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Chu’s white idea given damp reception in Wales

ENVIRONMENTALISTS in Wales yesterday poured cold water on calls by US Energy Secretary Steven Chu to combat climate change with a global move towards white-washed Greek- style housing.

Mr Chu says President Barack Obama’s administration would paint roofs and pavements white as a way of reflecting sunlight back into space.

He says giving roads and roofs a paler colour would have the same effect as taking every car in the world off the road for 11 years.

But here Friends of the Earth Cymru and the Centre for Alternative Technology say controversial “geo-engineering” or sunlight reflecting schemes are diverting focus away from controlling carbon emissions.

And the business community gave it an equally frosty reception, with the Institute of Directors in Wales saying it will add to industry’s costs at a time when it can ill-afford extra burdens.

FoE Cymru energy campaigner Neil Crumpton said that while the idea may have some merit in the sunnier parts of the US like Los Angeles and in southern Europe, it’s pointless in colder and cloudier climes such as Wales.

The business community and the previous Bush administration favoured geo-engineering sch- emes as more realistic ways of combating climate change than complying with challenging carbon emissions targets.

Previous geo-engineering ideas have included fertilising the oceans with iron to encourage the growth of plankton or deflecting sunlight from the earth through a giant space mirror spanning 600,000 miles.

But they have long proved controversial with environmentalists, who tend to favour the traditional green route of more renewable energy and reduced fossil fuel usage to fight climate change.

Mr Crumpton said: “Solar reflective techniques don’t remove carbon from the atmosphere, which is the main priority. They’re a way of mitigating a bad effect rather than resolving the bad effect.

“If we do support geo-engineering, because we’ve generally been very wary of it, the main scheme we would be looking at is carbon capture and storage.”

Mr Chu announced on Tuesday that the Obama administration wants to paint roofs white, a colour that best reflects energy, in an effort to move forward a climate change symposium in London.

Mr Chu, a Nobel laureate in physics, says a “new revolution” in energy generation is necessary to drastically decrease greenhouse gas emissions, but also suggested a range of actions should be implemented.

Alex Randall, spokesman for CAT of Machynlleth, said the US Energy Secretary should focus on tried and tested methods of reducing the impact of climate change.

He said: “We’ve got ways of reducing carbon emissions that we know work and are cheap and safe and at the moment it makes sense to spend the limited budget we’ve got for tackling climate change on those.

“For example, through insulating the lofts of thousands of houses in Wales, we can quantify how much carbon we would save,” he added.

But Mr Chu said the idea for Greek-style whitewashed buildings was a geo-engineering scheme that was “completely benign” and would keep properties cooler and reduce energy use from air conditioning.

He also believes painting cars in cool or light colours could create considerable energy savings for air-conditioning units.

Chairman of the IOD in Wales Gareth Williams said there is already a plethora of measures in place for tackling climate change and the “white paint” approach is a policy too far.

Mr Williams, who is the chairman of Port Talbot e-commerce firm Netalougue Plc, said: “It’s an interesting idea, but there’s already a lot of very good initiatives underway on the environmental front, such as greater use of green energy and the use of bio-cells.

“The universities are also doing good research on hydrogen that will also have applications across a lot of sectors.”

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