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Tilting at Windmills

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September 6, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

THE GRAVITAS GAP....Mark Kleiman notes two little-noticed ways of conserving energy: planting trees in cities and lightening dark asphalt surfaces with chalk dust. Both reduce heat, and thus reduce the need for energy-hungry air conditioning, but both also require a fair amount of political organization:

There's a big political problem here. A candidate who says he's going to deal with our energy problem by drilling in ANWR will have his opinion taken seriously by reporters and pundits, even though the actual contribution of such drilling to reducing imports is trivial. But a national-level politician who proposed tree-planting or chalk dust would wind up the butt of jokes on late-night TV. Somehow the ideas lack gravitas. I have no clear idea what to do about that.

That's true, isn't it? Despite the supposed liberal tilt of our news media, reporters have a habit of treating liberal solutions to problems far less seriously than conservative solutions. The same thing happens in foreign policy, where conservative ideas (invade Iraq, bomb Iran, etc.) are accorded a respect they don't deserve, while liberal ideas are frequently treated as little more than pro forma responses. Like Mark, I have no clear idea what to do about this.

UPDATE: Reader Daniel Schacht passes along some home-brew experiments he did that show just how effective it can be to replace dark roofing material with lighter material. The difference is dramatic.

Kevin Drum 12:14 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (84)

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Comments

Why nnot light colored streets and trees?

The big money is in oil, not chalk dust and urban trees. The big money is in jet fighters and missiles, not schools and daycare.

Big money owns the media. Follow the money.

Posted by: Buford on September 6, 2006 at 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

Well, Kevin, one thing you could do is stop treating conservative proposals seriously. It's not like you turned against the "invade Iraq" proposal early in the going, and you're constantly trying to demonstrate your seriousness by taking the Right's ideas seriously, even when they are plainly not serious ideas offered in good faith.

Posted by: dj moonbat on September 6, 2006 at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

You would have to present the facts and data that shows how much of an impact planting trees and using chalk dust really does reduce energy needs. Also, you need to show who paid for and gathered that data to make sure it was trustworthy.

Posted by: SteveL on September 6, 2006 at 12:20 AM | PERMALINK

The way to do it goes like this: First, you have to get elected. When in office, have somebody else float the proposal and let everyone have their laugh. Then, gradually come around to accepting the idea (perhaps just a little slower than the public). At that point, you can do it. It's sort of like medicinal marijuana.

Posted by: Bob G on September 6, 2006 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

Why are cheap schemes that work "liberal"? I would think that pair of features would be catnip for conservatives.

Posted by: Michael O'Hare on September 6, 2006 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

Drilling anwr is accepted as 'serious' because its supporters have drilled into the public consciousness through repetition.

Posted by: hmmm on September 6, 2006 at 12:27 AM | PERMALINK

I had a brief discussion with an acquaitance who is running for city council in a Twin Cities suburb about the subject of having higher density housing near a soon-to-be-built rail transit line, and he said he was against it and favored keeping his suburb at a low housing density. My feeling is that you don't make a big investment in a transit line only to see it used by just as many commuters with cars as before - you want to reduce the basic need for cars (at least a second or third car) period. For mass transit to really work effectively, we need to address the subject of housing and overall land use as well. Not as appealing as the NIMBYesque plea to keep one's small town a haven for single-family homes, but then if your burb is getting a major commuter rail line you're definitely not just a small town anymore!

Posted by: David W. on September 6, 2006 at 12:28 AM | PERMALINK

Why are cheap schemes that work "liberal"? I would think that pair of features would be catnip for conservatives.

Conservatives like wasting money, as long as they get something big and masculine, like an aircraft carrier, to show for it.

Posted by: craigie on September 6, 2006 at 12:28 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with DJ moonbat. Ridiculous or inconsequential proposals will have less power if they are put in the proper perspective. If someone attaches a "tree hugger" label to a serious idea that examines a systemic problem, then it's worth pushing back. This is true as a private citizen having a conversation, a blogger, or as a professional journalist.

Posted by: JESchwartz on September 6, 2006 at 12:28 AM | PERMALINK

Big, stupid ideas have more narrative heft than mundane, practical ones-- wars beat police work, drilling beats planting, etc.-- so they serve the news media's goal of grabbing consumers' eyeballs better. You were in marketing; you know that the actual product is the audience, not the news itself, so whatever creates more product is by definition better for business.

Also, when big, stupid ideas fail, the narrative can be extended almost indefinitely, while mundane successes not only don't merit coverage, but instead force reporters to work harder to find new narratives. Given all that, it's amazing that they ever get anything right. It's also amazing that the media is the one huge, unwieldly institution that the GOP does understand, since they sure don't understand government.

Posted by: latts on September 6, 2006 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

I doubt there's a solution to this problem. What can one do when most of the American population can't even tell when the "gravitas" solutions implemented by the "serious" leaders achieve little or nothing? It seems difficult for so many people, even in the national media, to make that simple connection between cause and effect. It's just logical that when the "serious" answers aren't achieving results, one turns to different ideas that could work better. Sigh.

Posted by: Taobhan on September 6, 2006 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

Chalk dust? Are you shitting me? Sounds like a class-action by asthmatics waiting to happen. Trees too ( = pollen = allergies. . .).

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on September 6, 2006 at 12:36 AM | PERMALINK

Chalk?

Covering roofs with white metallic roofing works best. The temperature under the roofing drops 50 degrees F in the hot Texas sun. You could close a power plant or two if this is done across the sunbelt.

See http://www.antirad.com/rooftest/

Posted by: Daniel on September 6, 2006 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

If we need to get over our addiction to oil, like Bush said, then how does drilling for more oil in Anwar accomplish this?

