A Final Question

At last we have a new president—and one who obviously "gets it" about the need for America to change over to a Clean Energy system and renew our national ideals and sense of purpose in the process. With that in mind, I am now going to begin to revise and update Hot, Flat, and Crowded for a new edition and to write the new chapter, Chapter 18. Thanks to all for your contributions; I’ll take up a number of them in the new chapter.

A final question: What is President Obama leaving out? What should he do on the clean energy front that he isn’t already doing?


When society requires to be rebuilt there is no use in attempting to rebuild it on the old plan. No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought.

— John Stuart Mill

Anonymous (not verified)
March 11th 2009, 9:48 am

My original posting should have read:
I think you were too easy on stock market bubbles. They should be controlled early. The S&P500 was allowed to grow at 26%/year from 12/31/1994 to 12/31/1999.

We could make the conversion to renewable energy much easier and faster if we used financial and welfare incentives to reduce birth rates.

I think you might find some of my summaries and analyses of UN, CIA, and EIA data interesting and perhaps useful at:

Dr. James M Pickett, retired biologist
Bozeman, MT

— James M Pickett

James M Pickett (not verified)
March 11th 2009, 12:25 am

I think you were too easy on stock market bubbles. They should be controlled early. The S&P500 was allowed to grow at 26%/year from 12/31/1994 to 12/31/2000.

We could make the conversion to renewable energy much easier and faster if we used financial and wefare incentives to reduce birth rates.

I think you might find some of my summaries and analyses of UN, CIA, and EIA data interesting and perhaps useful at:

Dr. James M Pickett, retired biologist
Bozeman, MT

James M Pickett (not verified)
March 11th 2009, 12:07 am

Dear Tom,

We are teaching a class on Global Climate Change to high school students and are trying to implement some 21st century skills. Extending your metaphor about the world being flat, we are trying to make our classroom flat by joining your Chapter 18 discussion forum. We are looking forward to connecting with experts like you and your readers.

We just finished your book in class and are exploring all sorts of ways to show students how to exploits all aspects of your great book. On a personal note as high school teachers, we also appreciate the resilient mindset that is implicit in your thesis. You explain the problems well and show the opportunities available to us. Given that life presents us all with numerous problems, we like how you model an open mindset (in contrast to a fixed mindset) about celebrating the opportunities residing in any given setback or problem. In this light, your book helps us to show students of the dramatic and exciting position that they are in to be agents of "out-greening" and "knowledge workers" who will make the leaders of their future cities create safe and healthy places to live work and live.

The largest idea that we have to share with your Chapter 18 forum involves our planning of an Earth Day for our school this year. This Earth Day will not be the traditional type of Earth Day celebrations. In fact, we appreciated your anecdote about the disconnect you felt after the recent Earth Day celebration on the Mall; with this in mind, we will forgo the frisbees and the music and have instead distilled your thesis into the title for our upcoming day: Earth Day in the Age of Globalization. We have a separate planning page on our class wiki and invite you and your readers to suggest ideas. We have traditional activities to energy audits planned for the day. We would also like to invite you to campus that day. Maybe you could give a short talk before we all head out to separate projects on campus. Click the link below to see how eclectic and 21st century our Earth Day events are. Do you want to attend? Our email addresses are: bill_sullivan@suffieldacademy.org or gerry_laplante@suffieldacademy.org


Other insights that we enjoyed in your book include the passage from The Onion in Chapter Five; perhaps there is more opportunity for satire to awaken our American culture to this problem. Maybe the day the issue leads an opening scene on Saturday Night Live might represent the tipping point we need to enact serious solutions. With that in mind, what role could art play? There have been some artists who attempt to bridge the disconnect with Americans as they leave lights on and fail to realize the connection to the awful ways we retrieve “hell fuels” and use them to fire our power plants. We have shown some portions of the documentary, Manufactured Landscapes, to begin this awareness. Have you seen this film? There are profound images showing your thesis about Hot, Flat, and Crowded. Also, given the role that provocative images played in moving the American public during the Civil Rights movement, could disturbing images of hilltop mining practices motivate the American public to pay a higher gas tax to help solve the real, larger problem? Again, complementing your point that the Civil Rights movement helped change the country by changing the laws, didn't that change occur when Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson could not have conversations about human rights around the world when disturbing images of protesters in the south were filling the screens of new TV sets around the world? Could images, such as the ones from Manufactured Landscapes, help Americans make the change to a smart electrical grid?

