Bring solar power back to the White House
By Bill McKibben, Friday, September 10, 2010
A few of us have spent the past week carefully transporting a relic of American history down the East Coast, trying to return it to the White House, where it belongs.
It's not a painting spirited from the Lincoln Bedroom or an antique sideboard stolen from the Roosevelt Room by some long-ago servant. No, this relic comes from the somewhat more prosaic Carter roof. It's a solar panel, one of a large array installed on top of the White House in June 1979.
When he dedicated the panels, President Jimmy Carter made a prophecy that, like many oracles, came true in unexpected fashion -- in fact, nothing better illustrates both why the world is heating and why the American economy is falling behind its competitors.
"In the year 2000 this solar water heater behind me will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy," he said. "A generation from now this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people."
What happened? moreThe Germans are not stuck on symbolism but they are beginning to understand what their energy future is going to cost and it shocks them. But it's a LOT better to be shocked by real numbers than sitting around hoping a lot of small gestures will solve the problems.
Resistance to Merkel's Plan
A Multi-Trillion-Euro Price Tag for Energy Efficiency
The German government's new energy plan would require most houses in the country to be modernized and made more energy-efficient.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's plan to make Germany's residential buildings the most energy-efficient in the world has run into resistance within her cabinet. The project's price tag could be as high as 2.4 trillion euros -- and the minister responsible told SPIEGEL it is impracticable.
It was Berlin's decision to extend the lifespans of the country's nuclear reactors that has received the most attention. Since Chancellor Angela Merkel's government presented its new energy strategy last week, hardly a day has gone by without yet another voice being added to the national wrangling over atomic energy. This weekend will see a large anti-nuclear demonstration in Berlin.
But the plan goes far beyond just the controversial extension of nuclear reactor lifespans by between eight and 14 years. The goal, reads the plan's introduction, is for Germany "to become one of the most energy-efficient and most environmentally friendly economies in the world." Now, one of the unsung milestones on the road to that goal is causing consternation in Merkel's cabinet.
The plan calls for all residential buildings in Germany to be modernized such that they emit no greenhouse gases by 2050. But according to an internal ministry memo written for Germany's Minister of Transport, Construction and Urban Development Peter Ramsauer -- a memo which has been seen by SPIEGEL -- the plan will cost up to €2.4 trillion ($3.1 trillion). The total is equivalent to Germany's gross national product for an entire year and would require investments of up to €75 billion per year. more