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The King in his Realm hath two superiors: God and the Law. -- Henry Care (1646-1688) on English liberties and the Magna Carta


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Ancient History

|The Left

Solar Panel Backstory: The Left Exacts Its Pound of Flesh

October Surprise: Happy Malaise-Filled Solar-Powered Days Are Here Again

Energy Secretary Steven Chu (who, don’t forget, has a Nobel Prize, like the President) and one of the President’s 2,578 czars, White House Council on Environmental Quality chairman Nancy Sutley, issued the grand decree yesterday that the White House has changed its mind and will go solar. Not totally, but enough to release the First Family’s water-heating serfs from their daily labors.

Yet an AP story notes that once again, Obama is just following in his predecessors footsteps:

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush both tapped the sun during their days in the White House. Carter in the late 1970s spent $30,000 on a solar water-heating system for West Wing offices. Bush’s solar systems powered a maintenance building and some of the mansion, and heated water for the pool.

This leads to the questions:

  1. Where are W’s solar systems now? Did Obama have them removed? The AP speaks in the past tense (“powered” and “heated”), as if they don’t exist anymore.
  2. Why does Obama keep doing the exact same things that Bush did?

A Carter-era solar panel is hauled out yet again for another agitprop tour

Amid the reporting of this great environmental feat, one fact has gotten conveniently glossed over: A  couple weeks ago, a merry little band of global warming activists, lead by radical left founder Bill McKibben, pulled up in front of the White House expecting Obama to join them in a round of Kumbaya on the rooftop, but instead his people told them that he would not install solar panels on the White House, especially not the crusty old one from the Carter administration that McKibben and a few female students had toted down from Maine with them on their protest drive.

McKibben didn’t take kindly to the dis and set about making as much noise in the media as he could. In a lengthy op-ed that he sent out to the blogosphere, he was determined to portray his little group as virtuous and wide-eyed as possible:

And so, on the day after Labor Day, we set off in a biodiesel college van. Solar road trip! Guitars, iPods, excellent snack food, and for company, the rock star of solar panels, all 6 x 3-feet and 140 pounds of her….It couldn’t have been more fun. Wherever we could, we’d fire up the panel, pour a gallon of water in the top, point it toward the sun, and eight or nine minutes later you’d have steaming hot water coming out the bottom.

And to make the White House look as dark and dunce-like as possible:

…eventually someone from the Office of Public Engagement emerged to escort us inside the Executive Office Building. He seated us in what he called “the War Room,” an ornate and massive chamber with a polished table in the middle.

Every window blind was closed. It was a mahogany cave in which we could just make out two environmental bureaucrats sitting at the far end of the table. I won’t mention their names, on the theory that what followed wasn’t really their idea, but orders they were following from someone else. Because what followed was uncool….

When the administrators proudly proffered a clipping from some interior page of the Washington Post about their “greening the government initiative,” Amanda calmly pointed out that none of her neighbors read the Post and that, by contrast, the solar panels had made it onto David Letterman.

An edited version of McKibben’s op-ed was printed in the LA Times in a piece titled “This Is How They Treat Their Friends?”, chronicling his hero’s journey to Washington for a mainstream audience and continuing his good/evil contrast of the meeting for a little light breakfast table reading:

The two bureaucrats who met with us in the Executive Office Building spent a lot of time bragging about the administration’s environmental accomplishments, including the great work they were doing on federal buildings. I was beginning to despair that nothing could stop the flow of self-praise when one of the three seniors from Unity raised her hand and politely interrupted.


Here’s what [the Unity girls] wanted to know: If the administration was serious about spreading the word on renewable energy, why wouldn’t it do the obvious thing and put solar panels on the White House?

The bureaucrats refused to answer the question. One kept smiling and saying, “If reporters call and ask us, we will provide our rationale,” but they didn’t provide it to us.

They also refused to accept the Carter panel, or even pose for a picture with the students. Asked to do something easy and symbolic to rekindle a little of the joy that had turned out so many of us as volunteers for Obama in 2008, they point-blank said no.

The parting gift that the group was given: “Xeroxed copies of a 2009 memorandum from Vice President Biden about federal energy policy.” McKibben began plotting revenge the moment they exited the White House and the girls burst into tears.

Our next question, out there on the sidewalk, was how to handle the situation — which, indeed, we had to do right away, because in today’s blog-speed world, you’re supposed to Put Out a Statement to reporters, not to mention Tweet. So how to play it?

