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Put Solar Back on the White House

About 30 years ago, after some prodding from environmental groups, Jimmy Carter had solar panels installed on the roof of the White House. He gave a ringing speech at the time, hoping that this gesture would help build a solar revolution. He established a Solar Energy Research Institute and put Denis Hayes, the director of the first and subsequent Earth Days in charge.

Several years later, Ronald Reagan ordered the panels taken down, having belittled Carter for worrying so much about the energy crisis. He replaced Hayes with a dentist, and SERI was soon abolished. If Carter's bold move had succeeded who knows how much better off we'd be now, but there's no point bemoaning the failures of the past.

Turns out the panels were donated to Unity College in Maine where they've been doing their bit to help the climate problem for most of three decades. Now Bill McKibben and his colleagues at the wonderful 350.org are returning a symbolic panel to where it started. They put one of the panels on a biodiesel-powered truck the day after Labor Day and will deliver it to the White House on Friday, September 10, after stopping for rallies in Boston and New York.

Bill announced this during an appearance on the Letterman show. It is reported that negotations are underway for the delivery ceremony at the White House. McKibben told Letterman he hopes the president will accept the panel in person and agree to have a full array of panels (both photovolaic and for heating water) ready for a ribbon-cutting on October 10, when 350.org is having a massive, global series of demonstrations and work parties to jump-start the climate-rescue crusade. Check it out.

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