Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Must Read — “The Power of Green”

If you are a Conservative, you probably know the name Brent Bozell III. He is a widely distributed syndicated columnist and the founder and president of the Media Research Center, the largest media watchdog organization in the United States. Liberal or Conservative, you undoubtedly are familiar with the name Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times columnist, three time Pulitzer Prize winner, and the author of The World is Flat, a book that has been on the Times best seller list for a remarkable two years, selling well over two million copies.

In a recent column, Mr. Bozell rails against the fact that only five conservatives have won a Pulitzer Prize over the last thirty years. He goes on to elaborate, “In short, like many national awards of this kind, the Pulitzer is a political prize bestowed almost exclusively on writers, journalists and thinkers who cater to suitably liberal or left-wing points of view. It wasn't always thus, but since the 1960s that's been the case.”

I mention this because Mr. Friedman, may very well ignite the wrath of Mr. Bozell once again based on an article he wrote in the April 15 th edition of The New York Times magazine section. It is my contention that this article alone should earn Mr. Friedman still another Pulitzer Prize.

This 12-page article titled “The Power of Green” is, by far, the most compelling, logical, and insightful analysis and synthesis of the geopolitical and geostrategic positions and interests of the United States you will ever read. While I have attempted below, to condense Mr. Friedman’s article into an allotted space, for those with access to the Internet, I urge you, nay, plead with you to go directly to the article by “Googling” it using the phrase, “The Power of Green.” What might satisfy conservatives is Mr. Friedman’s approach to solutions from a capital market standpoint, suggesting that by taking a leadership role on energy/climate issues, the United States has the potential to gain enormous economic and geopolitical advantages.

The article establishes background by emphasizing that after 9/11, “Americans started to realize we were financing the U.S. military with our tax dollars; and we were financing a transformation of Islam, in favor of its most intolerant strand, with our gasoline purchases.” He then asks, “How stupid is that?” He rightfully accuses the Saudi royal family of avoiding a clash with the extremist Wahhabi religious establishment by essentially buying them off. He writes, “Awash in cash, thanks to the spike in oil prices, the Saudi government and charities also spent hundreds of millions of dollars endowing mosques, youth clubs, and Muslim schools all over the world, ensuring that Wahhabi imams, teachers, and textbooks would preach Saudi-style [extremist] Islam.”

Conservatives might wince at the following, but the conclusion is difficult to disparage. Friedman writes, “No wonder, more Americans have concluded that conserving oil to put less money in the hands of hostile forces is now a geostrategic imperative. President Bush’s refusal to do anything meaningful after 9/11 to reduce our gasoline usage really amounts to a policy of ‘No Mullah Left Behind.’ James Wooley, the former C.I.A. director, minces no words: ‘We are funding the rope for our own hanging.’”

Friedman then describes a concept he first introduced a year ago in a front cover article in Financial Times. He calls it the First Law of Petropolitics. “The price of oil and the pace of freedom always move in opposite directions in states that are highly dependent on oil exports for their income and have weak institutions or outright authoritarian governments.” He then emphasizes, “Soaring oil prices are poisoning the international system by strengthening antidemocratic regimes around the globe.” Freidman makes it glaringly obvious that energy independence is a national security issue.

The third segment of the article deals with his agreement with the recent report by the United Nation’s 2000 experts’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which concluded that “changes in climate are now affecting physical and biological systems on every continent.” Friedman quotes two scientists, “Robert Socolow, an engineering professor, and Stephen Pacala, an ecologist professor, who together lead the Carbon Mitigation Initiative at Princeton, a consortium designing scalable solutions to the climate issue.” Friedman reports that, “they first argued in a paper published by the journal Science in August 2004 that human beings can emit only so much carbon into the atmosphere before the buildup of carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) reaches a level unknown in recent geologic history and the earth’s climate system starts to go ‘haywire.’”

However, unlike others who concentrate only on the problems we face, the two scientists offer 15 possible solutions that would entail an effort to “get rid of 175 billion tons of carbon over the next 50 years — and [allow the economy] to still keep growing.” Pacala emphasizes that “There has never been a deliberate industrial project in history as big as this.” Yet as we invent and develop alternative energy technologies, and tools to achieve these goals, we would also create products, devices, and systems that we could produce profitably and export on a worldwide basis, spawning new industries in the process, thus galvanizing our economy.

Friedman underscores the importance of the government getting deeply involved in this issue, and for those who might object to that view and wish instead for a unilateral non-governmental market approach, Friedman makes a surprising point. In 1999, a governor of one state “pushed for and signed a renewable energy portfolio mandate.” The mandate stipulated that power companies in that state had to produce 2,000 new megawatts of electricity from renewables, mostly wind by 2009. Friedman asks “What happened?” He describes how “a dozen new companies jumped into the market and built wind turbines to meet the mandate, so many that the 2,000 megawatt goal was reached in 2005.” Because of economies of scale, wind is quickly becoming competitive with coal. The surprise? Friedman says, “Thanks to [then] Governor Bush’s market intervention, Texas is the biggest wind state in America.” Governor Bush? Really!

Friedman’s entire thrust is to adopt, adapt, and export the “Power of Green” by “embedding clean tech into everything we design and manufacture [as] a way to revive America as a manufacturing power.” He elaborates on this by stating that America needs a “Green New Deal — one in which government’s role is not funding projects, as in the original New Deal, but seeding basic research, providing loan guarantees where needed and setting standards, taxes and incentives that will spawn 1000 G.E. Transportations [a company that produces the most energy efficient, and lowest emission light locomotives at a price that even China buys them], for all kinds of cheap power.” That market-oriented approach should satisfy even conservatives.

Friedman lambastes politicians when he says, “Bush won’t lead a Green New Deal, but his successors must if America is going to maintain its leadership and living standard. Unfortunately, today’s presidential hopefuls are largely full of hot air on the climate/energy issue. Not one of them is proposing anything hard, like a carbon or gasoline tax, and if you think we can deal with these huge problems without asking the American people to do anything hard, you’re a fool or a fraud.” Perhaps Freidman should run for political office.

I apologize for using so many quotes from the Friedman article but how can I equal the writing mastery of a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner. So allow me to end with one more quote summing up Freidman’s philosophy: “Equally important, presidential candidates need to help Americans understand that green is not about cutting back. It’s about creating a new cornucopia of abundance for the next generation by inventing a whole new industry. It’s about getting our best brains out of hedge funds and into innovations that will not only give us the clean-power industrial assets to preserve our American dream but also give us the technologies that billions of others need to realize their own dreams without destroying the planet. It’s about making America safer by breaking our addiction to a fuel that is powering regimes deeply hostile to our values. And finally, it’s about making America the global environmental leader, instead of laggard…”

Friedman’s book, The Earth is Flat attained “must read” status amongst American politicians and perhaps every world leader (at least those who read books). I would hope the same importance is adopted for his Power of Green article.

Just three days before the deadline for the above article arrived, and after it was written and completed, the following quotes from a speech on oil independence and global warming appeared in the New York Times; comments that, considering the person who voiced them, have significant relevance to the above subject.

“The problem isn’t a Hollywood invention nor is doing something about it a vanity of Cassandra-like hysterics. It is a serious and urgent economic, environmental, and notional security challenge.” The speaker continues, “The world is already feeling the powerful effects of global warming, and far more dire consequences are predicted if we let the growing deluge of greenhouse gas emissions continue, and wreak havoc with God’s creation.” The speaker was Republican Senator John McCain who has already introduced legislation to lower carbon emissions.

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