After lunch, we’re serenaded by Rodrigo y Gabriella, who play flamenco-styled music with the passion of their Mexican thrash-metal background. Then Ze Frank introduces the evening’s three-minute standup talks with his own three minute talk on making an Earth Sandwich.
Which leads Tom Friedman to get up and start his talk by saying, “My reaction to Ze Frank’s earth sandwich is the same reaction as to the lady guitarist: What the fuck am I doing here?”
What he’s doing is giving a talk titled, “Why this is not your parents’ energy crisis.” His first reason: the war on terror is fueled by our energy purchases, on both sides of the equation. He gives the example of two stories he saw emerging at the same time in the New York Times: a refusal to expand CAFE fuel standards, and the refusal to cut American agricultural subsidies. He tells a story to tie the two together:
Because CAFE standards allow the American consumer to buy a big car, he uses more energy. Which puts more money in the pockets of the Saudis, who use it to fund a Madrassa in Pakistan. The farmer in Pakistan is in tough straits because he can’t compete against subsidized cotton from the US. He sends his two sons to the Madrassa because they serve a hot meal at lunch. The Madrassa gives the boys a religious education, and just a little bit of political science: a course that teaches that all problems are the results of America, Israel and the jews. And so one of the kids goes to war – Jihad – and gets killed by the American’s son, who is in the special forces. “And we think we’re winning the war on terror.”
The second factor: the world is flat. The three billion new consumers (I’d call bullshit on that figure) coming from India, China and the former Soviet Union all want cars, computers, printers… and these all require energy. These new consumers are “going to help us heat up the planet even faster than Al Gore predicts”.
Friedman tells us that green industry is the growth industry for the 21st century. If you want a job, go into green design or consulting – there has to be growth in these secrots or we won’t have a planet. He warns that China is going to go green in a big way – they’ll be using low-cost, scaleable green technologies which they need to build for their own uses. If you’re frustrated that you need to buy Japanese to buy a hybrid engine, imagine how frustrating it would be if all green technology is Chinese.
He tells us that what we need is government regulation that doesn’t rig the market, but sets stringent standards for mileage, appliances, power generation… like Governor Bush did years ago in Texas. “If only President Bush could meet Governor Bush…” But there are market fundamentalists like Dick Cheney who passionately believe that the market will fix all problems, including energy efficiency.
As the price of oil goes down, Friedman argues, the level of freedom goes up in petroleum dominated economies. When the oil price is low, the Freedom House index is high. At $20 a barrel oil, Iran was asking for “a dialog of civilizations” – at $70, they’re denying the holocaust. We’re seeing the emergence of Petroauthoritarian states like Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Venezuela, Iran and Sudan. The reason we can’t stop the genocide in Darfur is that China’s blocking UN action in Sudan. Why? They own 40% of the Sudanese oil company.
The first Arab state to run out of oil was Bahrain. They were also the first state to hold an election where women could vote. Friedman believes this is not a coincidence.
He briefly mentions the role of the Internet, arguing that the server farms that Google and Yahoo! are building will make them competitiors to India and China in the struggle for power in the future.
Friedman’s current quest: “trying to redefine green.” To name something is to own it, he says, and “green” was named and appropriated by the people who hated it, calling it “liberal”, “girly-man”, “unpatriotic”, and “vaguely french”. Instead, Friedman believes, “Green is the new Red, White and Blue.”