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President Obama Is Putting Solar on the White House Roof
350.org founder and well-known environmentalist Bill McKibben applauded the Obama Administration's announcement today that they are at work installing a new set of solar panels on the White House roof.
“Better late than never—in truth, no one should ever have taken down the panels Jimmy Carter put on the roof way back in 1979,” said McKibben. “But it's very good to know that once again the country's most powerful address will be drawing some of that power from the sun.”
The solar panels President Carter installed in 1979 were taken down by President Reagan in 1986.
In September 2010, 350.org found one of the original Carter era-panels at Unity College in Maine, where it had been heating water for the cafeteria. McKibben and a group of Unity students decided to take a roadtrip to return the panel to the White House and request that President Obama reinstall it on the roof or commission a new set of panels.
The White House initially declined 350.org's request, but reversed course a month later when then Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu announced that the White House would put up a new set of panels by the end of Spring 2011. The administration missed that deadline, but appears to be moving forward with the commitment today.
350.org sees President Obama’s decision to install solar panels on the White House as another good sign that the administration is preparing to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, one of the highest profile environmental fights in the country.
“There’s no good faith way that the president could install solar panels on his roof and then put a pipeline in America’s backyard,” said Jamie Henn, communications director for 350.org. “In fact, the installation ceremony for the new panels would be the perfect place for the president to announce he’s rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.”
The White House announcement comes at a time when the U.S. solar market continues to expand. Last year, the U.S. installed a record 3,313 megawatts of photovoltaic solar. The market size for the U.S. industry grew from $8.6 billion in 2011 to $11.5 billion in 2012, according to GTM Research. At the same time, costs of solar panels continue to fall, making it easier for consumers and businesses to install their own systems.
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
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By Will Sarni
It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.
The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future
We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.
"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.
One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.
Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.
Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.
These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.
We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).
We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.
We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.
Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.
Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.
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