Again, Using Hot, Flat, and Crowded in class provides a great context for understanding global climate change.

Our class wiki page is http://saproblemsolvers.wikispaces.com/

We have broken down our topic into five categories, and students are working in teams as we prepare to share what we learned about this topic with our community; you can learn more on how these teams are extracting specific takeaways from your book to help them better understand the context of Global Warming:




Alternative Energy:http://saproblemsolvers.wikispaces.com/Chapel...

Action Plans:http://saproblemsolvers.wikispaces.com/Chapel...

We look forward to any comments and/or suggestions that you and other Chapter 18 Forum members might have as we move forward and present the opportunity for our students to become the "Re-generation--redefining green, and rediscovering, reviving, and regenerating America."

Gerry LaPlante and Bill Sullivan
gerry_laplante@suffieldacademy.org or bill_sullivan@suffieldacademy.org

Bill Sullivan (not verified)
March 10th 2009, 2:36 pm

Mr Obama and his Government should encourage the Indian government to remove subsidies on Petrol and diesel. This will strengthen a poor economy like India, as well as reduce emissions.

Chakravarthy (not verified)
March 10th 2009, 12:08 pm

Hope this isn't too late:

I'd like to add an idea for chapter eighteen. I'm a mother of four in Phoenix, Arizona, transplanted (pun intended) from a farming/ranching background in South Dakota. Interestingly I married a farmer, turned builder (who is now considering farming again) a here in Phoenix. After recently selling a small busineess, and knowing I wanted to make a tiny differece in creating a better future for all children, I recently took a permaculture class. (Check out the Phoenix Permaculture Guild www.phoenixpermaculture.org.) This is an incredible group of volunteers. (Example: email this am: request to come help elderly woman remove ripe citrus from her trees and deliver to food bank.)
This class was a life changing event, helping me to understand what I suspected - that we all can make changes at home, that will hopefully inspire our friends, neighbors and then even communities, cities and why not- natons - who knows? The permaculure group also teaches many of the concepts currently in your book in regards to solar power, reducing energy costs and in general making our own homes energy efficient. One home at a time. We also learned how easy it is to grow our own food and harvest rain water. This group (I'm sure they are all over the nation) sponsor two farmer's markets each Wednesday evening and Saturday morning. And with our new LIght Rail system here, it is really easy to hop on and head downtown to support our local growers, while feeding our families.

I agree with a previous contributor for this chapter, that it does start with the young. Crazy as it sounds to most I know, I have gone back to ASU to get my Masters in Education and am interning in inner city schools. My point is this: we need to empower all families to understand that they can make a difference at home starting today. They can grow their own food in the middle of the city , raise chickens (two per family is legal) or support local growers and eat fresh, delicious, healthy produce. That is my long term goal, to incorporate these simple ideas into a curriculum that can be taught from school to school. In the meantime, I hope teach my young class these eco-friendly concepts, for their future.

Perhaps you could suggest some of these resources by city, so people know there is a way to get involved. We all aren't engineers or bio-scientists, but rather just families who want to know how we can help.

Thanks for starting the conversation, and giving us all hope! ET is starting to happen here.