Posted by: AkaDad on September 6, 2006 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin --
First, supposedly or otherwise, main media is no way liberal. Most of it is just not right-wing Republican. Some is!

Second, here in the Twin-cities it has been the policy for decades to plant trees for that very same shading effect. We have no overall environmental of transport policy, but we all can feel the effect of trees in summer. Raising the albedo of blacktop would have obvious effects. Someone do the math.

Third, the fake macho of the tweebs who wouldn't say boo to a goose without their security to the front; an administration that will never converse with an antagonistic audience; government executives who have never once said we screwed up, really screwed up, someone's head should roll. Yeah! Pussies! Every last one. Particularly the ones seeming most willing to bully the rest of us. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfewitz, Gonzalez, Woo. Every last little elitist wimp. And not a one of them that puts honesty, forthrightness, science, logic, humanity, or the constitution and law as a precondition.

You think I hold these people in contempt?

Why would we do anything that actually makes sense or is in the interest of this country and its people or the world as a whole?

Posted by: notthere on September 6, 2006 at 12:41 AM | PERMALINK

Covering roofs with white metallic roofing works best. The temperature under the roofing drops 50 degrees F in the hot Texas sun. You could close a power plant or two if this is done across the sunbelt.
See http://www.antirad.com/rooftest/
Posted by: Daniel on September 6, 2006 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

You could close a lot more if you covered those rooftops with solar arrays. You could even run the air conditioners off them.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on September 6, 2006 at 12:43 AM | PERMALINK

Drilling ANWR and launching rockets at foes have something in common.

Both are phallic symbols.

The reason the world is in such a mess is because of one thing: TESTOSTERONE.

Testostorene also controls the press.

So naturally the press will regard fucking the planet for oil with an auger as gravitas.

And naturally the press will regard fucking one's enemies with rockets as gravitas.

It is all about the fucking.
The human male doesn't really know or understand much else...

Posted by: koreyel on September 6, 2006 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

If we need to get over our addiction to oil, like Bush said, then how does drilling for more oil in Anwar accomplish this?

It doesn't. You have to get away from the notion that administration proposals are supposed to make rational sense. This one is a club they use to beat on the environmental movement--diehard wingnuts openly muse over the possibility of utterly destroying the Sierra Club, et. al. If they can get drilling in ANWAR, they can dream of finally achieving this goal.

Likewise, the environmental movement defends ANWAR as hard as it does because the anti-environmentalists push for it so hard. It's like one of those Peach Orchards or Sunken Roads you read about on Civil War battlefields. The bloodiests fights are over terrain features that some general wanted because the other side apparently wanted it even more. So the attacks came on, and on, one after another, until the dead lay in rows in the fields.

Posted by: Berken on September 6, 2006 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

The tree-planting issue actually goes over quite well at the local level. Mayor Daley of Chicago has made this a personal crusade over the years. Streets all over the city have trees and landscaping. It's good for the city and the mayor has evidence everywhere he goes that he is doing something to make Chicago a better place. It gets votes.

Posted by: Berken on September 6, 2006 at 12:50 AM | PERMALINK

It will take the impossible:

An established national dem risking everything they've worked their whole life to achieve to demonstrate success by applying policies that will be lambasted by the press long after their effectiveness is obvious to everyone.

Posted by: hush on September 6, 2006 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
My personal opinion is that liberal ideas are tragically reactionary and inadequate, while conservative ideas are pro-active and more forward-thinking. Does that make any sense? It's such a broad statement, more a lens to look through, I guess, like liberalism, for example! just kidding. Peace!

Posted by: bj on September 6, 2006 at 12:54 AM | PERMALINK

A short primer:
The problem has a name. It's called an urban heat island. NASA has done a lot of work with this. Here's a Sacramento example. Atlanta is also notorious for their problem with this.

The California Energy Commission and the public utilities including PGE, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric have combined in the past to offer subsidies and training to roofers who installed these systems on flat roofed commercial buildings with air conditioning. The reductions in air conditioning loads are highly significant and they come during the peak load times in summer when savings are most needed.

The two primary systems are acrylic coatings that can be applied over built-up roofs and single ply PVC systems instead of built-up roofs. Both have high reflection and high emittance to keep the roof structure from absorbing heat that gets transmitted to the interior of the building. Lots and lots of the high tech buildings in Southern California already have the roofs, primarily for the energy savings but also for their life cycle cost benefits.

Check out The Cool Roof Rating Council for more details. These roofs have worked out so well that they are now a requirement in California. Forget chalk dust. We've got the real thing going, baby.

As a side note to Daniel, metallic roofs, shiny aluminzed roofing, and any other metallic solution is plagued with the problem of emissivity. Put simply and in layman's terms, try picking up a hammer or shovel left out in the sun in the summer.Metal absorbs heat much more readily than it emits it. The only way any metallic roofing got onto the list of energy star materials is political pull by lobbyists.

Posted by: Cool Roofing Guy on September 6, 2006 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

I like to think differently. I say we start demanding our politicians give us free energy. We have all the free energy we need, from wind, solar, hydro, and homegrown oils. We just need an infrastructure set up to accomplish it.

After we did this, it would be like getting a tax cut, by not paying the energy bills we pay now.

Posted by: AkaDad on September 6, 2006 at 1:06 AM | PERMALINK

Somehow the ideas lack gravitas. I have no clear idea what to do about that.

remember "the unbearable lightness of being"? gravits comes from repetition. Keep repeating over and over again that the methods are cheap and that they work.

keep repeating the message to show that you take it seriously.

