Thanks to President Jimmy Carter, the small, rural town of Plains, Georgia, just reached quite the benchmark: It now gets 50% of its energy from solar power.
Sure, it’s a very small town — “We have about 215 households, 700 or so people, in Plains,” resident Jill Stuckey told the Associated Press — but it’s still an impressive feat.
Carter leased 10 acres of his own land in his hometown to build a solar farm, a project that was completed in February.
“In the solar industry, a lot of the folks that I know think of him as kind of the father of the solar industry,” said Stuckey, who is a friend of Carter’s. “And to have these panels in Plains today that will create more than half the energy that we utilize here in Plains is just really wonderful for us.”
On top of his gift in Plains, last month the Carter family also provided 324 solar panels to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta.
Carter’s commitment to clean energy began a long, long time ago.
On June 20, 1979, Carter’s administration installed 32 solar panels on the roof of the White House to harvest renewable energy at the president’s residence, according to Scientific American.
It wasn’t just a symbolic move, either. As Carter declared in a speech that day:
“A generation from now, this solar heater can 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 a message to Congress the same day of his speech, Carter laid out his plans to overhaul America’s energy systems. By the year 2020, he envisioned, at least 20% of the energy used in the U.S. would come from renewable sources.
Carter’s hopes of a sustainable 21st-century America took another hit in the 2016 election.
President Trump, as you may have noticed, isn’t exactly known for hugging trees.
So far, Trump has handed over the Environmental Protection Agency to Scott Pruitt, who’s turned “the EPA into a supine lap dog” for the oil and gas industry, as David Horse eloquently put it in the L.A. Times. Trump, Bloomberg reported on July 13, also wants to invest in coal-fire power plants using money that’s currently allocated to the United Nations to help countries hit hardest by climate change.
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012
In June, to the dismay of millions around the world, Trump pledged to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement — a global effort to curb the effects of global warming. Now, America is one of just three countries (the others being Syria and Nicaragua) that aren’t signed on to reach target emissions goals.
In terms of energy policy, it seems like Trump is a far better fit to lead in, say … the early 1970s.
The good news is, America’s energy future won’t be decided by a single presidency.
One administration can push us forward or set us back in significant ways, to be sure. But it’s on us to keep up the fight — regardless of who’s in the Oval Office.
After all, you don’t need to be a president to make a difference, as Carter would tell you.
“I think symbolically — like those panels on the White House [in 1979] — this little unit in Plains will be very beneficial,” Carter told the AP. “It shows what a small town can do, what one farmer can do.”