Tori M (not verified)
March 10th 2009, 9:47 am

Our idea to get in your face with is The World Flag Project www.theworldflag.org to use as a tool and resource to learn about our problems and share the solutions while keeping track of them. When Mother nature and economics meet, restructuring will begin out of nessesity. We do not have the time or luxury to point the finger somewhere else except right back at ourselves. We Americans, as the multicultural melting pot of the world can change the world so that the new americum is sustainable.

I thought of something today during Toms Lecture here at Portland State Univ. The thought was how our problem is the same as the problem a family has with a troubled dog. If the dog acts really bad, perhaps bites someone or chews something...maybe pees on the floor. So the family calls a trainer or an amimal behaviorist to fix the problem... The trainer comes to the house and most of the time the people have a rude awakening to find out that the dog is just fine, and it is the people that are the root of the problem... Our situation as americans is just that. Its not the big corporations...they are just a relection of what we have become... it is us that needs to change and retrain ourselves to have a new standard of living and a new lifestyle. If the people will lead The Leaders will follow!
We are all Passengers!
Together we can apart we won't.
The World Flag Project
Teaching Unity - Sharing Diversity

John Carroll (not verified)
March 9th 2009, 6:35 pm

This is a very important book.
There is a need for informed and concerned adults to develop policy to support a transition, a change in how we are and how we behave. To solicit ideas to develop Chapter 18 is a great idea. But I have low expectations that current decision makers, our political system, and corporate will or can change.
So while the missionary work and adult work of working the system goes on..and this is critical, there is a more important task. It is to start educating the young about how to live a new way. In school (grade, middle, high and college), in our parenting, in their mentoring and project work, in the jobs for which we hire them.Only a new generation will make the changes we need. Can /has this book been developed into class teaching materials?
I am thinking to do it for myself, but I cannot be the only one to request it. A whole army of teachers teaching a new generation a different way. This would make change possible.

Cliff Roe (not verified)
March 8th 2009, 6:18 pm

From our perspective, one of the most important comments included here was from Ron Erickson, posted on February 22nd, 2009. As an entrepreneur, he sees the small business entrepreneurial community as the chief driver to implement the green revolution, subject to it having the right tools and means. We couldn’t agree more.

Like Ron, our team is composed of a group of small business entrepreneurs. We have more than 50 years collective experience in launching and running our own companies, including raising millions of dollars from investors, building teams, markets, etc. Ron mentioned in his posting, and history backs that up, that small business is the real engine of job creation in our country and around the world, not big business nor big government.

Every entrepreneur we know, including ourselves, would agree with him that obtaining adequate funding is by far the number one problem for small business entrepreneurs, and thus its lack represents the biggest barrier to creating a mass movement of new “green companies” in our country. Solving that problem is critical to an effective greening campaign.

So we agree with Ron that the small business entrepreneurial community could drive the green revolution in this country, and given the right incentives would be encouraged to do so. However, even though we agree with him about the need for those tax incentives, that is nowhere near enough. We feel that much more needs to be done to nurture and support that effort on a nationwide basis, in particular on the funding question, but also with a support infrastructure (a la business incubation).

Most importantly, we feel there needs to be a system to facilitate the flow of institutional capital down to the local level, something that very rarely happens today for two primary reasons:

a) to the investor, the cost of evaluating a potential investment (a process called “due diligence” or “vetting an investment”) is quite high and not justifiable for small investments, (it costs nearly the same amount of time and money to do a $20 million investment as a $200,000 one and if you are an investor that needs to place a $ billion, you can’t waste your time on the small stuff) and
b) more importantly, once the investment is made, the investors normally do not have a way to get their money back (with or without a profit) unless the company is sold or goes public (what Ron meant by “exits”), something that’s rare for small companies

As a result of those two problems, institutional investors (including pension funds, venture capital firms, foundations and others) almost never invest in small local companies. If someone could find a way to solve those two problems for those investors, then the gateway to such funds could be opened. That is precisely what we have done with our CEED Program. (www.ceedprogram.com). How we do that is covered below. But first, let us give you the big picture about the CEED Program.

