Today President Obama continued his tour of California with a stop in a somewhat unlikely place: Walmart. The company has pledged to double the number of solar projects at its stores and distribution centers by 2020, and the president used the Walmart in Mountain View, California as a backdrop to discuss the importance of solar energy. About 300 companies and local governments have recently signed on to an initiative to use more solar energy technology. But it seems nobody is completely satisfied with today's announcements.
The fact that President Obama used the notoriously union-busting Walmart to promote the number of companies of governments embracing solar is angering labor groups. But the White House seems to be trying to counter that negative attention from the left with an emphasis on a solar project that hits very close to home: the re-introduction of solar panels on the White House roof.
But this isn't the first time that the White House has tried to go a bit greener. Way back in 1979, President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the roof of the White House during a particularly tough time for the country's confidence in new energy solutions. When Ronald Reagan took office in the 1980s he rather unceremoniously ripped them out. But President Obama has finally put them back, if only to prompt a discussion.
Solar won't be the White House's lone source of energy — not by a long shot — but the Obama administration sees the re-installation of the panels as an important symbolic act.
"Solar panels on the White House I think are a really important message that solar is here, we are doing it, we can do a lot more," Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz says in a promotional video released by the White House.
The administration also emphasizes the fact that these solar panels are all American made. Domestic energy production has been a hotly debated topic in the political arena, most recently with the controversy surrounding the completion of the Keystone pipeline — a pipeline which carries that old-fashioned dinosaur juice known as crude oil.
"Continuing President Obama's commitment to lead by example to increase the use of clean energy in the U.S., the White House has completed installation of American-made solar panels on the first family's residence as a part of an energy retrofit that will improve the overall energy efficiency of the building," White House spokesperson Matt Lehrich said in a statement.
With alternative energy now relatively mainstream, it will be interesting to see if the next Republican who happens to take the White House rips them out. Here's hoping President Trump doesn't do just that.
Images: President Obama at Mountain View Walmart on May 9, 2014 via the Associated Press; Jimmy Carter with reporters examining solar panels on June 20, 1979 via the Associated Press