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T. Friedman's New Bestseller Hot, Flat & Crowded Touts Plug-Ins
Sep 9, 2008 (From the CalCars-News archive)
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Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, often described as the world's most influential journalist, has a new book out this week, "Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution and How It Can Renew America." On publication September 9, the book immediately went to #1 on Amazon's best-seller list, and it might do better than "The World is Flat," which sold over two million copies.

Below we include our quick summary of some of the book's main themes; citations of sections in the book on plug-ins and CalCars, excerpts from reviews of the book in Climate Progress and in the Washington Post, and some of Friedman's recent columns.


CATCHY PHRASES: Friedman is a great wordsmith; many of his phrases, including petropolitics, have caught on, and we hope this will continue. The book's working title was "Green is the New Red, White and Blue," a concept coined by Friedman, which has come into broad use in the past two years. Now Friedman's biggest message is that we've gone from the "Cold War Era" to the "Energy-Climate Era." Becauase of global geopolitical instability and climate change as a result of our addiction to fossil fuels, we now need a strategy for clean energy, energy efficiency and conservation that he calls "Code Green." This means that the big economic opportunities have shifted from IT (Information Technology) in recent decades to ET (renewable Environmental Technologies).

It won't spoil the book to tell how he ends it, in a spirit of what he calls "sober optimism." He quotes from Amory Lovins' eulogy for Donella Meadows, a Dartmouth-based environmental expert and writer: "when asked if we have enough time to prevent catastrophe, she'd always say that we have exactly enough time -- starting now."


BUY THE BOOK: Even before we've made it through the entire 412-page book we urge CalCars-News readers to read it. If you like it, consider buying multiple copies, because it could have an impact on how much these issues become part of the next two months of the Presidential campaign. Friedman has been among the most aggressive analysts urging that we go beyond "drill now" and finding new ways to make our addiction cheaper. Perhaps if the price of oil stabilizes for a few months around $100, the idea he and many economists propose -- creating a "floor" for oil prices through taxation policy may gain support. Buy it in your neighborhood and support your local bookstore; if you order it from Amazon, CalCars will get a few pennies if you start at http://www.calcars.org/­books.html

FRIEDMAN'S VIEWS HAVE EVOLVED: Many people who have disagreed with Friedman on some foreign policy specifics such as globalization and the war in Iraq have felt he's shown enormous leadership in greentech/cleantech. He says in the acknowledgments "I wrote this book as someone who was not thinking about his carbon footprint much before 2001, and who is thinking a lot about it now." We first encountered him in May 2005 at a book-signing in Palo Alto. Right around the same time, Gal Luft from Set America Free and Robbie Diamond from Securing America's Future Energy began talking with him about PHEVs. If you look back at the CalCars-News Archive http://www.calcars.org/­news-archive.html you'll see we've cited him almost two dozen times since he first wrote about PHEVs in 2005 -- including his proposals for a State of the Union Address that sound much like what Pres. Bush said in 2006, and his Discovery Times Channel documentaries, "Addicted to Oil," and "Green: The New Red, White and Blue," in which we appeared. Also see http://en.wikipedia.org/­wiki/­Thomas_Friedman


PHEV/CALCARS AND KRAMER SELF-PROMOTION FOLLOWS:
We also suggest you buy the book because it puts our issues at the center of its strategies for a 21st-century economy. In the chapter, "If it isn't boring, it isn't green," on page 290 he starts a new section by saying "But to get the most efficiency gains and to make the Energy Internet-smart grid complete requires that one more big piece of the puzzle be put into place -- electrifying transportation, and moving as many cars, trucks, buses and trains away from exclusively combustion engines and into plug-in electric hybrids or plug-in all-electric cars."

His clear and compelling explanation explains how electric miles are cleaner than gasoline miles even which much of the electricity comes from coal. And it includes, "Unlike gasoline-powered cars, the cleaner our grid gets, the cleaner plug-in cars will get," notes Felix Kramer, who head the California Cars Initiative, which promotes plug-in hybrids. "But this is just the beginning. What we need and are moving toward is the electrification of transportation. That is critical, because it will combine two large industrial sectors -- transportation and power generation. It gives the utilities what they have never had -- the potential for distributed energy storage, using all of our car batteries -- and it helps make both industries cheaper, more efficient and cleaner."