Posted by: republicrat on September 6, 2006 at 1:08 AM | PERMALINK

ITER!!!

International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor

Fusion has come a long way from the first Tokamaks. Take a look:

www.iter.org

Posted by: hush on September 6, 2006 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

on the other hand, I keep repeating the idea of planting trees and no one takes me seriously.

doesn't chalk reflect the heat upward into the greenhouse gases where they absorb it and heat up anyway?

Posted by: republicrat on September 6, 2006 at 1:13 AM | PERMALINK

Fusion has come a long way from the first Tokamaks

Dr. Octopus tried it and look what happened to him!

I say no thank you sir, fusion is too dangerous until we can find a foolproof way to keep those scary metal arms from taking over our brains.

Posted by: trex on September 6, 2006 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK

But a national-level politician who proposed tree-planting or chalk dust would wind up the butt of jokes on late-night TV.

The point is to persevere past the jokes. They made lots of jokes about Reagan, but he persevered and he won the election. The problem with liberals (compared to conservatives) is that they always retreat when challenged.

Keep repeating the message. Al Gore seems to be having some success by repeating his message about global warning, where success is having a few percent more people agree with him. Democrats are only a few percentage points away for a majority, so they should hammer their message till those few percent take them seriously.

AkaDad: I say we start demanding our politicians give us free energy. We have all the free energy we need, from wind, solar, hydro, and homegrown oils. We just need an infrastructure set up to accomplish it.

I'd say demand a new investment in energy producing infrastructure, and then pay the market rate. sort of like the federal subsidies to agricultur and to airline transportation.

Posted by: republicrat on September 6, 2006 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

I'd say demand a new investment in energy producing infrastructure, and then pay the market rate. sort of like the federal subsidies to agricultur and to airline transportation.
Posted by: republicrat on September 6, 2006 at 1:28 AM

No thanks, I want free energy. No more dependency on Middle Eastern oil too.

Posted by: AkaDad on September 6, 2006 at 1:36 AM | PERMALINK

One word: INFOMERCIALS!

Get that Oxycleanwhatever guy or some snobby guy with a British accent and saturate the late night airwaves with infomercials touting more trees and chalky asphalt will lower your energy bills.

Soon, Millions of people will be sending $19.99 (Shipping & Handling not included) to their congressmen in hopes they will be getting trees and chalky asphalt in their neighborhoods.

Posted by: zAmboni on September 6, 2006 at 1:42 AM | PERMALINK

Reagan had the might of the conservative media behind him - and those who mocked him were right. Unless you favor trading arms for hostages, hiking taxes on the working class, arming terrorists in our back yard and in the Middle East.

Posted by: heavy on September 6, 2006 at 1:47 AM | PERMALINK

http://eetd.lbl.gov/heatisland/

Posted by: bs23 on September 6, 2006 at 2:18 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, this post is a bit silly. Clinton did all sorts of small bore stuff, the media made fun of it, he moved on. Some of that stuff worked! Also, as I mentioned on Mark's site: trees are a bit complex. Their albedo is not that high, i think they mainly cool by transpiration, which makes things a bit tricky here in the dry west. Meanwhile, I think he just made up the chalk thing. There is low-hanging fruit on this branch of the energy conservation tree, but he may be picking up some fruit off the ground. Chalk dust?

Hey Cool Roof Guy! Thanks for the informative post but I gotta quibble with your thermodynamics. Kirchoff's law rules here. The emissivity of a roof equals its absorptivity (wikipedia helps a lot here). Therefore, the more light the roof reflects, the worse its emissivity. (over the period of hours, the roof is close enough to thermal equilibrium). The problem with metal roofs is that they don't stay shiny and once they lose the shine they are not very light (low albedo!). The reason metal in sun feels so hot is that it is a good conductor so the heat goes into your fingers quickly, nothing to do with emissivity. Moreover, note that Daniel is talking about coated metal, not shiny metal.

Posted by: BoulderDuck on September 6, 2006 at 2:32 AM | PERMALINK

Homeland security also was made fun of when it publicized simple preparedness. Water, flashlights, duct tape? Ha ha ha!

Posted by: Ken Hirsch on September 6, 2006 at 2:41 AM | PERMALINK

Well, Kevin, one thing you could do is stop treating conservative proposals seriously. It's not like you turned against the "invade Iraq" proposal early in the going, and you're constantly trying to demonstrate your seriousness by taking the Right's ideas seriously, even when they are plainly not serious ideas offered in good faith.
Posted by: dj moonbat on September 6, 2006 at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

Yup keep that bridge building going! You Dems are such reasonable people. *spit*

Posted by: Donkey_Courage on September 6, 2006 at 2:48 AM | PERMALINK

Dear BoulderDuck and Coolroofguy:

Please review my test results. Bone white, titania pigmented, Tedlar(Tm) over metal had a 50 DEGREE F difference in temperature under the roofing. The white roof being the coolest. Cooler than a shiny, bare aluminum or galvanized iron metal roof by at least 7 degrees F.

See the test results: http://www.antirad.com/rooftest/

As for emissivity, it won't help you while the sun is beating down on your roof during the day. A white reflective surface will.

True. At night it will keep the heat from being re-radiated to the clear sky,somewhat, but you didn't gather in the heat during the day, so you have much less to return at night.

In other words, prevent absorption of heat during the day and don't worry about not expelling a tiny fraction of that heat at night. You can still shut down some of those power plants or simply use the energy saved to charge your electric car.

Posted by: Daniel on September 6, 2006 at 3:13 AM | PERMALINK

Don't talk about it. Just do it.

