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Solar panels on the White House? Not on Obama's watch

15 09 10 - 21:15 By Mark Clayton,


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." Used tags: , , , ,
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EPA presents plan on greenhouse gases

Wednesday 05 January 2011 at 10:38 pm By Mark Clayton


Washington - Setting the stage for a New Year battle royal between Congress and the White House over greenhouse gas emissions, the US Environmental Protection Agency Thursday laid out a timetable for the nation's largest carbon emitters – power plants and refineries – to begin curbing those pollutants.

Republicans have said all year that they plan to pull out all the stops to keep the EPA from phasing in greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations beginning in 2011, saying they would damage the energy industry, raise prices, and cost jobs.

Rep. Fred Upton (R) of Michigan, the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has said he opposes the regulations on greenhouse gases and indicated he would lead efforts to revoke EPA regulations in the next Congress. The new regulations, he says, will likely lead to the shut down of coal-fired power plants.

"To protect jobs and fortify our energy security, we should be working to bring more power online, not shutting plants down," Mr. Upton said in a statement. "We are woefully unprepared to meet our nation's growing energy demands, yet this administration's 'none of the above' energy policy will do nothing but cost jobs, make energy more expensive, and increase our dependence on foreign sources of energy."

Environmentalists lauded the EPA's move. more

Supreme Court takes global warming case that targets power companies

Monday 13 December 2010 at 03:21 am By Warren Richey,


Washington - The US Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine a major environmental lawsuit that seeks to force six electric power companies to cap and reduce their carbon-dioxide emissions to fight global warming.

The lawsuit - filed in 2004 by eight states, the City of New York, and three land trusts - targets what it claims are the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the United States and among the largest in the world.

It seeks a judicial order declaring that the fossil-fueled power plants are a "public nuisance." It also seeks a judicial order capping the plants' greenhouse gas emissions and requiring the plants to adopt a schedule of reduced emissions in future years. more

Outside Cancun climate conference, Caribbean Sea testifies to global warming

Monday 13 December 2010 at 03:09 am By Ezra Fieser,


Bayahibe, Dominican Republic - This summer's extreme heat may seem like a distant memory as winter approaches the United States.

But the summer that broke heat records across the Northern Hemisphere is still being felt below the surface of the Caribbean Sea: 2010 will likely be one of the most deadly years on record for coral reefs.

If diplomats attending the two-week global climate change talks that opened Monday in Cancun, Mexico, want more evidence of the negative and potentially devastating affects of warming temperatures, they need look no further than the blue sea outside their hotels. Researchers say that throughout the Caribbean coral reefs are "bleaching," a condition that occurs when they are under extreme stress due to warmer-than-normal sea temperatures. more

China denies any rare earth mineral export embargo

Tuesday 26 October 2010 at 10:56 pm By Peter Ford


Beijing - China sought Wednesday to reassure the world it had not and would not use its choke hold on supplies of critical rare earths for political purposes, and pledged to maintain its exports.

"China will continue to supply rare earths to the world," the Commerce Ministry said in a faxed statement, denying earlier reports in the official China Daily newspaper that the government planned to cut exports next year by 30 percent.

While insisting that politics is not being played with the class of minerals, the government nevertheless is cutting exports. more

China's climate change talks: What's changed since Copenhagen?

Tuesday 26 October 2010 at 10:37 pm By Jonathan Adams


Taipei, Taiwan - United Nations climate officials say they hope to get talks for a new global deal on carbon cuts back on track after last year's climate talk debacle in Copenhagen. This week's climate change conference hosted by China in Tianjin could give them just that opportunity.

But with mistrust still high and feelings raw, few expect any big breakthroughs in Tianjin, or at higher-level talks beginning in late November in Cancun, Mexico. Instead, participants are focusing on smaller side deals that are more realistic, observers say, indicating that though a comprehensive deal might not get finalized here the real success of the conference will be in smoothing relations with small steps. more

Solar panels on the White House? Not on Obama's watch

Wednesday 15 September 2010 at 9:15 pm By Mark Clayton,


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. more

Becoming friends of the Earth

Wednesday 15 September 2010 at 9:05 pm By Jason Francis

Friends of the Earth, founded in 1969, is a non-profit organization based in Washington DC. It is part of Friends of the Earth International, a network of 77 national groups and more than 5,000 local activist groups working together to create a more healthy and just world. With over 2 million members and supporters worldwide, their campaigns include focusing on clean energy as a solution to global warming; protecting people from potentially harmful technologies; promoting low-pollution transportation; and generating support for a financial transactions tax to fund anti-poverty and climate change programs in the developing world. more

University of Georgia report reveals 80 percent of oil from BP spill remains in Gulf

Tuesday 24 August 2010 at 03:36 am University of Georgia report reveals 80 percent of oil from BP spill remains in Gulf


Atlanta - The University of Georgia says their latest study suggests up to 80 percent of the oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico from the BP oil rig collapse is still present and remains a threat to the ecosystem.

The report was announced Monday, the same day the fall shrimping season began in the Gulf of Mexico.

The report, authored by five prominent marine scientists, strongly contradicts media reports that suggest that only 25 percent of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill remains. more

Energy Dept. awards $5.9 million for three Ohio energy research projects

Wednesday 14 July 2010 at 10:27 am By Cameron Glover

Washington - The U.S. Department of Energy granted $5.9 million to three Ohio businesses for their efforts in researching and creating "transformational changes" in new energy technology.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said during a conference call Monday the Advanced Materials Group in Hudson, Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and the Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus are among 43 national projects to receive funding.

He announced the grants as part of a $92 million fund supported by DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy. more

EPA moves to cut power plant emissions to fight air pollution

Saturday 10 July 2010 at 10:40 pm By Mark Clayton,


The Environmental Protection Agency moved Tuesday to dramatically curb power plant emissions across the central US and East Coast, a step the federal agency says will significantly reduce health and pollution impacts across that 31-state region.

Responding to a 2008 court ruling, the EPA proposed sharp cuts in emissions from some 900 coal-, natural gas-, and oil-burning power plants - a 52 percent reduction in nitrous oxide (NOX) and 71 percent cut in sulfur dioxide (SOX) by 2014. more