Jimmy Carter's Infamous Solar Panels Won't Return to the White House Roof

By Eliza Strickland | September 10, 2010 12:41 pm

Carter-solarFunny how a couple of slabs of silicon can become a national symbol.

In 1979, in the midst of an oil crisis, then-president Jimmy Carter tried to lead the nation to a brighter future powered by alternative energy via a symbolic gesture: installing solar panels on the roof of the White House. But instead of being inspired, the American people were freaked by Carter’s proposed program of conservation, carpooling, and cardigans, and promptly kicked him out the of Oval Office. Ronald Reagan shelved most of Carter’s ambitious energy plans, and in 1986 removed the solar panels from the roof.

Then this week, environmental activists made a bold pitch to the Obama administration in an effort to get those panels back on the president’s house.

For decades, the abandoned solar panels have been in the custody of Maine’s Unity College, which used them to heat water for a dining hall. This week, activist Bill McKibben and a handful of students took a road trip to DC in a biodiesel-fueled van. The mission, which went by the name Put Solar on the White House, succeeded in scoring an interview this morning with White House staffers.

That may be the end of this heart-warming (and water-warming?) story; following the meeting, the New York Times reports that the activists were politely rebuffed by the government staffers. President Obama won’t be clambering onto his roof to install the panels anytime soon, the staffers said, but they listed the many initiatives his administration has undertaken to increase energy efficiency in the federal government and to promote renewable energy across the country. However, McKibben told the New York Times that he was somewhat unimpressed by their rhetoric:

“They refused to take the Carter-era panel that we brought with us and said they would continue their deliberative process to figure out what is appropriate for the White House someday. I told them it would be nice to deliberate as fast as possible, since that is the rate at which the planet’s climate is deteriorating.”

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  • http://Untitledvanityproject.blogspot.com Rhacodactylus

    Yup, 80s era solar panels are the key.

  • Jumblepudding

    Hurf durf snarky Jimmy Carter-Obama Comparison hurfdurf

  • Britt

    Oh come on, who cares if the panels are from 1986? The fact that they still work should say it all.

  • Janice

    You would think that our government would want to lead by example. This really disappoints me as I work with Sharp and have been doing some research on solar panels. Since traditional means of generating electricity call for the burning of coal and other fossil fuels which release harmful pollutants in the environment and solar panels, on the other hand, use the suns rays to generate electricity, that our “leaders” would want to show us how to use this clean and renewable energy source. solar Panels

  • megan

    The young little Whitehouse ‘Democratic’ politico $hit$ in DC are a$$hole selfabsorbed and ego bound pricks, who are like slick car salesmen with the ‘Bama talk getting into the Whitehouse but don’t walk the walk of pushing REAL liberal progressive action. They are so into and enslaved to the conservative trope memes that are called moderate independent & laughingly liberal which goes to show how far to the radical right this country has gotten. It’ll take AS RADICAL liberal policy changes just to get the country right side up again.

    They couldn’t even friggin say they’d model the panel somewhere to be seen by the public and instead use modern technology and integrate it into the gardening stuff Michelle started. The crap attitude and mindset of Rahm Emmanuel oozes the disdain for progressives and leftwing liberals in these ‘staffers’ that have been hired as professional in-name-only liberal goons. I have helped in 2004-08 campaigns alongside many of these ‘professional’ political operatives sent into my state(Iowa) and many had worked for their local Repugnicans where they lived in college during the 80′s- 90′s to build their resumes and later with the winds changing shopped around to whoever was newly in the power position just to get a job or lobby. They’re bluer than Blue-Dog Democrats, but aleast not like the southern Dixicrats that left in the 60′s and spawned this Tea Party Anti-Obama Nation (Abomination).

  • Chris Winter

    I always thought these were photovoltaic panels — intended for producing electricity rather than heating water. Since they are the latter, hence probably closer to today’s state of the art than 1980 PV panels would be, it seems even less encouraging that they won’t go back up on the White House.

  • Bill

    Perhaps they just didn’t want to junk-up the White House roof with failed technology incapable of producing even a trivial amount of electricity.

    We’ve wasted millions on Solar and barely gotten anywhere with it. Absolute joke.

  • http://www.clean-living.info energy efficient

    Amazing, that was a great read. In conclusion, someone who actually thinks and understands what they are writing about. Quite difficult to determine lately, especially on blog sites . I bookmarked your web blog and will make sure to keep returning here if this is how you always write. thank you, keep it up! .

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