The Repub way. Next time the D's have control of Congress just slip a provision making it mandatory into the back of some unrelated appropriations bill in conference.

Posted by: CN on September 6, 2006 at 7:15 AM | PERMALINK

No one in the media should be making fun of alternative fuels; whether the ingredients be corn, soybeans, or switchgrass. If we had a leader in the White House, e.g. President Gore, the country would be much further along that path.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on September 6, 2006 at 7:54 AM | PERMALINK

Absolutely planting of trees, less dark paving helps with heat. I was just appalled when a new neighbor took out two huge shade trees. Now she has a desert except for the small plants she put in that need a LOT of water (not a xeriscape, that is for sure!).

There are simple solutions that can help if the public gets involved. I think the public would like to BE involved.

Get Joe Sixpack off the sofa and doing something useful.

It's not going to matter what goes on in Iraq if the whole planet is frying.

Posted by: Clem on September 6, 2006 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

I would think that pair of features would be catnip for conservatives.

Not today's conservatives, no. Model these guys as a pro-business tribe, you'll get better predictions.

In Houston and elsewhere in the south, lightening up the roads would also make them last longer. Years ago during a long heat spell, the overpasses got so hot that there was no room left in the expansion joints, and the roads buckled. Heat softens asphalt, which then flows and deforms.

Posted by: dr2chase on September 6, 2006 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

I would propose all these things, note how much they cost, and point out that they are no-brainers: if you don't immediately say you're going to do them, you're an idiot. Period. And then move on to talking about other "tougher" issues, like CO2 cap-and-trade reductions. But just point out: look, these things are absolutely NO-BRAINERS, and they NEVER happen under Republican administrations. These are the OBVIOUS things you ought to be doing before you get into any of the tough issues. So let's just get that out of the way to start with: we will spend a billion dollars next year, chump change, to plant more trees and promote white roofs and pavement. The GOP candidate will either match that pledge, or he's a f***ing idiot who can't be taken seriously in ANYTHING he says on the environment. And then move on to other environmental issues.

That's the way I'd try to avoid media ridicule. Don't make this the centerpiece of your plan; just make it an introductory plank which everyone ought to support, and point out that the GOP never does anything like this. And then move on to other heavier-duty solutions.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 6, 2006 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

Have incumbents partner with local governments to get the ball rolling. "Working with your local government to take concrete steps toward real energy conservation" sounds decent to me.

Posted by: Dan-O on September 6, 2006 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

kevin,

On the roofing material thing, supermarkets are way, way ahead of you. Supermarkets spend a lot of money on air conditioning, and have thin profit margins of 1% - 2%, so it's in there interest to save money on air conditioning.

Newer supermarkets tend to have light-colored roof surfaces. Some even have a bright white rubberized surface.

Posted by: Jon H on September 6, 2006 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

>doesn't chalk reflect the heat upward into the greenhouse gases

Note that no new heat is being generated.

The idea is that the hot asphalt heats the surrondings, and therefore more energy is necessary for air-conditioning.

Posted by: doesn't matter on September 6, 2006 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

The problem is that the big conservative solutions are national and most energy saving solutions are local. For example, zone so that people do not need cars for every shopping trip.

How does someone who wants to be a national leader get cities and towns to improve their zoning rules?

Posted by: Andrea on September 6, 2006 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

The problem is that you only believe tree planting and asphalt lightening can be implemented through a national initiative. You don't need to be President of the United States to get this done. In fact, he should have nothing to do with this.

Persuade state and local officials to make these changes. Their success will then be duplicated state to state.

Posted by: Staunch Moderate on September 6, 2006 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Chalk dust is as dumb as idea as I've ever heard so please run with it.

Just tell someone who owns a house in a city you'll be sprinkling chalk dust all over their street and see how quickly they tell you to stay away from their street. You are a moron.

Posted by: rdw on September 6, 2006 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

GWB has already made major moves.

Thanks to new drilling initiatives we've already found another 15B barrels in the Gulf and there's plenty more drilling to do in other sections of the gulf, off both coasts, in Alaska, and in the open west. We'll replace 10% of oil imports from just the new discovery.

I'm not a huge fan of Ethanol as it will greatly disrupt corn markets in the near term (exports go to poor counties where it can be an important food supplement - this will end exports for now) but we are well on our way toward replacing 10% of gasline demand with ethanol.

Alberta is far along the path of producing 2M more bls a day by 2012 all destined for the USA displacing 20% of current imports. This could displace both Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.

Nuclear power is clearly on it's way back in the Southern USA where more than a dozen permits are being processed.

CA's Kyoto initiative will absolutely reduce fossil based production and slow the growth in CA GDP. The effect on the total GDP will only be marginal and the cost borne by CA citizens happy to do so. It will also happen that any improvements developed in CA will be quickly copied elsewhere.

There are also thousands of other initiatives that will pay off and possible substantially. Here in PA Santorum has arranged funding for a coal gasification project that is only one of many attempts at producing clean coal. Obviously a breakthrough here would be huge.

The market is working as expected. We are getting more supplies from more places and demand is down and will stay down. Capitalism is a beautiful thing.

Posted by: rdw on September 6, 2006 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Need more help from segment producers and bookers. The entertainment industry has specific needs for its shows. Get some liberal segment producers and some talk show bookes together with some activists and talk about how to put a message together that will attract and hold media attention.

Posted by: jimmy on September 6, 2006 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

I have to agree with rdw. If you talk about chalk dust, you would really be taken as a moron, and maybe for good reason.