First of all, CEED stands for Community Energy and Economic Development. Its chief goal is to drive a nationwide effort of creating thousands of green companies, who in turn need to hire many thousands (if not millions) of new green collar workers.

In order to successfully accomplish that goal, the CEED Program was designed from the ground up to incorporate the key beneficial features of the two most successful business models for launching and maintaining small businesses. Those are the franchise model and the business incubation model.

Success rates for small businesses formed under these two models run far higher than for stand-alone individual enterprises, mostly because both of these models provide a support infrastructure that helps the entrepreneur succeed whereas the alternative is sink or swim on your own.

The key benefit of a franchise business concept is that you have a larger, central organization (the franchisor) that develops the basic business concept and then teaches that to their franchisees. They also provide a common brand and lots of other resources. With this “hand holding” the franchisee stands a much better chance of surviving than those without such a support structure. The success of the franchise business model can readily be seen on every main street in America (think fast food, for example).

Business incubators are special organizations whose role is to provide a host of support services to a variety of independent companies that they help to incubate. Like franchising, it entails a central organization that provides a degree of “hand holding,” but in this case it is in the form of business advisory services and shared physical resources (office space, telephones, computer networks, faxes, answering services and reception, common conference rooms, etc.) Like franchises, incubators yield much higher survival rates for fledgling businesses than their stand-alone counterparts. For more information on incubation, see www.nbia.org.

The CEED Program has combined the best features of both. Although the CEED Program is not a formal franchise network, it can best be thought of as a business that would most closely resemble a nationwide franchise network whose franchisees (called CEED companies) are green business incubators.

That is, The CEED Development Co. (TCDC - the company developing the CEED Program and equivalent to the franchisor in this scenario) is establishing a nationwide network of local companies called CEED companies (the equivalent of franchisees). CEED companies in turn are responsible for incubating dozens of new green companies in their community, with the help of both TCDC and their local small business community.

Thus TCDC makes use of the best elements of a franchise business concept in the form of a comprehensive support structure for the CEED companies, who in turn employ the best elements from the business incubation world to facilitate the development and growth of green businesses in their communities. TCDC will provide them tools and guidance on how to do that in each community and most importantly, a means to funding.

A detailed explanation about how we can bring institutional funding down to the local level is described in greater detail on the CEED Program website.

This page contains multiple downloadable documents that cover the whole CEED Program concept: www.ceedprogram.com/downloads.html. The document that drills down into the funding part in particular is entitled “CEED Community Fund” which can be directly downloaded at www.ceedprogram.com/docs/CEED-Community-Fund.pdf.

The CEED Program was only recently developed and has been largely kept under wraps while being put together. But during that time it has been quietly introduced to and has already garnered considerable attention and support from members of Congress, governors, state legislatures, senior union leaders and more. It is now time to share it with the public. If you are interested in the concept and would like to know more about it, or perhaps even become involved in your local community, please visit the website at www.ceedprogram.com.

The CEED Develo... (not verified)
March 8th 2009, 6:17 pm

Mr. Friedman,

I enjoyed your book immensely. I live in British Columbia, where the Provincial Government brought in a revenue-neutral carbon tax last summer. When the tax was introduced, the price of gas was over $1.40 pre liter. The day after the tax was introduced, the price rose to $1.50/ liter. The high price of gasoline was already encouraging behavioral change amongst people. For many, the carbon tax was seen as piling on another tax on people who were already feeling the pinch of high prices. A common argument was that high prices were doing the job and we didn’t need another tax. Today, the price of gas is below a dollar per liter. The fluctuations in the market are not predictable and this supports the argument for a predictable, long-term tax on carbon. Currently, the tax is set at $10 per tonne and it will rise to $30 per tonne in four years. For large volume users of natural gas or gasoline, this is having a large impact on their revenues and some are starting to take the issue seriously. For the average consumer, the carbon tax is too small to be noticeable and most people have forgotten that is included in the price, especially after gasoline prices dropped. It makes me wonder if a larger carbon tax would be really effective. Some have argued for a $50/tonne tax and this might make sense even if it seems to be very high. The point that I would make to Mr. Obama is that a carbon tax on its own is not enough to encourage behavioral change; the tax rate needs to be sufficiently high that action becomes an imperative.

