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You Can't Put Solar Panels on the White House and Still Justify Keystone XL

The Obama Administration's announcement that they are installing a new set of solar panels on the White House roof is good news for the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline.

There is simply no good faith way that the President could put a pair of solar panels on his roof and then run a major tar sands pipeline through America's backyard. I'm willing to be cynical about politicians, but that sort of blatant greenwashing would be the height of hypocrisy. There's simply no way the White House could seriously think they could get away with that sort of bait-and-switch.

While the fight against Keystone XL is far from over, we've seen the tide beginning to turn. Just over a month ago, President Obama made a major climate speech at Georgetown University where he explained that in order for Keystone XL to be approved it could not significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions. In a follow-up interview, he went on to criticize the overblown jobs claims made by Keystone XL proponents and reiterate his commitment to judging the project on climate.

As scientists have made clear time after time, Keystone XL would be a climate disaster. Here at, we got into the fight against the pipeline after Dr. James Hansen, perhaps our nation's top climatologist, declared that expanding tar sands production would mean "game over" for the planet. Keystone XL has been referred to as "a fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet." Study after study shows that despite industry greenwashing, tar sands remain the dirtiest fuel on the planet. There's simply no good faith way the President can meet his standard and approve the project.

"There is simply no good faith way that the President could put a pair of solar panels on his roof and then run a major tar sands pipeline through America's backyard."


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Instead, he should use this decision to step forward and fully embrace a clean energy future. What better backdrop to announce a rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline than a shining set of solar panels on the White House roof?

Back in 1979, when Jimmy Carter installed the first set of solar panels on the White House he predicted that in the year 2000, the panels would be "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."

(In 2010, our crew at teamed up with a group of Unity College students to return a Carter era panel back to the White House and request that President Obama re-install it or put up a new pair. After initially rejecting the request, the administration eventually agreed and are now finally making the installation).

Just a few years after Carter's installation, Ronald Reagan took down the solar panels and cut federal support for renewable energy. Now it seems like the adventure might be underway again. Putting solar panels on the White House is a small step in the right direction. President Obama shouldn't ruin it by taking a huge leap backward by approving Keystone XL.

Jamie Henn

Jamie Henn

Jamie Henn is co-founder of and currently serves as Director of Strategic Communications for 350 Action. Follow him on Twitter: @Agent350

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