Obama opens land -- and White House -- to solar
Washington (AFP) Oct 5, 2010
The United States on has opened up its vast public lands to solar power projects, as the White House agreed to set up its own solar panels in a visible show of support for alternative energy.
President Barack Obama has pledged to help build a new green economy, but Congress has balked at mandatory cuts in carbon emissions. A study this year found that China has overtaken the United States in green investment.
The Interior Department, which supervises most of the United States' 650 million acres (263 million hectares) of public land, said Tuesday it approved projects in southern California's deserts by units of companies Tessera and Chevron.
"Both will use innovative technologies from US-based companies and both will bring jobs and energy to our nation's economy," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters on a conference call.
Federal authorities in 2008 put a freeze on solar proposals as it assessed effects on the environment, with some fearing the California projects would put at risk bighorn sheep and flat-tail horned lizards.
Salazar said that the companies agreed to programs to preserve wildlife. He pledged to approve additional solar projects, which until the end of the year would enjoy tax incentives.
An environmental group, the Center for Biological Diversity, criticized the decision, saying that bighorn sheep were on the verge of extinction and noting that American Indians also had spiritual claims to the land.
"We are definitely supportive of solar energy," said Ileene Anderson, the center's public lands deserts director. "It's a good project, but it's just in the wrong place."
Elsewhere, the Obama administration announced it would install two solar panels on the White House, hoping to encourage Americans in lesser known residences to consider solar energy a reliable alternative.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that the project "reflects President Obama's strong commitment to US leadership in solar energy and the jobs it will create here at home."
"Deploying solar energy technologies across the country will help America lead the global economy for years to come," said Chu, whose department will assess companies' bids to build the panels.
It is the latest green project for the Obama White House. First Lady Michelle Obama launched a garden on the lawn in a bid to persuade Americans to eat fresher, healthier food.
Former president Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the executive mansion in 1979, but Ronald Reagan took them down. The Obama White House last month politely rebuffed activist Bill McKibben who showed up with a Carter-era panel, now stored at Unity College in Maine.
McKibben, the founder of the climate advocacy group 350.org, on Tuesday praised the Obama administration, saying it was listening to some 40,000 people who signed a petition for the solar panels.
"If it has anything like the effect of the White House garden, it could be a trigger for a wave of solar installations across the country and around the world," he said.
The Obama administration tapped into last year's stimulus package to encourage solar and other renewable energies, hoping they will spur a new green economy and reduce carbon emissions which scientists say is causing dangerous climate change.
Legislation to mandate cuts in carbon emissions has all but died in the US Senate, with critics saying the plan would be too costly at a time of a weak economy.
Obama, however, pledged in January that the federal government would do its share by cutting carbon emissions by 28 percent by 2020 compared with levels in recent years.
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Berlin (UPI) Oct 5, 2010
The ongoing solar energy boom in Germany is pushing up power prices, an energy industry group claims. Prices for electricity rose by 2.1 percent in Germany during the first half of this year, the German Association of the Energy and Water Industries, or BDEW, said Monday. The energy industry lobby group credited mainly the billions of dollars in levies paid by German taxpayers fo ... read more
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