But look at Pittsburgh. The city recently replaced its nations-largest LEED certified building with an even bigger one. And we're not talking about namby-pampy city-county buildings here: PNC bank is the proud owner of the First Side project, with bike paths that end at the building, a new light-rail station for the building, and, recently a park made from land that was cleared when the bank recycled 80% of the building material from the existing city-county building that came down.

The whole city has its own green building initiative such that everyone from the Steelers and American Eagle (brownfield redevelopment) to banks (LEED buildings) to radio stations (WYEP) to community groups planting city trees are in on the act. And this from a city that once gobbled up more energy for its intensive steel-making industry than any other on the planet (coal, people, the less sexy but more abundant fossil fuel).

All of that spells energy savings, and I don't think anyone would call you a moron for standing up for that sort of corporate citizenry - especially when the corporations were out ahead of the pols. It clears the skies and makes for happier super bowl victors.

Seriously, there's not a gravitas issue at all. You're just looking at the wrong examples. Chalk dust? That's a loser. LEED certified buildings and light rail? Winner.

Posted by: daniel on September 6, 2006 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Here in NYC just about every townhouse and tenement has silver-white roofs -- in fact, I think it's the law that if you replace your roof you have to go with the white stuff.
The next big thing is going to be solar and greenroofs. Trust me, people are working on it -- we all look at our heating and electric bills and think, what should we do?

Posted by: Diana on September 6, 2006 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

I second Berken's comment. Chicago is turning into a vegetation covered metropolis. It has flowers all over, trees, rooftop gardens, all sorts of green stuff. Kleinman is right that it takes political orginization, but, as Berken points out, this can be a winning local political issue. Jobs and environment, it's a win win. Make it happen in enough cities and suddenly it works as a national campaign. Bloomberg should be all over this, same with AV in LA any big city mayor.

Posted by: crack on September 6, 2006 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

I suggest we build nuclear plants, drill ANWR and drill the Gulf Coast while adding a refinery or two.

But hey, let's plant trees too. And a lighter colored roof or two wouldn't hurt my feelings.

I'll go along to get along.

Posted by: Birkel on September 6, 2006 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

The Walmart I drive by all the time has a shiny white roof that sticks right out on Google maps. You can bet they're doing it for the cost savings and not for global warming.

The Federal government could push municipalities to plant more trees or use lighter-colored asphalt by tying highway funds to them. But it really sounds like a Clintonian micromeasure, like school uniforms or the V-chip.

Posted by: JimDC on September 6, 2006 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Liberal internationalists are intrigued by France and by the way they wage war-to lose- but none has called on the US to emulate France and adopt nuclear power as an alternative to US dependence on Muslim oil.

That's just not true. Lots of people think that nuclear is a vital component of the energy portfolio we'll need to get off oil.

Posted by: dj moonbat on September 6, 2006 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

I remember in 1999 or 2000, during the runup to the campaign, Gore floated an idea about making traffic reduction a major part of his platform. He was mocked for it and let it go. But can anyone really doubt that traffic is a major cause of modern misery? Not only does it waste oil, it wastes time, millions of man-hours a day. Policies to reduce the time spent on traffic would do wonders for quality of life in this country.

Posted by: Mac on September 6, 2006 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

JimDC, the micromeasures add up to real savings in spite of what Cheney says. There's a reason California uses less electricity per capita than any other state, and that's a slew of micromeasures that range from residential insulation and window standards to commercial lighting and LED's in stoplights. It all adds up to a lot of savings.

Posted by: Cool Roofing Guy on September 6, 2006 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

The market is working as expected.

indeed. cheh.

Posted by: prince bandar on September 6, 2006 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

rdw says:

"Chalk dust is as dumb as idea as I've ever heard so please run with it.

Just tell someone who owns a house in a city you'll be sprinkling chalk dust all over their street and see how quickly they tell you to stay away from their street. You are a moron.

Posted by: rdw on September 6, 2006 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK


Now take another look at the linked article, but this time actually read it:

"Replacing a black roof with a white one, or lightening up roadway and parking-lot asphalt by mixing in some chalk dust, could make a substantial difference at a trivial cost..."

Spot a difference there, rdw? While I agree with you that folks might not be receptive to "sprinkling chalk dust all over their street...", in point of fact no one's suggested doing any such thing. Really. Take a look at the post, you'll see.

Posted by: James on September 6, 2006 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Denver:
"And [Mayor] Hickenlooper pledged to triple tree coverage in the city.

"We will accomplish this by launching an unprecedented regional initiative to plant a million new trees over the next 20 years," he said, earning a round of applause from the more than 600 people listening in the Wellington Webb Municipal Building."

The trick is to get industry on board before you make the proposal. The water board and the Metro Home Builders' Association both back the mayor's plan.

I loves me some Mayor Hickenlooper. Watch for him to bust out on the national scene. Soon.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on September 6, 2006 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

The point is to persevere past the jokes. They made lots of jokes about Reagan, but he persevered and he won the election. The problem with liberals (compared to conservatives) is that they always retreat when challenged.

Keep repeating the message. Al Gore seems to be having some success by repeating his message about global warning, where success is having a few percent more people agree with him. Democrats are only a few percentage points away for a majority, so they should hammer their message till those few percent take them seriously.

I so totally endorse this. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, YES!

If you want Americans to let you defend the country, you must be brave enough to endure a little laughter and jokes for a good idea. Not to mention name-calling. Do that, and suddenly you are "principled" and "committed", with "integrity".

Posted by: Doctor Jay on September 6, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Gonna go with James here -- Mark wasn't suggesting you sprinkle chalk dust on already existant roads. He was talking about mixing chalk dust into the asphalt as you poured it. To lighten up the final color.

