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Obama's Green Initiative Includes White Roofs

By Brandon Schafer
On August 19, 2009

  • The Cat Express, which went through more than one paint job, began serving students Jan. 31. Lex Menz

Energy Secretary Steven Chu has a revolutionary plan to fight global warming. If it works, Chu claims it will have the same effect as removing the world's vehicles for 11 years. The plan? Whitewash roofs and roads.

Chu's proposal to paint all roofs and roads white is based on research by Arthur Rosenfeld, a former colleague from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Environmentalists recognize that Chu's statement is an exaggeration—the entire world would have to paint their roofs white to have the effect of removing the world's vehicles.

According to environmentalists, whitewashing America's roofs and roads would be surprisingly effective; a house with a whitewashed or silvered roof would reflect heat and require less energy to cool. Some figures suggest a 10% to 20% decrease in a building's electric bill.

While there are many incentives to this change, ultimately "We have to make a transition," Chu states. "If one does this very suddenly then there would be huge disruption," he explains.

Chu also warns us of expecting too much from the U.S. "You need a lot of incentives, and some regulation. There is not one single policy that will save us."

Chu's proposal comes at a time when the Energy Department is in a strong position to back it; $38 billion of stimulus money is just waiting to be used. Furthermore, it comes at a time when other options for conservation seem exhausted.

Last year California's proposal to limit greenhouse emissions by 40 percent more than current guidelines received positive responses from only 12 states. A proposal that both promotes conservation and avoids entanglements with the struggling automotive industry would be a welcome change.

"We must also recognize that the solution to global climate change must be global," said President Obama, in his speech announcing environment and energy key personnel. "Just as we work to reduce our own emissions, we must forge international solutions to ensure that every nation is doing its part. As we do so, America will lead not just at the negotiating table – we will lead, as we always have, through innovation and discovery; through hard work and the pursuit of a common purpose," Obama said.

The plan would be beneficial for the people living under whitewashed roofs, experts say.

Installing white roofs and roads is only one solution to global warming that the Energy Department is considering. However, due to the simplicity of the plan when compared with other methods, America may literally become a brighter place.

 


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