back to article The US and the impossible green revolution

Feel a little pity for Thomas L Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded, his new book on what must be done to deliver a green revolution in America. With the economy collapsed, political will in the United States is now decisively hostile to almost everything in it. Nevertheless, Friedman's premise is easy to absorb and reasonable. …


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  1. Peter Fielden-Weston
    Black Helicopters

    We need

    a hundred of these people (though a thosand would be better.) Then we could collect all the hot air they produce and use that to solve the worlds energy crisis.

  2. Tom Paine

    the art of the possible

    "the impossible green revolution" - so, if significant cuts in CO2 are "impossible" (I don't think they are, they're just very very difficult to the point of "never gonna happen"), what would El Reg's subeds have us do instead? Apart from the obvious stuff like not breeding, not wasting money on long-term investments and so on, that is. Oh I know, of course, to solve this cognitive dissonance we can simply rubbish the so-called "scientists" and "experts" , and most of all, shoot the fish in the barrel that is popular science writing and journalism, safe in the comfort of knowing that the current world civilisation is too big to fail. Phew, what a relief!

  3. TeeCee Gold badge

    Nice to be China for a day?

    I guess he conveniently glosses over the fact that the way you get a centralised control system where everyone yells "how high?" whenever it says "jump", is by ensuring that any a bit slow or not forthcoming with their altitude enquiry are taken away and re-educated / imprisoned / executed / take part in a state-sponsored organ-donor programme.

    The fact that I reckon he's talking the most monumental pile of bollocks ever written down in one place* leads me to believe that I'm up for the 'leccy prods in the goolies treatment (or at least stand to lose a kidney) in his brave new world. Excuse me if I fail to see the funny side here.

    Anyone want to hold this git down while I reverse a RESU over him before it's too late?

    *The summarised wisdom of the world's elite scientists and politicos gathered over a long globe-trotting junket? So boiling down Bullshit makes concentrated Bullshit, who knew?

  4. Aron

    Hysterial nonsense

    The fearmonger is simply another Leftist making arguments for Totalitarianism by using Green language and forecasting doom.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not Breeding.

    One minor detail, evolution, your species will die out (and the chavs will inherit the earth).

    Then again, if the future is so bleak, the chavs are welcome to it.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    out of context

    he's taken three lines from a book that has a ton of good information in it.....sure not all of it is going to happen tomorrow, but its one man's vision. at least he's got the balls to give some suggestions instead of taking a cynical approach to the problem.

  7. Britt Johnston
    Thumb Down

    Reducing energy is easy, details to follow

    "...last nail in the coffin of the postwar European welfare state" - excuse me If I and other Europeans don't find this a good idea.

    Isn't a welfare state potentially less energy intensive than, say, a west coast SUV highway economy?

    ...China's leaders constitute a central authority. Where does this help with energy? Because they can push unpopular measures through?

    This is not my understanding of Nazi priorities.

    Why not try to copy the Zimbabwe model, and reduce energy by 90%?

  8. Matt


    "Destroying a tropical rain forest and other species rich ecosystems is like burning all the paintings in the Louvre to cook dinner,"

    I'd like to say that if I were starving I'd burn paintings in the louvre to cook my food or if I were freezing I'd burn them to make heat. Although I think the paints poisonous in some cases. It's just fabric with some doodles on them, and if I'm starving or freezing I don't care much for some dead guys doodles.

  9. Dr Stephen Jones

    @ "Tom Paine"

    The very fact you don't see adaptation as an option speaks volumes.

    Even hardcore greens are now talking about what the best adaptation practices might be:

    So you completely missed this because - you weren't reading? You were reading mitigation-only propaganda? Or .... you heard the argument ...but stuck your fingers in your ears?

    People who want to "change our behaviour" can cry all the way to the yurt.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It'll Never Fly, Orville

    With those few words, you can dismiss any effort to improve. Then you can get back in your SUV and drive to the mall, while you wait for the End of Days.

    I think society is suffering a debilitating decline in our ability to dream of something better, and then to put it into place. It's certainly a symptom of the Bush years. Perhaps it's a symptom of the Baby Boomers' loss of innocence as they age. Maybe, just maybe, that time will end, and we will dream again.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Another waste of paper and ink

    'nuff said.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Have you noticed..

    How the globalists love China, and seem in every way to push us in that direction.

    And this so-called 'Green' bunch come up with the worse of it.

