White House gives solar panel muted reception
by Scott Monre
(Central Maine) Morning Sentinel
Thanks, but no thanks.
essentially what White House officials told a group of Unity College
students and environmental activist Bill McKibben at a meeting Friday
morning at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
McKibben and the students
traveled from Unity earlier this week and arrived in Washington, D.C.,
offering a hot-water thermal solar panel from former President Jimmy
Carter, as part of a push to get President Barack Obama to install solar panels on the roof of the White House.
However, Obama -- through his administration officials, at least -- declined the offer, according to McKibben.
was a very disappointing meeting, from our point of view," McKibben
said by telephone Friday afternoon. "The White House refused to take
back the solar panel and make any firm plans for putting solar on the
White House, and they refused to tell us why."
Even so, the road
trip was "great fun" and a success along the way as the group drew
crowds of people at stops in Boston, New York and Washington, McKibben
McKibben said he was impressed especially by the college
students -- seniors Jamie Nemecek, Jean Altomare and Amanda Nelson --
who "did a fantastic job" and were "resolute" and "weren't intimidated
at all" at the meeting with White House officials. At the meeting were
staffers from the Counsel on Environmental Quality and Michelle Moore,
the federal environmental executive who is helping lead the "greening"
of government for the White House.
"At one point, the bureaucrats
asked for ideas about how they could better communicate all the things
they were doing," McKibben said. "Almost as one, the three students
said, 'We have a pretty good idea. We've been traveling with this
attention-getting solar panel down the East Coast, and it's the way to
make the statement.'"
The response from White House officials?
"They didn't say anything," McKibben said.
House spokeswoman Christine M. Glunz said administration officials
discussed "President Obama's unprecedented commitment to renewable
energy, including more than $80 billion in the generation of renewable
energy sources," and other technologies. They also talked about other
energy efforts, including the announcement on Thursday that 56 agencies
federal agencies had released sustainability plans , Glunz said.
"They concluded by reiterating our continued commitment to promoting renewable energy development," she said.
update posted Friday on the road trip's website said that group members
expected the White House wouldn't commit to putting up solar, but
"secretly hoped (that) wouldn't be the case."
"We tossed them a big, fat softball to hit out of the park, and they just watched it float on by," the website post said.
Unity students were set to drive back to Maine this weekend. McKibben
said the solar panel would stay in Washington for a while, possibly
under the care of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
McKibben on the trip were Jesse Pyles, the college's sustainability
coordinator, plus college alumnus Jason Reynolds and the three students.
They drove in a 12-passenger college van running on biodiesel, with the
solar panel strapped to a platform in back.
The college's solar
panel is among 41 that had been installed in 1979 at the direction of
then-President Carter, but were removed during the Reagan
McKibben, founder of the climate change website
350.org, said he's now looking forward his group's "10/10/10 Global Work
Party" on Oct. 10, which seeks to raise awareness about addressing
global climate change.
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