Going Green at the White House: Where Have Jimmy Carter's Solar Panels Gone?

Solar technology made its White House debut more than 30 years ago.

ByABC News
July 15, 2010, 4:31 PM

July 16, 2010 -- As part of his push for clean energy jobs, President Obama last week went solar, announcing almost $2 billion in funding for construction of some of the world's largest solar energy plants.

But with climate change legislation at a standstill as Congress races to complete other big items before its August recess – including the Elena Kagan nomination, unemployment benefits and the war funding bill – some environmental activists say the move is not enough.

"People are very tired of the fact that, for the 20 years that we've known about climate change, Congress has essentially done nothing," said Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, an international climate change action group.

McKibben and his group took matters into their own hands last week with the launch of "Put Solar On It!," an online campaign that petitions world leaders to install solar panels on their residences on Oct. 10, 2010. The date coincides with the group's Global Work Party, a day of international greening projects.

Among the targeted world leaders are President Felipe Calderon of Mexico, President Hu Jintao of China, Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom and Obama. So far, only one head of state, President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, has signed on to install panels.

Still, McKibben is optimistic that the White House will join in the solar campaign.

"There's a lot of flat space up there on the roof of the White House – it's a nice, big Southern exposure. There's no reason that they couldn't produce a lot, probably all, of the hot water that they use, and some good share of the electricity," McKibben said. "This will be a great opportunity, a fun opportunity, for him to re-connect with all those people who have been hoping for action."

The First Family has made a point to set an environmentally friendly example with First Lady Michelle Obama planting an organic vegetable garden on the South Lawn and hosting an eco-friendly Easter Egg roll.

In a speech last week at the University of Nevada, Obama urged Congress to spur private-sector jobs by expanding the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit to $5 billion – more than double the amount of clean energy tax credits available last year.

In pushing to spur private-sector jobs, Obama praised the clean energy sector as "an industry that will not only produce jobs of the future, but help free America from our dependence on foreign oil in the process, clean up our environment in the process, improve our national security in the process."

And as the president and the First Family continue a public push for eco-friendly actions, the White House says work is underway.