    *\. Handing the globalist my coat, so I can set fire to it, so I can keep warm without using fossil fuels and lower the population in an effort to reduce carbon emissions in the long term.

    - Help the planet, burn a Greeny.

  13. Luther Blissett

    When was this written?

    Presumably before Election Day, and the voting down in California and Colorado, among other states, of several Propositions mandating viciously green policies. But I hear Santa Obama has been peddling just this stuff as His way to revive the US economy. Santa walks on water, and having seen Junior's use of presidential executive order, will not want to be seen as any less prerogative, natch. Ballot boxes are no defense against this.

    I hope Santa does not want to be Chairman Mao Me2, merely Blessed Leader, but his "youth corps" ideas smack unpleasantly of a Cultural Revolution to come.

    As for the PRC, if there is technology in the US, it will either hack the servers, or buy it "over the counter". Don't forget the Chinese had to buy lots of opium back in the 19th century. It would suit Dr zBig Stranglove down to the ground if the PRC made to decline an offer they couldn't refuse, which is why the PRC will go thru all the appropriate motions. Still, how do you know that the fish ain't biting if you don't dangle the hook in the water?

    Now then, who wants to buy a villa in downtown Baghdad with an ocean view? No reasonable offer refused.

  14. Eduard Coli

    Sensationalist or fool?

    He totally missed the fact that while they may claim to be centralized at the top the Communists are undermined by corruption on the bottom. That's why they may say they are greener than thou in the People's Congress the fact is environmental disasters dwarfing the scope of East Berlin already exists in the workers paradise.

    I'm sure the luxury car that comes out of this books margins will get good mileage too.

  15. Tom Paine

    @Dr Jones

    Your point is obscure; what is the difference between "adaption", "mitigation", and "changing behaviour"? (Incidentally, I do read the Economist from time to time and find it generally quite sound on the topic these days.) We have something like 2-3 degrees of warming in the pipeline if all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions magically ceased tomorrow, so of course we'll have to adapt to that.

  16. Jonathan McColl

    Central authority

    China's "leaders constitute a central authority capable of imposing immediate regulation" This is unlike the USA how?

    They managed things like the Department of Homeland Security and the Patriot Act and the War on Tourism and the sudden production of hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out all the Nick Leesons of Wall Street. Not to mention annoying every Reg reader who thinks about taking a computer there.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Tom Friedman is a windbag...

    In love with the sound of his own voice. If he's so green, why doesn't he do his interviews and data gathering via a telephone instead of wracking up the greenhouse gas-friendly air miles?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    ElReg's green coverage: Straw men and Aunt Sallys (@ooFie: Must think harder)

    >"Have you noticed..

    How the globalists love China, and seem in every way to push us in that direction.

    And this so-called 'Green' bunch come up with the worse of it."

    See, if you had been paying attention to what you were writing instead of just ranting, you might have noticed something amiss there. Judge him by his attitudes and his words, not by who he /claims/ to represent: Thomas L Friedman is *not* a green: he is a cheerleader for bog-standard straight-up-and-down-the-line Washington concensus globalised free-market capitalism. That's not any kind of agenda of anything that I recognize as "environmentalism" or the green movement.

    >"He's bullish on it, claiming "[I] believe history will show that it was Chinese capitalism which put the last nail into the coffin of the postwar European welfare state.""

    And here's more proof that he's not part of the environmentalist movement, which has always been in favour of the welfare state; indeed, most of the people I was climbing up trees and jumping on diggers with during the anti-roads-building campaigns of the '90s were very much in favour of continuing to receive their benefits and very much prefered freedom and democracy to tyranny and dictatorship (although many of them thought of democracy as a least-worst compromise on the path to an idealistic utopian anarchy, and it's hard not to become a little cynical about the limitations of democracy when you're that frequently on the receiving end of unprovoked police brutality).

    >"And there must have been at least a few in the group thinking, "Listen to that Yankee brag.""

    Indeed. The doctrine of American exceptionalism is /not/ part of the green agenda, and when you hear it come out of someone's mouth you can know for absolute certain that they are a) not green b) not a lefty of any sort whatsoever, no matter what flag (green or stars'n'stripes) they may happen to be draping themselves in at the time.

