Reagan was an, um, environmentalist
Posted by Rich Sweeney on December 3, 2007
In John McCain’s new “Environment” issue brief video he channels the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt and Ronny Reagan. (Actually the clip is funny because he says “Teddy Roosevelt was a great environmentalist, Ronald Reagan was a (verbal pause) environmentalist.”) Now usually I try to avoid politics on CT, but I thought this was a good time to bring up Ronald Reagan’s legacy on renewable energy. This may be old news to many of you, but I just learned recently that Ronald Reagan literally ripped the solar panels off the roof of the White House when he became president.
In the 1970’s the US faced an energy crisis due to the oil embargo. Under the Carter administration the US embarked on an unprecedented effort to reduce our dependence on foreign energy. One of the more ambitious areas of focus was on solar power, and, in addition to funding a massive amount of R&D and substantial tax credits for solar installation, Carter installed solar hot water heaters on the roof of the White House a sign of the nation’s intent.
Enter the actor from California. Reagan came into the White House and quickly cut funding for solar research and revoked the the solar installation tax credit (Evan has a good story about Reagan’s effect on the National Labs). Then, as a signal of his intent, he pried the solar panels off the roof and put them in the dumpster. 25 years later, we’re frantically scrambling to increase our national renewable capacity. Meanwhile, countries like Germany who invested heavily in solar in the past are acheiving impressive levels of renewables penetration.
Today, we’re lucky that Dutch’s old state, California, and companies like Google are picking up the slack. Nevertheless, Reagan’s pettiness and lack of foresight on this issue should be a source of embarrassment, not inspiration, for the current GOP candidates.