President Bush’s proposed budget for the government’s 2004 fiscal year doesn’t contain much good news for renewable energy advocates: Total research funding for the Energy Department’s energy efficiency and renewable energy programs would increase just 0.1 percent. Last summer, though, the feds apparently had enough money to purchase a solar-energy system to heat the presidential pool and spa, among other uses. With little public notice, the government bought 167 solar panels and installed them on the roof of a maintenance building next to the White House. The administration declined to say how much power the panels are generating or how much money they are saving taxpayers. But experts agree that the total output is small: “I think the symbolic nature of this exceeds the actual kilowatts produced,” said Michael Paranzino, a spokesperson for the Solar Energy Industries Association.

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