The section ending on page 293 continues with a broad explanation of the capacity of today's power grid to support millions of plug-in cars, and what is needed from utilities and from the federal government to ensure common standards to enable cars to charge anywhere.

In the acknowledgment section, on page 417, Friedman says, "Google.org's energy team, spearheaded by Larry Brilliant and Dan Reicher, was kind enough to give me an afternoon on the Google campus to share their assessment of the clean-tech opportunity, while Felix Kramer, who has made plug-in electric cars not only his passion but an imminent American reality, was always ready to take a query from me."

ONE PERSONAL NOTE: I'm also gratified that Friedman elaborates on a concept from my wife, on page 32, "To put it another way, the Industrial Revolution gave a whole new prominence to what Rochelle Lefkowitz, President of Pro-Media Communications and an energy buff, calls 'fuels from hell' -- coal, oil, and natural gas. All these fuels from hell come from underground, are exhaustible, and emit CO2 and other pollutants when they are burned for transportation, heating and industrial use. These fuels are in contrast to what Lefkowitz calls 'fuels from heaven' -- wind, hydroelectric, tidal, biomass, and solar power. These all come from above ground, are endlessly renewable, and produce no harmful emissions." (Geothermal doesn't exactly fit into the scheme. The original categorization came from a smart Swiss engineer, Ulf Bosselll, whom I met in Iceland: http://www.efcf.com/­reports/­E23.pdf .)


LINKS AND EXCERPTS: See also Wired, TIME and many others, and his book tour schedule at http://www.thomaslfriedman.com/­appearances

MEET THE PRESS September 8: Friedman appeared for about 10 minutes after Sen. Joe Biden -- transcript at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/­id/­26590488/­page/­5/­

CLIMATE PROGRESS BLOG BY JOSEPH ROMM (see URL for live links to other citations): Must read and must see: Hot, Flat, and Crowded http://climateprogress.org/­2008/­09/­06/­must-read-and-must-see-tv-hot-flat-and-crowded/­

"Like it or not, we need Tom Friedman." So begins Joseph Nye's cover review in Washington Post Book World on Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution And How It Can Renew America.

Friedman deserves attention because he is the only "big media" columnist in the country who regularly writes on energy and global warming issues. His book is already #59 on Amazon, and will no doubt jump higher after he appears on Meet the Press Sunday, which I would certainly urge everyone to watch. After all, he is not only the most high-profile columnist on this issue, he is the most thoughtful.

And I'm not just saying that because he interviewed me several times. I am quite confident that most ClimateProgress readers will be impressed by this book, even those who may not agree with every foreign policy position that Friedman has espoused. Or perhaps especially those progressives. Why?

We can't institute the policies needed to save the nation and the world from multi-decade (if not multi-century) catastrophe if traditional progressives are the only ones pushing this issue. That's why I take Friedman's writing on this issue as so important. He's not one of "the usual suspects." He looks at things from a more centrist (and multi-Pulitzer-Prize-winning!) perspective - with a strong "national power" angle, which is presumably why they asked Nye to review his book (since Nye is a security expert):

Friedman believes we need to become "green hawks," turning conservation and cleaner energy into a winning strategy in many different arenas, including the military. ("Nothing," he writes, "will make you a believer in distributed solar power faster than having responsibility for trucking fuel across Iraq.") We should stop defining our current era as "post-Cold War," he says, and see it as an "Energy-Climate Era" marked by five major problems: growing demand for scarcer supplies, massive transfer of wealth to petrodictators, disruptive climate change, poor have-nots falling behind, and an accelerating loss of bio-diversity. A green strategy is not simply about generating electric power, it is a new way of generating national power.

Incremental change will not be enough. The three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the New York Times scoffs at the kind of magazine articles that list "205 Easy Ways to Save the Earth".

We need a lot more of the Tom Friedmans of the world to start articulating the dire nature of our energy and climate problems and the urgent need for a clean energy transition.

Of course, I have no doubt that his positions on climate and clean energy will lead the right wing to go after him. He has recently written a couple of great op-eds on McCain's sham "green"-ness: "Eight Strikes and You're Out," calling out McCain for missing eight straight votes on renewable tax credits. "And Then There Was One," which explains that by choosing Palin, McCain has "completed his makeover from the greenest Republican to run for president to just another representative of big oil."

