White Roofs and Clean Coal Anyone?

Living green and helping the environment seems to be on everyone’s mind lately and President Obama is no different. Now, it seems that his Energy Secretary Steven Chu has a few ideas up his sleeve.

Chu’s first idea is simple – paint roofs white to reflect sunlight. The idea was actually developed by Chu’s former colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Of the white roof idea, Chu said, “There’s a friend of mine, a colleague of mine, Art Rosenfeld, who’s pushing very hard for a geo-engineering we all believe will be completely benign, and that’s when you have a flat-top roof building, make it white. “Now, you smile, but he’s done a calculation, and if you take all the buildings and make their roofs white and if you make the pavement more of a concrete type of color rather than a black type of color, and you do this uniformly . . . it’s the equivalent of reducing the carbon emissions due to all the cars on the road for 11 years.”

Some think that Chu is underestimating the potential benefits of white roofs. The research done at Lawrence showed that having white roofs and pavements could reduce up to 44 billion tons of carbon dioxide. So, what does that mean in real people terms? It would be like taking all the cars in the world off the streets…for 18 years! While that is only possible in the best case scenario, “cool colored” roofs will still eliminate carbon dioxide. Experts think the roofs could also make houses cooler, resulting in less air conditioning and thus less energy being used.

But, the “cool colored” roofs are not Chu’s only idea. He realizes that asked Americans to abandon coal really isn’t feasible, so he has encouraged researchers to develop a way to capture carbon dioxide from plants that burn coal. In fact, the Department of Energy is going to give $1 billion dollars to the stalled project FutureGen. In addition to the $1 billion, the FutureGen Alliance, which consists of 20 coal producers and other companies, is going to throw in an additional $400 million.

FutureGen is going to fund researchers working on a way to capture carbon dioxide on a large scale from the plants that burn coal. It hopes to work towards creating a “zero-emissions” coal plant. The site of this plant was set to be in Mattoon, Ill., but the Bush Administration pulled funding for the project in early 2008.

Of this project, Chu said, “Developing this technology is critically important for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. and around the world.”

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Libby Pelham

About Libby Pelham

I have always loved to write and Families.com gives me the opportunity to share my passion for writing with others. I work full-time as a web developer at UTHSC and most of my other time is spent with my son (born 2004). I love everything pop culture, but also enjoy writing about green living (it has opened my eyes to many things!) and health (got to worry about that as you get older!).