    In fact it's a common theme throughout pretty much everything written on ElReg about the environment: deliberately conflate greens with free market zealots or right-wing bigots, and then blame the one for the oppressive rantings of the other. It appears to be working, because your post makes it clear you are entirely unable to distinguish between the two, when they are in fact deeply opposed sets of beliefs. Most commonly used by Orlowski, and a bit also by Page; I'm slightly surprised to see it in a Dick Destiny article. Maybe it's part of the house style guide now.

    For shame, ElReg. For shame. You /can/ distinguish between the actual environmental movement, and the quick-buck-cash-in-capitalists to whom it's all just a new bullet point on their sales-pitch; you don't have to swallow their self-publicising greenwash, and you don't have to accept their claims to speak for who they claim to speak for at face value.

    Whatever happened to the sceptical and investigative side of your journalism?

  19. Daniel B.
    Thumb Down

    Greenie or greedy?

    "[I] believe history will show that it was Chinese capitalism which put the last nail into the coffin of the postwar European welfare state."

    Funny, I thought the EU was actually more interested in the green tech than the "non-welfare states" ... like the US. High petrol prices in the EU have meant that Europeans don't favor gas-guzzling SUV's, and having a high-speed *electric* rail network also cuts down on both driving and flying.

    How many "green" transportation methods do the Chinese have? The only fast train they had was the Transrapid (that's German) for the Shanghai airport ... and then they stole the tech for their "own" maglev.

  20. Mark

    @Steven Jones

    Adaption means "changing to suit a new environment".

    Not burning oil is a change and so is adaption.

    Or were you thinking we should adapt to a more aquatic lifestyle and grow gills?

  21. Nathan Meyer

    Don't be Too Harsh...

    From reading his articles, (I have not read his books) I find that Mr. Friedman suffers from a distorted set of assumptions that are accepted in most circles as common sense. Among these are the notion that a free market is an unregulated one, or that markets are not always artificial creations of entities powerful enough to enforce the market's rules. Heroically pushing his limits, Mr. Friedman is attempting to find a method of avoiding global suicide. If we think of this as an intellectual version of the Special Olympics, then he is indeed a winner.

  22. John Savard

    The Time Has Come

    For a new Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and a new Tennesse Valley Authority, to put Americans to work building nuclear power plant after nuclear power plant. That will lower carbon dioxide emissions while *helping* the economy instead of hurting it. We've got Obama, a Democrat, as President, and we've got trouble in the Middle East making reliance on oil look bad, so just maybe it could happen and something sensible would get done for a change.

  23. James Butler

    @John Savard

    While I do hope that we will begin the process of extracting ourselves from the oil oligarchies' tender embraces, your focus on nuclear is misguided ... unless you are willing to store all of the spent fuel rods at your house? Until the nuclear energy industry accepts responsibility for its radioactive waste and provides solutions to its past and current problems handling it, nuclear should remain on the very back burner.

    Instead, renewable energies should be the primary focus of any new energy policies. However these are less than popular with the big industries because they are low profit approaches that would not benefit the entrenched industrialists. Industry demands proprietary, tightly-controlled supplies, and renewable energy sources like wind and solar do not provide them. Nuclear does provide them, which is why old industry is misleadingly pushing it as a "fix" for oil dependence.

    It's very similar to what has happened with telephony and the Internet ... as telephone service has become available for virtually free over the Internet, telco industrialists have taken every opportunity to attempt to smack them down. They continually lose in these efforts because the cat is out of the bag and we ain't going back to an AT&T dominated world. Their pie is shrinking and there's nothing they can do about it.

    Same goes for the music industry ... it's no longer proprietary or tightly-controlled, and the existing infrastructure is collapsing.

    This also needs to happen in the energy industry, although, Dirk Destiny's cynicism aside, there will be no old-gives-way-to-new sea change, but rather there must be coexistence for many years as we wean away from the old and begin to adopt the new. This requires old industry to acknowledge its role in the transformation, and they are not willing to do that, yet. Energy self-reliance will be something that individuals will propagate *despite* old industry's objections and roadblocking. Sooner or later, enough mass will build so that those in government are forced to act to begin integrating the new within the old infrastructure, again despite old industry's objections, and force society to adopt green practices.

  24. CTG

    @AC: ElReg's green coverage

    Is that you, Swampy? :-)

    Seriously, though, that is one of the best comments I have ever seen on El Reg. Bravo.

  25. Mark

    How many "green" transportation methods do the Chinese have?

    Quite a bad example, though, Daniel.


