Well, President Jimmy Carter was one. His panels were taken down by his successor, ronald Reagan, and ended up at Unity college in Maine. An environmental activist, Bill McKibben, decided to take them back to the White House last month to see if the current occupant, Barack Obama, might reinstall them. But he had a problem:
As McKibben's party made its way from Maine to Washington, D.C., they had just one "nagging concern": They hadn't heard any confirmation from the White House that Obama would see them.
But this has kind of a soft human interest angle, so why not?
In the end, McKibben and company did end up with a meeting, with two unnamed "environmental bureaucrats," but the Carter panel and the Sungevity donation were refused.
Sungevity was going to donate a “full solar system” – I’m not sure what that means – a system capable of running the entire White House? In any event, no go.
The response? Not too good:
The Obama administration's reluctance to put a Carter-era solar panel on the White House roof was understandable, even if repulsively pusillanimous. The last thing the White House wanted to do was to give the right another talking point comparing Obama to Jimmy Carter.
But maybe the administration had its own plan in mind that it wasn’t ready to share with McKibben:
Going the green way, the White House will soon be installed with solar panels and solar heaters, in a reflection of the US President Barack Obama's policy of promoting alternative and clean sources of energy.
Energy secretary Steven Chu said the solar panels and solar water heaters are expected to be in place by early next year at the rooftop of the presidential residence.
I’ve no problem with that – seems a good demonstration of solar energy. Of course, in some quarters, it cues unattractive comparisons with President Carter, but since Carter is now best known by many as an amiable elder statesman who does good works and turns out bestsellers in a variety of genres, that’s likely to help not hurt the effort.
And those who want to make such comparisons need to accommodate President George W. Bush’s own installation of solar panels in 2003:
The Bush administration has installed the first-ever solar electric system on the grounds of the White House. The National Park Service, which manages the White House complex, installed a nine kilowatt, rooftop solar electric or photovoltaic system, as well as two solar thermal systems that heat water used on the premises.
It makes President Carter look downright prescient, doesn’t it? (Though I do wonder if Bush’s system is still there or was taken down when he finished his term.)
In any event, there’s no downside. Solar panels seem right at home at the White House. Come to think of it, a small wind turbine wouldn’t go amiss either.
President Barack Obama and a bank of solar panels – no, not at the White House, but during a speech he gave last year at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.