Environmentalist Bill McKibben's quest to bring solar panel to White House
Esteemed environmentalist launches PR stunt to get President Obama's attention? Yep, we're officially back from summer break. Goodbye flip-flops, hello political theater.
Bill McKibben, author of best-selling "The End of Nature" and an expert on global warming, is heading to Washington with one of the solar panels originally installed at the White House in 1979. His goal: to present it to Obama on Friday and urge him to reinstall it on the roof, therefore inspiring millions of like-minded citizens to go greener.
"When Michelle Obama put the garden in the White House, it was one of the things that caused seed sales to jump 30 percent," McKibben told us. "We'd rather have a climate bill than solar panels on the roof, but we're not going to get it this year. This is a way to help build visibility for the steps we need to take. In a way, it's a reboot of 1979."
To tout clean energy bona fides, President Jimmy Carter had 32 panels installed -- which the Reagan administration took down and stowed away in a government warehouse. A professor at Maine's Unity College later sought out the panels, which were installed on the school's cafeteria roof. Now one of the 6-by-3-foot plates (they're old but still work) is on its way to D.C.
McKibben, who's organizing a huge environmental rally next month on 10/10/10, left Maine on Tuesday with stops in Boston, New York and Washington. He scored an appearance on David Letterman's show last week -- much wonkier than your typical late-night fare. Now he's angling for a splashy photo op at the White House, although nothing is set yet. "We keep hearing, 'We'll see' and 'It's complicated,'" he said. "Compared with the other things Obama has to do, it seems relatively easy. They can't filibuster the roof."
A bit of good news: No Obama, but "a White House representative will hold a meeting with the group to discuss support for renewable energy," Christine Glunz from the White House Council on Environmental Quality told us Wednesday. And no promises about the solar panel itself. But McKibben is optimistic: "I think we'll leave it in Washington. This thing wants to go home."
The Reliable Source
September 9, 2010; 1:05 AM ET
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