Escalating worldwide fuel prices and environmental concerns are helping to dramatically increase the demand for clean alternatives. It has become a global imperative that we break our addiction to oil. Providing for the ever increasing energy needs of the planet is going to take a wide range of alternate energy sources and green technologies are finally beginning to establish themselves in the energy mix.....a sector expected to grow tenfold within several years. The future is bright for renewable energy sources and a more sustainable world.
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President Obama is the biggest booster of renewable energy since President Jimmy Carter. But on Friday he declined - or White House officials declined for him - to follow Mr. Carter's footstep and put solar power on his home rooftop.
Author and environmentalist Bill McKibben and a band of college students tried Friday to put the president on the spot over his green credentials. Bopping down the highway from Maine with a 31-year-old solar panel strapped to their van, the merry band tried to return the panel to its former home: the White House roof. What a long strange trip that panel has had. Back in the oil-embargo-challenged 1970s, then-President Carter bolted 32 solar hot water panels onto the roof of the White House - a symbol for America to get cracking and create energy from the sun.
"In the year 2000, this solar water heater behind me will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy," Carter told the nation during a rooftop speech, with the panels as a backdrop.
He was wrong.
Seven years later, in 1986, President Ronald Reagan had the panels removed and put in storage. Interest in renewable energy waned as oil prices fell. Somehow the panels found their way to a rooftop of Unity College in Maine.
Mr. McKibben and the Unity students had intended to pop over to the White House to return one panel. It was to be a symbolic gesture they hoped would spur Americans to push for renewable energy and prevent the worst effects of climate change.
"We wasted 31 years when we Americans could have been using the sun's heat for power," McKibben said in a phone interview as his van bounced down the road. "We had a technological lead in a critical future industry - and instead handed it to China. We need to begin catching up."
Their plans were dashed, however, when While House officials did not accept it. In a meeting Friday morning, McKibben was politely told it wasn't going to happen.
President Obama has been busy in this election season visiting battery plants, wind turbine factories, and other renewable facilities to tout the green jobs they produce. But he also has lost some of his green luster since failing to spur the Senate to pass a climate-energy bill that would control carbon emissions, reportedly ducking a big fight.
"There's been some mixed signals on the energy-climate issue at the White House, with some of the president's advisers apparently feeling it was a political liability," says Reid Detchon, executive director of the Energy Future Coalition, a business-labor-environment group pushing for clean energy. "We still need a strong explanation by the president of why climate change matters that links this issue to something Americans care about - like strengthening the US manufacturing base and reducing the nation's vulnerability to Middle East oil."
McKibben had a couple of earlier "positive phone conversations" with White House officials. At the very least, he had expected to leave the panel with the National Park Service, which would be in charge of installation. Most of all, he had hoped Obama would roll up his sleeves, grab a wrench, and show the nation how to go solar.
In a statement, the White House said it was doing enough already along the same lines as McKibben, founder of 350.org, a group pushing for reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions.
“Representatives from the White House met with the group to discuss President Obama’s unprecedented commitment to renewable energy including more than $80 billion in the generation of renewable energy sources, expanding manufacturing capacity for clean energy technology, advancing vehicle and fuel technologies, and building a bigger, better, smarter electric grid, all while creating new, sustainable jobs," the statement read.
McKibben notes an ironic twist in the solar panel saga. Another of the Carter-era White House panels has found a prestigious home - in the private museum of a wealthy industrialist in China who made his fortune building millions of those systems there. That could have been a US industrialist instead, he adds, if only American government and business leaders had pursued their own technology.
"When Michelle Obama planted a garden, seed sales shot up 30 percent," McKibben says. "This is an important symbol for the nation - that we're back in the game and not just giving this technology to the Chinese – but showing we're serious about this."
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