Raising the Roof

Here is the latest example of why people in politics need to be kept away from sharp objects and environmental policy. Bill Clinton has joined the chorus of people calling for rooftops to be painted white. This would reflect sunlight and make the buildings cooler in the summer, potentially saving about $700 million in cooling costs (which sounds like a lot more than it actually is).

There’s a problem. And if you aren’t someone starry-eyed over the wisdom of our greens, you should already see it. There is a reason that roofs are painted black. And it’s not because the industry is controlled by goths. (Help an out-of-touch scientist out here — goths are still a thing, right?)

Sure, having a white roof in the summer is great because it cools when we all want some cooling. But what about the winter, when we actually want the heat from the sun? Is it really better to lose the winter heat in order to lose the summer heat?

Keith Oleson of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder and colleagues attempted to answer that very question.


Oleson’s calculations indicate the former: overall, if white roofs became ubiquitous, the extra energy needed for heating in the winter would exceed the energy savings in the summer. And, assuming that most heating and cooling comes from burning fossil fuels, that would mean an overall increase in global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Clearly not an ideal recipe for addressing global warming.

Actually, roof color is climate-dependent. In warm climates, white roofs are a net positive. But in cold climates, you’re better with a black roof. I’ve heard these dimwits talking about putting white roofs in Chicago and Washington. On balance, that will be bad. The article goes on to talk about temperature-sensitive tiles, but those aren’t really a thing yet.

This is just another illustration of why command-and-control politics guided by uninformed politicians sitting around saying, “Hey, what about this!” is the wrong way to run our economy. When energy prices rise, people will figure out how to save energy. And dollars to doughnuts, they will be better at it than a bunch of politicians trying to fool the public into white-washing roofs for their Aunt Polly.

Comments are closed.

  1. Rann

    Just another example of the prevailing philosophy of the green movement: take big, sweeping actions because they sound good or feel good or make good copy, ignore the actual benefit to or impact on the environment.

    Or, to boil it down to three words: “flash over substance”.

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  2. InsipiD

    Or, to boil it down to three words: “flash over substance”.

    Their real favorite is sacrifice over substance.

    potentially saving about $700 million in cooling costs (which sounds like a lot more than it actually is).

    Right. About $2 per person. I’d be inclined to think that any “savings” that miniscule are within the range of statistical error.

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  3. Dave D

    As usual, noone thnks of the process and its energy cost. How much “energy” (petroleum, heat to process, etc) would it take to develop, produce, apply and maintain a ROOF coating for each home in the US? I want a piece of that business, but NOT because it is good for the environment. If something like this is enacted, a few chemical companies will make a TON!

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  4. Kimpost

    Sure sounds like some people haven’t been thinking enough. Stupid idea, most likely so even in the tropics, if I had to take a guess. What would the carbon footprint be for the paint, and for the work surrounding the job of applying the paint?

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  5. AlexInCT

    Bet you those chemical companies will be found out as huge donors to those people pushing this agenda too. Likely before they pushed the idea as well. Hmmm. Makes you wonder doesn’t it?

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    More and better insulation would be the optional solution for this,, oh and lining your roof with solar panels, if you can afford it.

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