Greenroofing, Mr. Chu! Don't listen to that fool Hoss.
Atrios is applauding Sec. Chu's initiative for painting roofs white to save the government money on energy costs. Of course I am in agreement and approve. But I'm the silly DFH dreamer who only will be satisfied with rainbows and ponies, so I'm just going to remind them both: white paint is fine, but green roofs are much, much better.
Sec Chu says:
“Cool roofs are one of the quickest and lowest cost ways we can reduce our global carbon emissions and begin the hard work of slowing climate change,”
And he's not wrong! But...
We can kill several oil soaked birds with one stone, yo? $735M is chump change, Mr. Secretary. Let's go for the real savings! Cause I know that's all you people care about, or are allowed to use to justify programs that Dems propose.
Green roofing isn't for everyone. Including me! When I redo my roof (of my home which is also my office) I will be doing a solar roof. I live in the Midwest and also have plenty of space for native and pollinator-attracting plants, of which you know I grow many. But I'm a big fan of large building green roofing. Here's why, and why I'm also in favor of green roofing residential properties whenever possible:
White paint on roofs:
is that a petroleum based material we're using? I'd bet petrochemicals are part of the process of at least making paint. Right now, it's hard to be any less in favor of giving the oil companies our taxdollars than I already am. Again, not dissing the idea of white roofs when it's the best choice.
Native Species cultivation:
if many American homes and buildings had green roofs with native and endangered species, think of the benefits! Xeriscaping is a well established science these days, and no matter where you live, you can grow plants on your roof that will feed and shelter those species who are losing their native habitats to development- with practically no effort on your part. Speaking from personal experience, I've increased the number of fauna on my property in under five years time by growing things, by a factor of ten. I'm serious. I have toads, chipmunks, birds that weren't here before, butterflies, and probably plenty of underground and insect life I just haven't perceived yet. None of these were here before I started greening this space. Plant diversity is better too, obviously.
I'm mostly talking out of my ass here, but I am fairly sure that more green life means better control of our water resources. I can tell the difference it's made on my own property, to grow more than water sucking grass and plenty of water succulent plants that in turn keep the soil alive with moisture for wildlife. Sure, roofs would be minor in this respect, but if a climate or soil/water scientist wants to help me out here, I'd appreciate it.
If green roofing became a widespread industry, people would get jobs to maintain them. Painting a roof once every 10 years =/= the number of jobs created by having lots of green roofs. And those jobs would be there for the life of the home or building, not just a one-off job now and again. Sec. Chu should realize that he's not in his job to compete with or fund the painting industry; his initiatives could help farmers, nursery owners, native species specialists, landscapers, ground crews... and again, all these people would have work for a long time, instead of just once in a while. And eventually, government stimulus wouldn't be paying those folks; the building owners would.
Food Production/Local and Slow Food:
Just one roof farm in Brooklyn. I don't have to explain the many benefits of this to anyone here, I'm sure. But the savings in energy costs would be tremendous, not to mention people enjoying and being more healthy from having locally produced food right "up there." Also: more employment and lower health care costs.
without being spiritual (but you can if you'd like) I can honestly say that green space in urban areas makes all the difference in urban living. Or suburban living even, if we're talking about those "corporate landscaped" developments. People are soothed and relaxed by the smell of flowers and the songs of birds, and in times like these, that's no insignificant benefit. I'm sure there is no study about it yet, but I'd love to see an analysis of crime rates in highly greened urban spaces. My bet is they are lower, where they exist. And just think of how nice it would be for the urban worker to just take the elevator up to the roof of her workplace for a lunch break, picking a fresh salad and tomato and enjoying that on a sunny park bench. So much better psychologically than standing in line for 30min after running six blocks and back to the fast food place she can afford.
Air Quality/Temperature Control:
Again, I am not an environmental scientist. But green plants help control temperatures, keep oxygen and moisture in the air, and otherwise contribute to a stable atmosphere. White paint is great in urban spaces which easily overheat due to too much blacktop. But mixing in green roofs makes sense too, and can help in similar ways with greater additional benefits beyond reducing summer temperature and maintaining heat inside buildings in winter. I'd guess a layer of dirt and plants and moisture is a pretty decent, if not perfect, type of insulation.
The frustrating part about today's Dems is that they are such timid cowards. If the Republican model of government is "why buy one, when you can contract for three that aren't ever complete at six times the price, all paid to your incompetent, crony friends?" the Democratic model seems to be "how can we take a good idea and water it down so that it's less effectual, will probably fail to achieve our stated goals, and the Republicans will be able to kill when they're back in power, easily, by pointing to the fact that we made a claim and failed to back it up in practice."
I respect Sec. Chu for taking a sensible stand. But like I said: ~$700M is chump change, a difference no one will notice. How about a multi-billion dollar initiative? Failing that, how about a concentrated effort in one urban area, at reduced cost you could sneak in some omnibus bill? If people could see that just one American city could be greened, to all the affect I've listed above, it would be much easier to get a national sized program passed.
I'm a total dummy about the science of green roofing, and as I said I have no personal experience with it other than those roofs I've visited or seen. But I can perceive why they are a better use of our money than just white roofing. We can try both, can't we, Mr. Chu? I bet Hoss would not even mind if you let me use the Awesome Power of Blogging to change your mind to my idea over his/yours. :-)
The DOE has a blog, but of course, no comments. What cowards. Anyway, I'm no economist, but I'm pretty sure green roofing is superior to white roofing in long terms of savings, job creation, benefit to the environment, etc. Feel free to add anything I've forgotten in the comments.
Edit: of course I forgot to say, there's also a political benefit. I just spent a recent weekend at a gathering of organic DFH home farming types, and I have to say: if Obama just threw them a bone, wow, would that help the Dem party out this fall, and in '12. Not that they think they need that, but still. What I'm talking about is not that much more politically or financially significant, in terms of getting stuff passed. Eco Folk are so very ready to get behind anyone who seems on their side. Michelle Obama has made up for a lot of her boneheaded hubby's mistakes with her little organic garden project on the WH lawn. Sec. Chu could also earn his keep, by helping develop a green space bill that the Administration could push, using all the bullet points I've outlined. Yes, I'm a fool for giving them all this campaign research for free that they won't ever use, but what can I say? Hope Springs Eternal, or something. :-)