Has the Green Revolution’s Engine Seized?

Over 30 years ago, President Carter put solar panels on the White House. But don’t go looking for them—President Reagan took them down. Bush 1 and Clinton kept them down. Bush 2 did put three smallish solar collectors on the White House grounds for a maintenance shed and the pool, but with little-to-no fanfare. He also built his Texas ranch to be off the grid with geothermal heating, but unfortunately W’s sustainable energy policy stopped at his doorstep. He probably couldn’t have his oil buddies thinking he was a tree hugger.

So why the obsession with solar panels on the White House roof? It’s a symbol of dedication to a new sustainable energy economy. Obama’s record on putting solar on the White House pretty much tracks with his don’t-expect-me-to-do-what-I-say presidency. Candidate Obama talked about making the US into the world leader in fighting climate change. Remember that Green Revolution thing? Apparently its engine is seized; Obama has said next to nothing about it since taking office.

Last fall, the White House did announce they plan to install solar panels in the spring of 2011. Here we are in the spring of 2011 and the White House has made no further announcements and has refused to answer repeated media requests for comment. Hopefully we’ll see these panels installed this month, but based on past experience, we’d better keep on Obama to keep his promise.

President Obama’s State of the Union address didn’t offered much hope. It was a big wet kiss to his dirty corporate funders in the nuclear, gas and coal industries (yes, he takes their money too). Obama briefly flirted with solar and wind in his speech before heading for the payday of nuclear, gas and the oxymoronic idea “clean coal.” Never has there been such a thing as clean coal and there never will be, no matter what the propaganda says. The other two are not any better. Solar energy activists are fond of saying the only safe distance from a nuclear reaction is 93 million miles. Two words have proven their wisdom: Fukushima Daiichi. As for natural gas, that industry has been trying to mess up every corner of New York with an explosion of projects. On LI, we have managed to stop the destructive LNG floating ports off our north shore (Broadwater) and our south shore (Insanity Island). But Upstate is not as lucky. They are waiting on the ticking time bomb of a fracking moratorium to end, which will allow the gas industry to pour a toxic stew of chemicals into their groundwater.

We are not talking science fiction here. No jetpacks or teleportation. Windmills are downright old school. We had windmills on LI before our grandparents were born. And there are solar panels you could take on Antiques Roadshow. Long Islanders were building NASA spacecrafts that used solar panels fifty years ago. But it seems the meter has not moved much since. What will it take for us to catch up with ourselves?

ian wilder

Ian Wilder has been co-chair of the Green Party of New York State and has recorded spoken word with a Folk Groovin’ band. He and his wife Kimberly blend together politics and art on their website onthewilderside.net.