    Shanks Pony.

    Most of them are too poor to own anything else. And some can't even afford legs.

  26. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    The Moustache of Understanding...

    ...still has credit? How many Friedman units have we been waiting for victory in Iraq, huh? Will we wait that long from some kind of greenery? From China no less? I laugh.

    As for the US not being a welfare state, I laugh even more. Ok, so it'ts welfare for the rich, like what happened in that recession that everybody saw coming from years away. Course correction early, maybe? Hell no, we are in the land of make-believe after all. Once the excrement hits the rotary device, dutifully panic and push through a deficit-financed handout so that everyone who counts is still able to get their boni and retirement packages in before inflation kills off the lower rungs. Just great.

    I suspect it will be the same as soon as damage to the worldwide airconditioning becomes too apparent to deny any longer.

    Hey, it's everybody for himself, m'okay?

  27. Anonymous Coward

    @@AC: ElReg's green coverage

    >Is that you, Swampy? :-)

    Nah, I'm not Swampy. But I am the guy that you can see with his arm locked-on into a hole in Claremont Road at 1m16s into this video;

    And thanks very much for your nice words.

  28. Andy Bright

    Saw him on the Daily Show

    Didn't seem too outrageous to me. From what I understood the book to be about, it was suggesting that we need government intervention to make the cost of clean energy competitive.

    For example the main reason oil and coal are so popular is the cheap energy these fossil fuels produce.

    What environmentally responsible people are trying to do is convince middle class America to abandon cheap and dirty in favour of green and expensive. Not a winning argument to someone who can barely make their mortgage payment.

    So his solution (and one I happen to agree with) is to subsidize green tech (solar, wind, thermal, etc) and increase the cost of fossil fuels through taxation. Thus making the choice of switching to green fuel more palatable.

    Of course that's political suicide in this country. Other parts of his book go on to suggesting we use the taxes from fossil fuels to create a green 'bubble' in the stock market, rather than try to setup Manhattan projects. The upside of most bubbles is after the dust settles, new technologies and industries often survive if they're actually worth something. These often become the new innovations that allow those countries with a decent policy of investment to grow, and allow the next generation of kids to have somewhere to work.

    His idea is that green fuel and clean water will become the next 'big thing' simply because fossil fuels will eventually run out and unsustainable population growth will mean fewer and fewer sources of things like drinking water. So in an effort to give our kids a future of wealth and prosperity, what better idea than to make the US the capital of all things green.

    The byproduct of this is that the US finally does something about climate change.

    Are the ideas whacky? Well I've probably explained them badly, so don't judge them on what I've written, go watch the Daily Show - Monday 10th Nov to be exact ( I believe) and judge for yourselves. Or read the book.

  29. BioTube

    The simple answer

    Is to invest in fusion. Not the D-T cycle; that's only useful in nuclear weapons.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    @Mark re: @Steven Jones

    >"Or were you thinking we should adapt to a more aquatic lifestyle and grow gills?"

    Hurrah i awake from yesterday

    alive but the war is here to stay

    so my love catherina and me

    decide to take our last walk

    through the noise to the sea

    not to die but to be re-born

    away from a life so

    battered and torn....


    oh say can you see its

    really such a mess

    every inch of earth is

    a fighting nest

    giant pencil and lip-stick

    tube shaped things

    continue to rain and

    cause screaming pain

    and the arctic stains

    from silver blue to bloody red

    as our feet find the sand

    and the sea is strait ahead..

    strait ahead.....

    well its too bad

    that our friends

    cant be with us today

    well thats too bad

    "the machine

    that we built

    would never save us"

    thats what they say

    (thats why they aint

    coming with us today)

    and they also said

    "its impossible for man

    to live and breath underwater..

    forever" was their main complaint


    and they also threw this in my face:

    they said


    you know good well

    it would be beyond the will of God

    and the grace of the King

    (grace of the King yeah yeah)

    so my darling and I

    make love in the sand

    to salute the last moment

    ever on dry land

    our machine has done its work

    played its part well

    without a scratch on our bodies

    and we bid it farewell

    starfish and giant foams

    greet us with a smile

    before our heads go under

    we take a last look

    at the killing noise

    of the out of style...

    the out of style, out of style

    In memoriam Mitch Mitchell (July 9, 1947 – November 12, 2008), a truly great jazz drummer. Not necessarily stoned ... just beautiful.

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