What Does it Take for Green Tech to Catch On?

Brittney Barrett  |

Recent years have seen car companies from Toyota (TM) to Ford (F) attempting to lower green house gas emissions with their hybrid and electric powered automobiles, but either due to a weak economy or a lack of infrastructure, such vehicles only account for about 1 percent of the total cars on the road. The need to be green, however, is well documented as greenhouse gas emissions threaten to contribute to global warming. Efforts continue to be made to help achieve objectives, including massive campaigns to bike instead of drive the work commute, fuel efficiency standards for showroom floors and tax subsidies--but none seem to be widespread.

So what’s the answer then?

To the surprise of many, it’s not expensive hydroelectric or wind power, though those could work, but painting roofs white. That is at least what a presentation at a conference at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California said in July. The presentation indicated that like most successful green technologies, they could help business and home owners save cash, around $360 a year on a thousand square meter roof, while saving the environment. The cool roof technology is seen as a potential response to the growing number of people and businesses in emerging nations from India to China and Brazil. With increased production and commerce, these developing populations are demanding more energy and as a consequence are contributing to the challenges associated with green house gas expenditures. According to this study; however, white roofs have the potential to reduce energy consumption in over 90 percent of the territory of India and help negate the problem.

According to an article in Time, “If 80 percent of the roofs in urban areas in the tropical and temperate climate zones were painted white (or some other "cool" color, which reflects non-visible light), it would offset 24 billion metric tons worth of carbon dioxide emissions. This is the equivalent of our 300 million cars, or of 500 medium-sized coal power plants.” The advantages of the white roof technology have been recognized for several years but the publication of this study reveals the extent of the benefits that could come from its widespread application. Given the tight economic times, an option of this nature is appealing not because it is more effective than options like hybrids, solar power and wind energy but because it is inexpensive and has potential for widespread application.

While the white roofs in and of themselves would be insufficient in terms of their contribution to sustainability they offer a unique addition to the impact other technologies would have. Some believe that with the economic crunch in the U.S. that wind and solar will take a longer time to catch on than initially expected, making the ease of application for the white roofs all the more appealing. The elements of the sustainability movement that appear to be gaining speed generally benefit both the environment and the wallet. The U.S. and global economy is in an unsure place and many people and business are unwilling to change, unless there is a fiscal advantage. The only other green technology that seems to offer this appeal is the hybrid car, which alongside white roofs could continue to help minimize the level of green house gas emissions. Exxon Mobile is predicting that hybrid cars will account for 1 of every 2 vehicles on the road by 2040, as the technology becomes increasingly affordable and the range of models widen.

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