…it would have been easy enough right then and there for me to chain myself to the White House fence with the panel next to me…. And in fact, some of our supporters were counseling that I head for the fence immediately.

We got an email, for instance, from a veteran campaigner I deeply respect who said: ‘Show Obama you can’t be taken for granted, and I predict you will be amazed at the good things that come your way. This is a watershed moment: if they think they can get away with this with you, they’ll judge they can get away with more in the future. If you show them they can’t get away with it (at the very least without embarrassment), they will come your way more in the future. It’s power politics, pure and simple. This is how the game is played. Get their respect!’

Instead of chaining himself to the fence, he did what global warming hoaxers do best: he went into PR mode. The left-wing blogosphere went into a tizzy, with many having to take to their fainting couches.

Warning: If you go to any of the following story links, you may come away with the impression that upon election, Ronald Reagan’s first official duty was to personally climb atop the White House and dismantle all the panels out of spite. The fact is, Carter’s panels did not come down until the middle of Reagan’s second term, due to roof repairs and the ineffectiveness of the panels.

(Note how in the last link, a story from 2008, it notes how at the time it was written, the solar panels at Unity College no longer worked–despite all the current media attention implying that they still do. It also appears from that story that these panels are the common prop for solar propagandists, and that McKibben’s road trip wasn’t the first they had been on.)

In an unintentionally entertaining NPR interview on September 17th, McKibben blabs about the meetings with the administration, saying:

They wouldn’t really tell us why they couldnt put it on. In fact, they just kept saying there’s a deliberative process underway, or something. My suspicion, I’ve got say, is that they were worried that in the junior high school lunchroom that our political life has become, touching the Carter panel would give them kind of electoral cooties, you know, a few weeks before the midterm elections.

Cooties. heh heh.

An AOL News op-ed “Greed Is Green” began:

In April 2001 Dick Cheney famously trashed the idea of doing more with less. “Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue,” he said, “but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy.” Nine year later, President Barack Obama seems to agree.


The Huffington Post loaded up both barrels and took aim with “Environmentalists Need a New President“:

I realize now that the very simplicity of the request made the solar panels project a masterstroke that clearly exposed, more than any big policy ask ever would, President Obama’s unwillingness or inability to confront our great planetary crisis. Because even in this smallest of disappointments, Obama responded in a way that was a caricature of his failure-by-committee administration: sending mid-level officials to tell the greatest American environmental activist of our time that the president was rejecting their request out of hand in favor of a continued “deliberative process.”  Huh?  It’s a solar panel, not the Afghanistan war strategy.  Politico, in the course of its daily “mind-meld” with top White House officials, probably captured the truth behind the White House’s craven response when they wrote that “the White House won’t like the symbolism” of anything associated with Jimmy Carter.

The punches,  not a one of them pulled, fly fast and furious throughout the HuffPo piece—and actually had me thinking, “Hey, maybe I should take another look at this Obama guy.” Naw, not really, but it did make me thankful that he’s not done as much damage as they have wanted him to do.

Finally, we turn to Clean Skies News for a surprisingly fair and balanced report:

Moral to their story: While symbolism may warm the cockles of your heart, it apparently will not warm enough hot water to wash your hands.

Is it worth cold-water hand-washing and hampering the Secret Service 24/7 rooftop security to put a few symbolic solar panels on the White House? If you practice Obamathematics, it is:

Based on available roof space, administration officials expect the photovoltaic system will include between 25 to 75 panels and will convert sunlight into 19,700 kilowatt hours of electricity a year. That would save a typical household $2,300 on its electricity bill, based on commercial rates in Washington. The solar hot water heating system, based on government estimates, could save an additional $1,000 a year.
But the White House is far from a typical house, noted Danny Kennedy, the founder of California-based solar energy provider Sungevity, which offered to put solar panels on the White House for free earlier this year as part of a campaign called SolarontheWhiteHouse.

Kennedy estimates that outfitting Obama’s pad with solar would cost about $100,000 if paid out of pocket. But the money would be earned back with savings on the electric bill in the first five years….

Kennedy said his calculations were based on a 5,000 square-foot California home, which uses 60,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. “They use a lot more electricity than that,” Kennedy said. “We had to make a few assumptions about what electricity cost was in the White House.”

Note that savings for the estimated White House kilowattage at DC commercial rates would be under $3,500 a year. Somehow Kennedy thinks you can multiply that times 5 years and fully recoup a $100,000 cost.