Posted by: Morat on September 6, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Spot a difference there, rdw? While I agree with you that folks might not be receptive to "sprinkling chalk dust all over their street...", in point of fact no one's suggested doing any such thing. Really. Take a look at the post, you'll see.

I understand that. What matters is what will the public understand? Jay Leno will get a month off it and they're not going to accept anything other than black streets anyway. It's a bonehead stupid idea.

Posted by: rdw on September 6, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

And or maybe the fact that it is unmentionable on the national stage speaks to a fundamental change in the nature of political and civic life, and I'm not just talking about localization (although it seems obvious that as national borders erode, and central governments are weakened by the forces of globalization, localism will increasingly become a buffer to the threat of periodic regional and global systems failure).

Over the past generation, civic participation (in the form of voting) has declined. With the exception of the occasional election-entertainment (1992 was one, 2004 another), it has been a structural and progressive decline; fewer people of each successive generation vote.

But this isn't the complete picture. Volunteerism is strong, maybe at record levels, and seems to be increasing in inverse proportion to the decline in voting. Relatedly, involvement with NGOs - from church-based activism to corporate pressure groups and boycott campaigns - has increased markedly. When young people think about politics and activism, this is often what they mean.

In a more extreme (and maybe likely) version of this future, we get not only the privatization of services but the privatization of politics, with corporations and NGOs (faith-based and secular) helping the homeless get into homes, organizing and implementing tree planting campaigns in urban areas, even negotiating agreements between warring Arab tribes over water rights. In some sense, mediation replaces politics.

Posted by: Linus on September 6, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

rdw, I think you would be surprised by what people would accept. I remember a time about 20 years ago when people much like yourself said that separating trash for recycling was a bonehead stupid idea. See, people would never understand and they would never be troubled to sort their trash into three different bags.

Nowadays it's pretty hard to find a major metropolitan area that doesn't have some sort of curbside recycling program. There's bonehead stupid for you...

Posted by: joe bob on September 6, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

rdw, I can't help but conclude that to you the idea reeks of a liberal pet project, so you instinctively reject it. Low (or no) cost? Works? No deal! The liberals want it...

To my eyes it seems a common sense, low cost (possibly a net cost-savings, if the information about pavement durability is correct)solution to an undeniably growing problem.

And who can take seriously the claim the the public just won't stand for anything other than jet-black asphalt? Such a plan would only require convincing local city planners and administrators of the benefits (not difficult, considering the cost savings), and would likely be implemented with barely any notice from the public. In fact, I can't imagine any other reaction than: "It does what now? Really? Cool..."

Additionally, as others have posted and the WaPo article indicates, urban reforestation plans are political winners for a number of mayors and local politicians. Good policy, cost-effective, few hurdles, effective - what's not to like?

Posted by: James on September 6, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

rdw wrote: " ... they're not going to accept anything other than black streets anyway ..."

rdw knows what color pavement people everywhere will "accept" the same way he "knows" a lot of other things that are absurd, ridiculous, inane and blatantly, hilariously false: because Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal and other right-wing extremist propaganda outlets tell him so.

If you ever want to know what the scripted, programmed, focus-group-tested, official right-wing extremist Republican propgaganda line on any subject is, rdw is your go-to guy.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 6, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

rdw, regarding the new oil found in the Gulf of Mexico, it is hardly a solution to our energy needs. There will be tremendous logistical problems bringing this oil to market. It is located many miles farther out than where we currently drill. New pipelines (at 8,000 foot depths) will have to be extended to retrieve that oil. The oil is found at extreme depths, 8,000 feet of water, 20,000 feet of dirt. Getting the drill down there is hard enough, at those depths it is likely to be more natural gas than oil. On top of that this is located smack in the middle of the region which sees the most hurricanes. Hopefully someone will make a profit on this and we may get some added supply, but it is not a big deal.

Funny, just before the Mexican elections they crowed about discovering a giant new oil field which later turned out to be nothing. Is it just a coincidence that this is being announced just before our midterm elections? Should I be that cynical?

Most people are just ignorant about science and engineering. (Ignorant, not stupid.) The conventional wisdom is quick to dismiss anything that sounds at all odd.

One reason Republican proposals often sound better in the press is that Republicans don't really believe they will work. They don't believe in government. They just believe in extracting money so the proposals are simply PR pieces meant to draw in the suckers.

Remember Bush's hype about IRAs and 401(k) plans? There was an article out today showing that defined pension plans provide more money to retirees than IRAs and 401(k) plans. But then the purpose of gutting SS was not to actually help workers.

Posted by: JohnK on September 6, 2006 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Liberal internationalists are intrigued by France and by the way they wage war-to lose-

This string of characters has no objective referents in the real universe.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 6, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Thanks for the link to the article. Strikes me the issue may be due to language. I found the article serious because it doesn't mention chalk dust. It mentions aluminum, thermocouples, and other words that sound more serious than "chalk dust." Perhaps the solution is to be a little bit rational in your approach and throw out words big enough to convey gravitas but not so big normal people don't understand the words.

Posted by: Fred on September 6, 2006 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

If everyone in the US replaced all their lightbulbs with these expensive but long-lived energy efficient bulbs, we could reduce electricity consumption by a significant amount (I read somewhere by about 10%, which is an awful lot of power).

Posted by: DBL on September 6, 2006 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

How about if Democrats adopted a fairly sensible Republican approach? These sound silliest as national proposals, but make a bit of sense as local proposals. Better yet, there are precedents. Sacramento has more trees per capita than any city in the world, except (perhaps) Paris. I imagine there is a bit of hyperbole here, but I can say from experience that living in a city with a lot of trees located in an area with pretty hot summers makes a lot of difference.

