VIEWS: Greening the White House is Not Enough – We Need a Green House

Dispatch from SSC Intern Paul Turaew

President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the White House roof in 1979. Carter declared:

“A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken – or it can be a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people; harnessing the power of the sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil.”

Seven years later they were taken down by President Reagan. Oil was cheap.

Despite the Waxman-Markey climate change bill passing through the House of Representatives, 212 representatives still voted against it. Distinguishing those who believe the bill does not go far enough, Nobel Prize winning economist and New York Times Op-Ed columnist, Paul Krugman called those representatives who continue to deny global warming exists– betrayers of the planet.

However you slice the outcome, it was a good one. But much work lies ahead as evidenced by the fact that there are still those that deny science and wish to continue on the path of dependence on oil. But we no longer live in the 1970s. Although President Carter was ridiculed for his desire to promote solar power, more than 30 years later, scientists have learned much and proven that the planet is heading towards a catastrophe. Great technological advancements have been made. More than 30 years later, shouldn’t we also have changed our perceptions on alternative means of energy? Some of us may still refuse to accept science because oil and coal provide the established (and currently convenient) methods of power. Maintaining such a perception may come to bite us in the end.

Given President Obama’s popularity it may be time for him to take a page out of Carter’s book and not only green the White House but make it a Green House. In 2003, President Bush tried to green the White House by installing new solar panels in order to heat water but their output was minimal. President Obama must take the next (serious) step.

While there is an initiative already in place to green the Obama White house, the measures proposed or already taken seem rather insignificant when compared to the tremendous scope and reach of the Waxman-Markey bill and predictions of climate change experts. Reports talk of newer, more efficient light bulbs, organic gardens and eco-friendly products finding their way into the White House. This is all well and good for individuals and smaller entities but it may simply not be enough for the President’s home.

It would be an advantageous showing of support to have the White House receive a serious green audit and implement some of the latest and greatest technology – not just what has existed for years but what is on the verge of existing. With a little luck and presidential persuasion, the taxpayers may not even have to fund the project. Perhaps, those new and/or struggling alternative energy and efficiency companies seeking to profit from the federal handouts could implement their ideas and install their products in the White House at no charge (or as a small decrease in their total handout). In this way, the President may help sway the opinion of some deniers and move public perception away from its entrenched comfort-based dependence on oil.

Learn more about greening the Obama White House by clicking here.