Max (not verified)
March 8th 2009, 2:06 pm

I've just watch a new documentary film called "Consuming Kids," which I'd highly recommend to anyone interested in what has been shaping our culture of consumption for the past couple of decades. It led me to the conclusion that maybe we should consider passing laws regarding what should be allowed in the advertising realm.
For instance, maybe we shouldn't allow advertising companies to put babies through fMRI scans while showing them ads and watching for which ones activate the pleasure receptors in their brains. - Just a thought

Mark Mazzocchi (not verified)
March 8th 2009, 1:40 pm

Mr. Friedman,

I suggest that chapter 18 deal squarely with the issue of overpopulation -- in the U.S. as well as other parts of the world. Without efforts to limit population growth, much of the green revolution that you propose in HFC will be stalled by increasing demands for resources from growing populations.

Please discuss 'price signals' that would encourage responsibly dealing with the population issue. For instance, the U.S. government does lots of things with the tax code (with deductions, child credits, etc.) to reward having more than 2 children per couple. And school taxes are usually the same no matter how many children from a household are sent to public schools. The incentives for having larger families need to be altered via price signals.

Also, I'd like to see more emphasis in your chapter 18 about promoting living more simply (e.g., smaller houses, fewer appliances and electronics, etc.). You're still too focused in HFC on the supply side of the energy equation. As an example of living more simply, my wife and I have found that we can mostly avoid using our electric clothes dryer altogether (by using old fashioned drying racks); we're saving money, helping the planet, providing needed humidity to the house in winter, and keeping electric demand down.

Finally, before a smart electric grid is fully implemented, how about some suggestions (technological and behavioral) for helping people better manage their electric load? (e.g., encouraging people to enroll in 'off-peak' metering programs or encouraging them to not run too many appliances at the same time). Technology can't do all the 'smart' electric management in one's house; the most powerful energy management tool will still be homeowners' brains.

AJ (not verified)
March 8th 2009, 1:33 pm

I just heard your talk here in Santa Barbara, Mr. Friedman, and enjoyed it thoroughly! I have read your books and columns and never realized how animated you are on a stage. You held the audience with your passionate words and I walked out listening to folks talking about what they could do to help? I want to get the Republicans in Congress out of the way, so we can get started on some of this important ET work. Could you go give this talk in Congress?! Or are they just determined to obstruct. Maybe we could get things moving, if you promised stock options, along with the carbon tax, in the new ET technology!

Jeannette DeConde (not verified)
March 8th 2009, 3:35 am

Mr. Friedman,

"Hot, Flat and Crowded" is very timely, on the mark and inspiring.

Let us know when the proper time arrives for gathering the 'million people on the mall'. I think a lot of people are ready to march on this issue! For starters I would encourage everyone to vote (in the first global electronic election) for Earth by turning off your lights during Earth Hour 2009 March 28, 8:30-9:30 PM (see www.earthhour.org).

1. I would caution elected leaders to craft wording of incentive programs for producing clean energy so as not to exclude methods which may be invented in the future or are not widely known today. Legislation written to favor only certain known technologies such as solar, wind, etc., may prevent or slow introduction of 'surprise' methods of generating clean power which may be invented as human ingenuity focuses on this issue. From this standpoint, where possible, it is better for legislation to define the obvious generic 'clean energy' criteria/requirements than to name technologies.

2. By decoupling revenue and profits of Electric Utility companies from being based on how much energy they sell (Megawatt hours), and provide revenue/profit incentives for reducimg power consumption to less than the forecast. Thus fewer new power plants are required resulting in an overall reduction in environmental impact and, potentially, lower electric rates. Federal persuasion or other means may be useful in getting more State power regulatory commissions to change their rules and regulations to encourage conservation.