And we didn't need a national policy to do it.

Posted by: Prospero on September 6, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

The nation made incredible strides in improving the energy efficiency of residential and commercial structures after the first "oil shock" in 1973. Since that time almost nothing has been done.

For example, most people think that solar panels for water heating and other uses are impractical outside areas of the country that don't get 200+ days a year of sunshine. This is nonsense. Every house in the nation could use solar power to heat hot water for a family of four for at least 50% of the year, with residents in about 75% of the country being able to use solar water heating nearly year around. (In fact, in the SW, solar water tanks have to have "boil over" valves because the water is often heated to such a high temperature.)

As many people up thread have posted, there are dozens of simple things that can be done to conserve both electricity and water in residential and commercial buildings.

Posted by: JeffII on September 6, 2006 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Gravitas can be bought. Focus-group efforts might result in Chanber-of-Commerce-friedly investor-magnet-type names like "Arborscape Engineering" and "Calcite-Infused Paving Technology", and then away you go.

If Bush can be packaged and sold (twice!) as competent, chalk and trees can be made viably serious.

.

Posted by: MFA on September 6, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Following up with Cool Roof Guy & Boulder Duck's scientific discussion... Emissivity & absorptivity are "spectral" properties, which means their values depend on the wavelengths of the energy being aqbsorbed & emitted. As Boulder Duck quotes correctly from wikipedia, emissivity is equal to absorptivity - but only at the same energy wavelengths. But when we look at surfaces, we're looking at different energy wavelengths - the sun's energy versus radiation from the surface in question (roof, pavement or whatever). The sun is very, very hot, so it emits energy at different wavelengths than our much colder surfaces on the earth. So when we look at a surface on the earth absorbing energy form the sun, emissivity & absorptivity are not equal.

Cool roofs, cool pavements, and trees & vegetation are very effective strategies for cooling urban & suburban heat islands. The science of heat islands and their mitigation is well-established, and these strategies are being successfully implemented all over the world. But it's dismaying to see how little is known about this stuff in the general public (and even in the better-informed public represented at Drum's blog). These cooling strategies are not silly at all... Daniel Schacht's website is well-meaning & enthusiastic but hardly representative of the hundreds of comprehensive scientific analyses about the effectiveness of heat island mitigation.

Posted by: Lisa Gartland on September 6, 2006 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

You said, "Like Mark I have no clear idea what to do about this."

That's what the Blogsphere is for. Keep singing this song and others will pick it up and after a while the mainstream press won't be able to continue to ignore it.

The only problem is that there are so many egregious issues, we'll never get people's attention for more than a few. Therefore we need to go after the most fundamental and trust to (I hate to use the words) trickle down. It works better with ideas than with money.

Posted by: frank logan on September 6, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

I think this is relevant, and very encouraging ...

Two Billion Homes Could Be Free from Escalating Electricity Costs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SEPTEMBER 6, 2006
8:40 AM

CONTACT: Greenpeace
Sven Teske, Greenpeace International, +49 171 878 7552 Mhairi Dunlop, Greenpeace International Communications, +44 7801 212 960 Marie Latour, EPIA +32-485 154 782


DRESDEN, Germany - September 6 - Two billion households worldwide could realistically be powered by solar energy by 2025, according to a joint report launched today by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) and Greenpeace. The report concludes that thanks to advances in technology, increasing competition and investment in production facilities, solar power has now become a serious contender in the electricity market; able to provide low-cost, clean, CO2 emission free energy.

The report also concludes that the global photovoltaic (PV) industry could potentially create more than 2 million jobs by 2040 plus a cut in annual CO2 emissions of 350 million tonnes -- equivalent to 140 coal power plants - by 2025, and become the energy of choice for consumers.

"In the past consumers have had little or no choice about their source of energy. They have had to stand on the sidelines, watching their energy bills escalate as their utility companies invest profits into the very fuels that are causing energy prices to rise in the first place," said Sven Teske, Greenpeace International Climate & Energy Campaigner. "This report proves that solar power is a real option for consumers, offering freedom from rising energy costs and most importantly, electricity generated without the CO2 emissions. The day you install a solar generator on your roof, is independence day from your energy bill."

Competition amongst the major manufacturers has become increasingly intense, with new players entering the market as the potential for photovoltaics (PV) opens up. The worldwide PV industry, particularly in Europe and Japan, is investing heavily in new production facilities and technologies. At the same time, political support for the development of solar electricity has led to far-reaching promotion frameworks being put in place in a number of countries, notably Germany, Japan, the United States and China. However, more investment is needed if solar is to fulfil its potential of providing 16% of the worlds energy demand by 2040.

"In 2006 the solar industry will invest well over 1 billion Euros along the whole value chain in new solar factories and R&D in order to increase the economy of scale and to lower the costs for solar photovoltaic systems," said Dr. Winfried Hoffmann, President of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association and member of the managing committee of SCHOTT Solar. "The global PV industry is ready to invest even more for years to come, but there must be a stable political framework for the next ten years to enable this investment to pay off."

"Solar energy is on the brink of leading the highly competitive consumer energy market, therefore the industry must invest now in mass production to bring the costs down," concluded Sven Teske. "The next two years are crucial for solar electricity to move out of the niche market and into mainstream energy production where it belongs. For the expansion of solar power to be successful, commitment from not only the industry but also Governments must play their part in the energy revolution. The industry is ready - where are the Governments?".

