Symbols matter. When Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the White House in 1979, they weren’t today’s efficient electricity-generating PV panels (they produced only hot water) and the goal wasn’t to make 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue energy-independent. Nevertheless, during a historical period remembered for oil shocks and gas lines, this was a way of sending the message that changes were needed in America’s energy habits and that the President was ready to lead by example.
The symbolism was just as clear in 1986, when the Reagan White House removed those solar panels. Federal renewable energy tax credits had been rescinded, gas was cheap again, and U.S. energy goals had been refocused on maintaining access to the world’s oil-which is to say that they had essentially been militarized.
Pictures of the two occasions were and are worth about a billion barrels’ worth of words.
Today there is an effort under way to convince the current White House occupant-in-chief to use symbolism to underscore his intention to, in his own words, “seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels.” Oakland CA-based Sungevity has offered to donate and install a home solar system on the roof of the White House, and a “Globama” campaign (www.solaronthewhitehouse.com/) is being cheerfully waged to convince the Obamas that this is a good idea.
Keep reading the rest of this great blog post by Richard Heinberg at the Post Carbon Institute.