In 1979, President Jimmy Carter installed 32 solar panels at the White House, largely as a reaction to the oil shocks of the 1970s. In 1973, the OAPEC oil embargo had caused confusion and fear in the United States, forcing motorists to line up for gas -- if they could find a station that even had fuel. The crisis underlined the United States' dependence on fossil fuels and created significant interest in alternative energy. However, the solar panels -- which had been used to power the White House water heater --- didn't last long. President Ronald Reagan had them removed in 1986 while the White House roof was being resurfaced.
The first "oil shock" of the 1970s occurred in October 1973, when members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) proclaimed an oil embargo as a response to American support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War. The second "oil shock" occurred in 1979, triggered by the Iranian Revolution.
Solar energy, back and forth:
- OAPEC declared the 1973 oil embargo against Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
- Half of the solar panels that once generated energy at the White House were later installed on the roof of the cafeteria at Unity College in Maine.
- President Barack Obama, who made environmental issues a focus of his presidency, re-installed solar panels at the White House in 2010.