Bill McKibben's White House Solar Panel Stunt Didn't Help

Bill McKibben recently drove Jimmy Carter's solar panels to the White House. Obama's response? "Thanks, but no thanks."

Bill McKibben, the environmental activist and founder of (a GOOD 100 honoree) recently made a bold move. He tracked down a solar water heater panel that Jimmy Carter had installed on the White House roof in the 1970s—they were taken down by Ronald Reagan and ended up at Unity College in Maine—and, along with some students from Unity, took it to the White House to offer to the president. McKibben also brought an offer from a company called Sungevity that was willing to donate a full solar system for the White House.

As McKibben's party made its way from Maine to Washington, D.C., they had just one "nagging concern": They hadn't heard any confirmation from the White House that Obama would see them. In the end, McKibben and company did end up with a meeting, with two unnamed "environmental bureaucrats," but the Carter panel and the Sungevity donation were refused. McKibben related the story in a recent post at TomDispatch:

They refused to accept the Carter panel as a historic relic, or even to pose for a picture with the students and the petition they’d brought with them. 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.


Obviously, the solar panel pilgrimage was designed to generate publicity. McKibben and company could have made sure the White House wanted the solar panels before taking them to Washington. But driving them down, with a crew of idealistic college students, in a school bus powered by vegetable oil, was a way of drawing attention—and maximizing pressure on the White House. Some might even call it exploitative. Mr. President, these children want solar panels. Don't you care about the children?

There are plenty of legitimate reasons for rejecting the solar panels.

Buying solar panels is cost prohibitive for most Americans. Putting them on the White House would further the perception that sustainability is out of reach for the average American—and that Obama is out of touch. Urban gardening, by contrast, is much easier for people to do, regardless of income, and the White House has enthusiastically embraced that cause.

Also, by accepting the panels, the White House would be setting a dangerous precedent: that anyone can cruise up to the front door with an innocent, emotionally-charged request, and expect the administration to make time for them.

It's also possible that, amid the myriad demands of running the country, installing symbolic solar panels didn't seem like the highest priority.

Bill McKibben is doing invaluable work for the environment and all of us (and our progeny) owe him a debt of gratitude. But this ploy took time and energy that might have been better spent on the effort to stop Proposition 23 in California, for example.

Photo (cc) by Flickr user

via Jim Browing / YouTube

Jim Browning is a YouTuber from the UK who has an amazing ability to catch scammers in the act.

In this video, he responds to a scam email claiming he bought a laptop by breaking into the scammer's computer. In the process he uncovers where the scammers work, their banking information, and even their personal identities.

"I got an 'invoice' email telling me that I had paid for a $3800 laptop," Browning writes on his YouTube page. "No links... just a phone number. It's a real shame that these scammers emailed me because I was able to find out exactly who they were and where the were."

Keep Reading
HG B / YouTube

Danielle Reno of Missouri left her car running and it was stolen by thieves. But she wasn't going to let her car go so easily.

For 48 hours this owner of a pet rescue tracked the charges being made on her credit card. Ultimately, she found her car at a local Applebee's, and then went after the thieves.

Keep Reading
via Bossip / Twitter

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders took aim at former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg onstage at Wednesday's Las Vegas Democratic debate, likening the billionaire businessman to President Donald Trump and questioning his ability to turn out voters.

Sanders began by calling out Bloomberg for his stewardship of New York's stop and frisk policy that targeted young black men.

Keep Reading