I poke fun at Thomas Friedman on occasion. His platitudinous, gee-whiz, American-tourist prose, presented with a heaping helping of deep-think pretension, is a target-rich environment.
But that gee-whiz persona serves him well when he’s right, and he’s right about energy. His Discovery Channel program Addicted to Oil, which aired Sat. night, is absolutely stellar. Catch re-runs if you can — or, if you lack scruples, the torrent is floating around.
I’m sure green geeks will find nits to pick. Friedman never digs far below the surface, and GM’s Rick Wagoner, for example, gets off way too easy, especially about the commercial failure of the company’s electric car (see this movie for details).
But what’s great about the program is Friedman’s uncanny knack for speaking colloquial, mainstream language. He always sounds like he’s talking down-home common sense — when he’s full of it (as often on Iraq), but also when he’s saying something fairly radical (that, for instance, Dick Cheney’s energy policy is an example of “pre-9/11 thinking”).
In Addicted to Oil, he lays down a line on energy that could have been lifted straight from the green blogs. Here are the points that get hit:
- Oil’s a national security risk.
- Global warming is happening.
- Cars are the problem.
- Ultra-light cars would help (and Amory Lovins is cool).
- Cellulosic biofuels would help (and corn ethanol’s a boondoggle).
- Japanese hybrids are best; plug-in hybrids would be better.
- Hydrogen fuel cell cars are cool, but 20 years out.
- We need lots of electricity, and right now most of ours comes from coal.
- Solar is cool.
- Wind is cool.
- The feds subsidize oil but toss sporadic pennies to renewables.
- Efficiency is cool. (See: Texas Instruments computer-chip factory in Richardson, Texas.)
- China may be putting more effort toward sustainability than us; they’re paying attention to William McDonough.
- William McDonough is cool. Cradle to cradle is cool.
- “This is not your parents energy crisis” — but we have to tools to meet the challenge.
Not bad for 45 minutes!
This is how it ends:
With just a little leadership from Washington — smart subsidies and regulations, consistently applied — we could make plug-in hybrids, wind, ethanol, and solar so much more competitive with oil, right now, today. But it takes a new way of thinking, an understanding that being green is no longer some high-minded, vaguely unpatriotic hobby for tree-hugging girly-men. Living, thinking, and acting green is the most geostrategic, tough-minded, and patriotic thing we can do today. Green, my fellow citizens, is the new red, white, and blue.
Finally, a respected mainstream pundit has condensed the bright green case down to its nuts and bolts and presented it in a folksy, optimistic, non-threatening format.
I salute you, Mustache of Understanding! Let’s hope you’ve started a trend.