Sounds like Kennedy was a part of the creative math team that has been calculating the number of jobs saved or created due to the stimulus.

[And isn’t it interesting that an environmentalist would use a 5,000 square foot house as a frame of reference? I thought they considered a house that size to be “excessive consumption.” Guess the average homeowner isn’t their target market. See Hot Air for some entertaining links to a Learning Channel breakdown of what an average consumer could expect to pay and receive from solar power, and to the beloved bedtime tale of Jimmy Carter and the Killer Rabbit.]

The real reason the White House roof will be returning to pre-9/11, Carter-era appearances is that thin-skinned Obama simply couldn’t withstand the pressure of the radical left-wing.

McKibben’s group,, by the way, was a partner of Britain’s latest eco-disaster, 10:10. If you haven’t seen 10:10’s disturbing No Pressure ad, here it is:

After the ad created an uproar, 350 issued a denunciation and made sure the 10:10 Wikipedia entry–not the 350 one–had 350’s condemnation of the ad and a statement that 10:10 will no longer be a part of 350’s 10:10 day.

(Guess 10:10 founder and director of The Art of Stupid [no joke!], Franny Armstrong, will have to come up with another day to push the 10:10 propaganda. 10:10’s name kinda sucks now that they’ve been banned from participating in 10:10.)

Now that 350 has coerced the Obama administration into doing as they say, they issued a few celebratory press releases that are sure to tickle any conservative’s funny bone:

…the president will wake up every morning and make his toast by the power of the sun (do presidents make toast?), which will be a constant reminder to be pushing the Congress for the kind of comprehensive reform we need. And remember, President Obama’s not alone: tomorrow, Maldivian President Mohammed Nasheed and a crew from Sungevity will be putting solar panels on their official residence. It’s a trend!

Guess White House forgot to mention that in addition to water-heating, the solar panels will also have enough capacity to power a toaster.

It’s also nice to know that America has finally joined the illustrious company of the Maldives island nation. It is salve to the wound of suspended Mid-East peace talks, indeed.

Desperate to  inflame the left with voting enthusiasm, this appears to have been Obama’s attempt at an October Surprise. But did it come off the way he hoped?

It would be funny if, in caving to the 350 pressure, the White House had planned to make amends by issuing their announcement on 10/10 as a coordinated part of 350’s big day. But then, just as they were about to join the Kumbaya campfire, the gods conspired against them and the No Pressure ad blew up in 10:10’s face. Of course, the White House would freak out and want no inkling of a connection with the group, or even the number 10 or a date including 10.

That scenario would fit with the administration’s typical bumbling in managing its mixed messages. Guess we’ll have to wait for the next Woodward book to find out.

It turns out that while the media was covering the White House’s rooftop solar panel plans, they were missing the administration’s same-day announcement of much more massive solar plans.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Tuesday gave the green light to the first two big solar power plants to be built on federal land in the California desert, promising more approvals of solar projects in the coming weeks.

The granting of leases to Tessera Solar’s massive 709-megawatt Imperial Valley Solar Project and to a smaller 45-megawatt photovoltaic farm to be built by Chevron come four years after the solar land rush began in the Mojave Desert.

(That “solar land rush” CNN article link is a fascinating read.)

The left was initially unified in their objection to the project:

Of particular concern was the project’s impact on the flat-tailed horn lizard and the Peninsular bighorn sheep. A Native American tribe, meanwhile, objected to the power plant’s presence on their ancestral lands.

But Johanna Wald, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco, said the developer’s willingness to shrink the project to mitigate degradation of wildlife habitat and to minimize its water consumption won over her group and other environmentalists.

Tee hee hee. Who knew water consumption would be a concern for a solar farm. Poor tribe, though. Looks like they didn’t get any concession–unless perhaps it will be the Imperial Valley Solar Farm and Casino.

(h/t the Good website, which had a report on the initial White House refusal to participate in 350’s publicity stunt and laid the blame on McKibben instead of Obama.)

I find it odd that on the day that the Obama administration was trying to establish its solar credentials, it chose to spotlight a measly superficial nod to solar power instead of emphasizing a project that would actually put solar power to use. Even the left wasn’t satiated by the piddly rooftop plans.

The hallmarks of the Obama presidency has always been style over substance. Yet they hate getting called on that. So when they had the perfect opportunity to choose substance over distracting shiny objects, they chose the latter? Fishy.

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