Friedman embraces “E.T.” as solution to energy problems

by Fran Smith on November 18, 2009

in Blog


Thomas L. Friedman’s op-ed in the NYT today could have been written by Paul Krugman.  And that’s not a compliment.

Friedman, like Krugman, waxes hysterical about those who are opposing  the cap-and-trade energy bill – those “deniers.” And, also like Krugman, he sets up those opponents as straw men that he can readily knock down.  In today’s article, Friedman worries about U.S. dependence on foreign oil supplied by  ”petro-dictators” and he fears ever-rising prices for increasingly scarce fossil fuels.

So either the opponents of a serious energy/climate bill with a price on carbon don’t care about our being addicted to oil and dependent on petro-dictators forever or they really believe that we will not be adding 2.5 billion more people who want to live like us, so the price of oil won’t go up very far and, therefore, we shouldn’t raise taxes to stimulate clean, renewable alternatives and energy efficiency.

Friedman’s terror about world population growth, especially growth in developing countries, is Malthusian.  (See Julian Simon on population and natural resources in “The Ultimate Resource II.”) . And Friedman  doesn’t seem to want those people to use energy to improve their standard of living.  Here’s what he says about that dream for a better life:

The world keeps getting flatter – more and more people can now see how we live, aspire to our lifestyle and even take our jobs so they can live how we live. So not only are we adding 2.5 billion people by 2050, but many more will live like “Americans” – with American-size homes, American-size cars, eating American-size Big Macs.

Such horror one can’t imagine for a person living at a subsistence level in India or China.

In his article, Friedman says that “clean energy” is the answer to the world’s energy problems.  He embraces  “E.T.” (no, not that visitor from another planet), but “energy technology”  that is carbon-less and efficient.

And we believe the best way to launch E.T. is to set a fixed, long-term price on carbon – combine it with the Obama team’s impressive stimulus for green-tech – and then let the free market and innovation do the rest.

His solution then is to tax conventional energy and subsidize alternative energy sources. Right.  That’s clearly an innovative solution that nobody has thought of.  And how would this affect the population bomb he fears?  Undoubtedly, raising the price of fossil fuels could indeed have an effect on developing countries’ populations.  While waiting for those alternative energy sources to develop, they’ll  continue to face poverty and resultant devastating diseases.  Not surprisingly, Friedman doesn’t address that problem.

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