US & World

Obama Returns Solar Panels To Place In Sun - On White House

The return of solar panels to the White House makes sense considering how often Obama mentions them. For the president, they are a powerful symbol of the kind of U.S. manufactured products the green economy could create.

President Obama seems to have solar panels on his mind a lot.

At appearances in which he talks about the new jobs the green economy can create for American workers, as well as the need for the nation to move towards renewable energy, he often invokes the technology as an example for the audience.

With solar panels top of mind for him, it's not surprising he would return them to a place of honor at the White House, presumably the roof, as administration officials announced Tuesday.

Here's an excerpt of the announcement from the Energy Department:

WASHINGTON - U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair Nancy Sutley today announced plans to install solar panels and a solar hot water heater on the roof of the White House Residence. These two solar installations will be part of a Department of Energy demonstration project showing that American solar technologies are available, reliable, and ready for installation in homes throughout the country. Secretary Chu and Chair Sutley made the announcement during CEQ's 2010 GreenGov Symposium, which is bringing together leaders from Federal, state and local governments, nonprofit and academic communities and the private sector to identify opportunities around greening the Federal Government.

"This project reflects President Obama's strong commitment to U.S. leadership in solar energy and the jobs it will create here at home," said Secretary Chu.  "Deploying solar energy technologies across the country will help America lead the global economy for years to come."

"President Obama has said the Federal Government has to lead by example in creating opportunity and jobs in clean energy," said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. "By installing solar panels on arguably the most famous house in the country, his residence, the President is underscoring that commitment to lead and the promise and importance of renewable energy in the United States."

The move to install solar panels has drawn unwelcome comparisons, from a Democratic administration's point of view, to President Jimmy Carter who installed them as a response to the oil embargoes of the 1970s.

President Ronald Reagan had them removed, one of his goals being to throw anything having to do with Carter down the memory hole.

Some observers see Obama's move as an attempt to buy cheap grace with environmentalists. They say he'll quickly get past the cringe-worthy Carter comparisons since meant to demean the effort since Carter's presidency is seen by so many, rightly or wrongly, as the touchstone of presidential failure.


Jeremy Mayer, an associate public policy professor at George Mason University, said Obama will benefit politically for adding the solar panels, even if he must initially suffer through some negative publicity from the Carter connection.

"The next 24 hours will be a minor bad thing for this White House optically," Mayer said. "But the more important policy and political achievement is the feelings of support that millions of Americans who have taken similar small steps in their own lives will feel."

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