the White House in an effort to curb energy consumption and lead by example, encouraging citizens to take advantage of his hard-won green tax credits. At the time, he noted during the unveiling of the panels that within a generation they could become “a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or… a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people.” Sadly, it wouldn’t be long before Ronald Reagan entered office, removing the panels in 1986 and eliminating energy credits.

But times change, and the turn of the century saw a resurgence in the demand for alternative energy technologies, perhaps due to the increased awareness of environmental issues. And the result has been an increase in eco-friendly options where power is concerned. So it’s really no surprise that President Barack Obama, in keeping with his platform of environmental protection, has decided that the White House has been without alternative energy for too long, and has once again installed solar panels. It remains to be seen if the next administration will follow in the footsteps of Reagan and find some inane yet plausible reason to remove them. But for now the first family’s residence will run on the energy provided by the sun.

In truth, the President pledged to return solar power to the White House back in 2010 as a sign of his “commitment to renewable energy”. So what happened? Why did it take three years to get the project underway? In truth, there’s nothing nefarious going on. You can pretty much blame bureaucracy for the many delays, as the White House took competitive bids for the installation of 20-50 panels. In the meantime, the Solar Energy Industry Association estimates that somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 million solar panels were installed throughout the U.S., and that was in 2012 alone. So Obama’s initiative has certainly seen more success than Carter’s, although admittedly, the cost of solar panels is reported to have dropped an incredible 97% since the peanut farmer was in office.

Of course, it’s not as though the current administration hasn’t been making environmental strides in the meantime, signing an historic agreement with automakers to reduce overall carbon emissions by a significant margin, increasing governmental use of renewable energy by 7%, and committing $2 billion to energy-efficient upgrades of federal facilities, just for example. And Obama has plans to increase governmental use of renewable energy resources to 20% by the year 2020. Solar panels on the White House are a good place to start, especially considering these “American-made” products are predicted to pay for themselves within about 8 years. Carter’s panels may not have lasted quite that long, but it’s debatable whether the Reagan administration could figure out how to seal an air duct, much less maintain solar energy. We’ll just have to hope our future leadership is a little more competent and forward-thinking.

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