In 2005 the total installed capacity of solar PV systems around the world passed the landmark figure of 5000MW (= 10 average size coal power plants). Global shipments of PV cells and modules have been growing at an average annual rate of more than 40% for the past few years. Such has been the growth in the solar electricity industry that business only of the European PV industry in 2005 was worth more than 5 billion; on a global scale the industrys turnover was approximately 10 billion.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 6, 2006 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

Two comments:

1. Chalk dust BAD! Cheap chalk (and lets face it, any government program will buy cheap chalk) contains substantial amounts of silica. So not only will it immediately blow away from where you want it to be, but in so doing will fill the air with a long term silicosis hazard.

2. Can't figure out how to sell it? Oh come now! You charge the DOE with developing long term strategies to reduce the energy consumption of cities. The DOE suggests lots of things, and among the low hanging fruit are tax credits for things like trees and shiny shingles. This is how we got a tax credit for buying new water heaters and insulating our houses. They are both small parts of a much bigger thing, but are in fact the most effective parts of that bigger thing.

Posted by: pjcamp on September 6, 2006 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist, Greenpeace are, um, a little bit on the optimistic side about the potential for solar panels.

They are still way, way, way more expensive power generators than anything else (including wind), and that's even before you factor in the cost of backup power.

If you look at the more serious proposals for cutting greenhouse emissions (leaving aside the ones involving geosequestration or nuclear energy), solar photovoltaic is a very minor component (PDF file - look for the graph on page 19).

Yes, the cost of solar cells is coming down, but so is the cost of other alternatives.

Posted by: Robert Merkel on September 6, 2006 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

The broader point I was trying to make is that if you're going to suggest non-sexy but effective ideas, make sure they're actually effective.

Posted by: Robert Merkel on September 6, 2006 at 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

Make sure your sphincter is not boldly on display, Robert. It is starting to really stink around here....

Posted by: A Robot With Hiccups on September 6, 2006 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

Re Lisa Gartland's comments:

The amount of waste heat generated by high energy usage for air conditioning and transportation within urban areas is at least a part of the reason we have "heat islands".

With white roofs, less air conditioning is needed and less waste heat is produced. White roofing will keep the city cooler.

Sometimes a simple test is worth a thousand erudite papers. White roofing is mandated for commercial structures in several areas worldwide.

If you want to run the simple test yourself, I'll be glad to tell you where to get the materials.


Posted by: Daniel on September 7, 2006 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

May I add to/simplify Lisa Garland's comments:

A white metal roof is highly reflective of the Sun's shortwave radiation, but quite transparent to the longer wave radiation that bodies emit when they become heated.

This means a white roof will protect you from 90 percent of the incoming solar radiation during the day, but allow accumulated heat from the inside of the house to be radiated back to the dark night sky.

In Australia it is common building practise to slip some reflective aluminium coated foil under our metal roofs. That pretty much kills the radiant heat transfer into the ceiling.

Ventilating the roof space has no beneficial effect on living space temperatures.

Posted by: john armour on September 7, 2006 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

rdw, regarding the new oil found in the Gulf of Mexico, it is hardly a solution to our energy needs. There will be tremendous logistical problems bringing this oil to market. It is located many miles farther out than where we currently drill.

No one is suggesting it is 'the' solution. There will not be one solution. There will be one thousand and one of them will be more trees in urban areas. Which by the way isn't a new idea. The engineering problems in the Gulf are manageable just as they are in Alaska.

The nice thing about this find is it shows the power of markets and price signals. There's a ton of investment happening and there will be many more finds althought probably not as huge.

If you look back 2 years and then ahead to 2012 what we've seen so far is:

Massive investment in alberta expected to increase exports to the USA by 2M bls a day.

Major investmemt in ethanol expected to replace 10% of gasoline sales by 2012.

This gulf find expected to add 1M to domestic output by 2012.

We import about 10M bls a day. By 2012 we'll import 2M less and replace another 2M of OPEC imports with Canadian imports. That's a 40% reduction in 6 years of imports from outside North America.

This assumes flat demand. In 2005 demand dropped 1.6% in a booming economy. I believe demand is flat to slightly down in 2006. This represents a significant improvement in efficiency and it's before various measures kick in.

For example many have traded their SUVs for hybrids but the SUVs are still on the road. It appears likely by 2007 or 2008 new models will be at least 20% more fuel efficient and as high as 40% more efficient as the older models actually leaving service. From that point on demand will start to fall and it will continue to fall for at least a decade. This happened in the 80's.

Something that did not happen in the 80's is the resurgence of Nuclear Power. There are no less than a dozen permits working thru the process with excellent chances for approval. They are in southern states and in most cases permits for a 2nd or 3rd reactor at a site designed for multiple reactors. The additional reactors were never built. The infrastructure is there and there's little resistance. New designs are expected to be much cheaper and much safer. If true we'll see a significant increase in nuclear power. This is a certainty outside the USA which
will obviously help slow the growth in global demand for oil.

We've got more efficient light bulbs, windows, appliances, PCs, etc., coming out. We've also got a ton of research into coal gasification, wind, solar, and other biomass. Our experience in farming is that productivity averages about 3% per year. If we match that 3% increase from the growth side on the production side then ethanol production could grow 3% - 5% each year just from productivity.

All of these things will work to increase supply or depress demand. The market works. Prices should start coming down.

This does not account for the probability of incremental increases in all of the relevent alternatives or the possibility of a real breakthrough in one of them. It would be very exciting to find/develop emzymes allowing for the substitution of switchgrass for corn in ethanol production resulting in a significant cost reduction and greater supply. Or even a way to use more of the corn crop. Obviously what would work here would work everywhere and would be shared.

Conservatives are not about eliminating the govt from everything. There are situations where markets are far superior allocators of resources. This is one of them. Let the market work.

Posted by: rdw on September 7, 2006 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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