A Green Conversation with White House Correspondent Paul Brandus
The SolarTown interns discussed the direction of renewable energy in the existing political climate with award-winning White House Correspondent Paul Brandus. Brandus, the founder of @WestWingReports, has over 200,000 followers on Twitter and is scheduled to release a new book in September entitled Under This Roof: The White House and the Presidency. Once we made our way to Chop’t, ordered our food, and sat down, we had the opportunity to explain each of our summer projects to Brandus and get his input on where renewable energy fits into politics at the White House.
First, Brandus reminisced on one conversation he had with a young Senator Barack Obama about his plans to put solar panels on the White House, if elected president. Once that Senator was elected, however, Brandus would ask the president for updates on the White House solar panels and the President would report back: “We’re working on it”. Five years later, the solar panels were finally installed on roof of the president’s residence. “Everything moves slowly here,” said Brandus.
As we moved the conversation to politics, Brandus pointed out that as the cost efficiency of renewable energy systems rise, “red” states are identifying the opportunity to profit. “Texas is getting rich off of renewables” he explained. He attributed their advantage to the amount of sun they get on an annual basis. Brandus also mentioned the abundant wind in the midwest. He explained that if you simply followed the campaign trail, you’d notice the opportunity midwestern states have to profit off of their wind supply. He joked that the “hot air” you’d feel would not just be from the presidential candidates’ campaigns.
We then discussed the differences between the economic incentives of renewables and the moral obligations to protect the Earth’s ecosystems. Brandus pointed out that species extinction extend to humans, as well. He mentioned a few chapters in a book that affected him entitled The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, that linked endangered species to each of their fundamental roles in the ecosystems we inhabit. One example that he used was the bee species that pollinates such a large portion of our food supply. Their instrumental value is not something we can easily ignore.
Finally, we asked Brandus to describe his upcoming book to us. He described it as a great book that collects “untold stories of the White House, untold stories of the president. Stories you’ve never heard before are in this book.” He quoted one of his reviewers who described it as a tour of the White House with a gifted tour guide at your side. He referred to a part of his book where he mentioned President Obama’s introduction of solar panels onto a building as historic as the White House. “Jefferson was the first to put bathrooms in the White House, Obama was the first to put solar panels. What will the next president going to do?” Our group of interns pondered over that question as Mr. Brandus concluded “this is me” as we said good-bye to him as he disappeared beyond the White House gates.