Ed Driscoll

Welcome Back Carter—and Kerry

One of the Ronald Reagan’s first gestures when he took office was to remove the solar panels installed on the roof of the White House by (of course) Jimmy Carter. Flash-forward to 2010: as if he didn’t need yet another comparison to the failed one-term Democrat, President Obama says…Welcome back Carter!

Solar power is coming to President Barack Obama’s house. [Insert obvious Scott Brown rejoinder here — Ed] The most famous residence in America, which has already boosted its green credentials by planting a garden, plans to install solar panels atop the White House’s living quarters. The solar panels are to be installed by spring 2011, and will heat water for the first family and supply some electricity.

The plans will be formally announced later Tuesday by White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley and Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

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.

Obama, who has championed renewable energy, has been under increasing pressure to lead by example by installing solar at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, something White House officials said has been under consideration since he first took office.

Which brings us to…Welcome back Kerry and yet another flip-flop — as recently as two weeks ago, it was reported that “The Obama administration has nixed the idea of reinstalling solar panels on the White House roof:”

Some 32 solar panels were first installed on the executive mansion’s roof by then President Jimmy Carter as part of his efforts to tout clean, renewable energy during the 1970s, when the U.S. faced severe shortages and price spikes after an oil embargo by Arab countries. Carter held a rooftop news conference in 1979 to show off the panels and discourage reliance on The panels were yanked off after Ronald Reagan took office a year later, but they didn’t disappear. Instead, some of them have been stored for the past 30 years by environmentalists at Unity College in Maine, where they were used to heat water in the school’s cafeteria. Last week, a group of students loaded one of the vintage 6-by-3-foot panels into a biodiesel van headed for Washington.

The group was led by Bill McKibben, founder of the environmental group 350.org, who described the mission on his blog: “If the president can’t climb up on the roof and hammer in some solar panels, clearly we need to push him up.”

The technology used in the Carter-era solar panels is now outdated, but a California company called Sungevity offered to outfit the White House with new panels for free. More than 8,000 people have signed on to a Facebook group in support. McKibben appeared on David Letterman’s “Late Show” last week to plug the effort as well.

Denied a meeting with Obama himself, McKibben landed an audience with three midlevel White House officials last Sept. 10, “who told him, politely, no dice,” according to The New York Times.

“They refused to take the Carter-era panels that we brought with us and said they would continue their deliberative process to figure out what is appropriate for the White House someday. I told them it would be nice to deliberate as fast as possible, since that is the rate at which the planet’s climate is deteriorating,” McKibben told the newspaper.

Yes, it’s entirely possible that within eight million years, there will be no atmosphere at all.

But the climate in Washington may be changing far more dramatically in less than a month.

Update: Not surprisingly, Allahpundit has fun with this story:

Seriously? On the very day that Obama/Carter comparisons have started to penetrate the international press?

Inevitably, someday soon, The One’s going to be away on a fishing trip as part of one of his umpteen vacations. And then, suddenly, disaster.

Meanwhile, Rush questions the timing: Mondale yesterday, a Carter homage today. And note the “Change” poster Rush highlights — from 1976.

Incidentally, T-shirts are available in the lobby.