But then anyone who immerses themselves in the facts on climate, oil, and clean energy inevitably becomes an alarmist - and a believer in the urgent need for progressive government policies - much as happened to IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri (see "What are the moral implications of the Palin pick?") and, in a different way, T. Boone Pickens (see "Pickens in a pickle: He embraces progressive policies but not progressive politicians").

By the 2020s, the vast majority of Americans will be alarmists. But of course delaying action until then means we can't avoid catastrophic outcomes except with the most onerous of government policies. The challenge for our national leaders is to start very aggressive mitigation long before then, before everyone 'gets' it. And that I'm afraid will require the high-profile centrists of the nation to rise up and bring their heft and credibility to the climate fight.

Kudos to Friedman for joining taking on the most important fight in human history.


SUNDAY WASHINGTON POST COVER REVIEW: A Climate for Change: Tom Friedman says Americans can prosper by "outgreening" everyone else. Reviewed by Joseph S. Nye Jr., University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard and author, most recently, of "The Powers to Lead." http://www.washingtonpost.com/­wp-dyn/­content/­article/­2008/­09/­04/­AR2008090402639.html?sub=AR

Like it or not, we need Tom Friedman....In this important book, Friedman says we can survive, even prosper, by going green.

Of course, rousing a full-bellied nation, groggy from decades of energy overconsumption, is no small task. As the current election debate reminds us, the United States has proven inept at developing a serious energy strategy. Our approach, says one expert quoted by Friedman, is "the sum of all lobbies"; we have energy politics rather than energy policy. In the aftermath of 9/11, George W. Bush ignored calls by Friedman and others for a "USA Patriot Tax" of $1 per gallon on gasoline. Instead, the president offered tax cuts and urged us to shop. Rather than stimulating the economy to move toward fuel-efficient vehicles and renewable energy, we became more dependent on China to finance our deficit and Saudi Arabia to fill our gas tanks. Americans wound up paying even more for gas in 2008, but we enabled OPEC to be the tax collector instead of using the revenues ourselves. Friedman calls this a "No Mullah Left Behind" policy and quotes former CIA director Jim Woolsey: "We are funding the rope for the hanging of ourselves."

Friedman believes we need to become "green hawks," turning conservation and cleaner energy into a winning strategy in many different arenas, including the military. ("Nothing," he writes, "will make you a believer in distributed solar power faster than having responsibility for trucking fuel across Iraq.") We should stop defining our current era as "post-Cold War," he says, and see it as an "Energy-Climate Era" marked by five major problems: growing demand for scarcer supplies, massive transfer of wealth to petrodictators, disruptive climate change, poor have-nots falling behind, and an accelerating loss of bio-diversity. A green strategy is not simply about generating electric power, it is a new way of generating national power.

Incremental change will not be enough. The three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the New York Times scoffs at the kind of magazine articles that list "205 Easy Ways to Save the Earth." In the 1990s, global carbon dioxide emissions rose 1.1 percent annually, and many nations (not including the United States) signed the Kyoto Protocol to try to curb those emissions. But from 2000 to 2006, growth in CO2emissions tripled to 3 percent per year.

China uses coal, a particularly CO2-intensive fuel, for 70 percent of its commercial energy supply, while coal accounts for a third of America's total energy. China builds more than one new coal-fired power plant each week. Coal is cheap and widely available in China, which is important as the country scrambles for energy resources to keep its many energy-intensive industries running. But Friedman does not deal with the issue of cleaner coal in China, and no amount of renewable energy in America will solve the problem. At the rate China is growing, a Chinese switch to renewables will come too late.

What can the United States do about this security threat? The bombs, bullets and embargos of traditional security policy are irrelevant. A 2007 report from the International Energy Agency urged a cooperative approach to helping China and India become more energy efficient. In other words, to promote our own security, the United States and other rich countries may have to forge a partnership with China, India and others to develop a full range of creative ideas, technologies and policies to prevent dangerous climate change. This requires a reframing of what we think of as national security and a more inclusive strategy than we have had in the past. If we finally move in that direction, Friedman will deserve some of the credit.


FRIEDMAN'S RECENT NYTIMES COLUMNS on energy (URLs include dates):


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