Thursday, July 22, 2010

Saving Money and Example

Novel concept, right?

Some of us are old enough to remember President Jimmy Carter installing solar panels on the roof of The White House to give some high-level support to a new idea born of repeated energy crises earlier in the decade.  We also remember President Ronald Reagan gleefully taking them down.

Looking back 30+ years, Carter's idea doesn't seem so silly, does it?  And Reagan's attitude looks reactionary and childish.

As far as I know, no one has installed any of the newest generations of solar technology on The White House roof (yet), but Secretary of Energy Steven Chu (the current leader of a department the Reagan Administration wanted to abolish, if you'll recall) is doing one better by calling for all new department building roofs to be white or reflective (rather than the traditional black or gray).  Anyone who has ever lived in a city is familiar with the "heat island effect" that raises the local temperature thanks to heat-absorbing roofs and heat-releasing air-conditioning units.  The cumulative effect of this can be easily imagined -- if not directly experienced -- when surveying a sea of tarred rooftops from any high perch on a sunny, summer day.  Just like those silver, folding panels people use in their cars to block heat-gain through their windshields, light or reflective roofs would help buildings do the same.

The idea makes tremendous sense and hopefully will be adopted by other government departments and agencies.  The next step would be to encourage the private sector to follow suit via tax breaks or other incentives (as if lower energy bills wouldn't be incentive enough) and then ultimately mandate it for all new buildings and renovations of existing buildings where possible.

[Hat-tip:  HuffPo; original story and image at Inhabitat.]