3. Refering to your second bullet item, page 213, HF&C:
If the cycle efficiency of large steam electric power generating plants is increased, the total emissions (including CO2) per megawatt of power produced is reduced accordingly, as well as reducing the waste heat rejected to the environment. Legislation should encourage innovation to develop means to increase the cycle efficiency of existing (and new) power plants.

4. With reference to the 11-05-08 NYT article by Jim Molavalli, why couldn't the US utilize low cost incentives to promote electric cars such as those used in Norway: No initial tax; no annual road tax; no freeway tolls; free parking on public streets; and use of bus and taxi lanes?

On other subjects, I would emphasis the following areas:

The growth rate of human population must be brought under control ASAP to keep the total poplulation from reaching the 9 to 10 billion predicted in this century. For starters, in addition to increased emphasis on family planning and education, I would recommend a 'price' signal be sent to the American public through the IRS as follows:
- Starting in year 201x, income tax deductions for 'new' children would be limited to 2 per family.
- Families who already have more than 2 children would continue to get deductions for each child.
- Due to the variety of family structures, the legislation would probably need to be written as no more than 2 children per particular mother.
- No deductions would be available for more than 2 children regardless if triplets, quadruplets, etc., are born.
- No more than 2 deductions would apply to immigrants arriving in the US with more than 2 children.
-Number of deductions for children could be lowered to 1 and then none in the future at specific population targets.

2. Over-consumption
Over-consumption is primarily a matter of education, so I would encourage a massive educational program in the schools on the terrible effects of over-consumption on other peoples and ourselves, but especially on the damages to the environment worldwide.

Regardless, there will be those individuals who will not self discipline their appetite for energy and 'things'. ('Green' energy is absolutely necessary.) A significant part of our (over) consumption is due to shifting production to low cost producers around the world. Doing so has accomplished two things:
A. We can buy more 'things' for a given amount of income (and debt).
B. We have bypassed the (labor and) environmental regulations and laws of the US (and other developed nations) and exported our pollution and environmental degradation to other countries, where it is conveniently 'out of sight, out of mind' for many people.

There needs to be a method of adding a cost ('price signal') to the price of imported and domestically produced goods to account for 'environmental degradation'. If the 'price signal' applies equally to foreign and domestically produced goods, I suspect it should not violate any WTO rules. Products which cause destruction of virgin rain-forests, such as plantation-grown palm oil for instance, should be banned outright or priced out of the market.

3. I would refer you to "The Commonwealth of Life - Economics for a Flourishing Earth, Second Edition" by Peter G. Brown, Professor, McGill University.

Best Regards

DW (not verified)
March 7th 2009, 8:25 pm

My suggestion for Chapter 18 comes from hearing your recent presentation at Book Passage in Marin, where I was unable to aks my question directly. Since I just bought the book, I have not yet read it but have read many,many of your editorials. My comment/suggestion relates to what I call the "Dueling Medias". While Obama is an eloquent speaker and can capture the world popularity, his success here at home will be greatly dependent on how his image, ideas & programs are presented in the media. You and others in the more liberal media help his efforts tremendously. However, there are many other outlets in the conservative media, Rush Limbaugh being one of the worst, and even within the current Congress, that have an avowed mission to see Obama fail, And they will do anything in their power, which unfortunately does not seem to be constrained by truth or logic, to help bring about his failure. This sets up two media voices in direct conflict with eath other. Since his ideas and programs deal with many of your concepts in Hot, Flat, and Crowded, I would love to read your thoughts about this conflict, its validity and its impact on the degree of success that we, Obama, you and all of us, might be able to achieve in the coming four years.

I look forward to your continued beacon shining light and reason onto the problems of our world today. Thank you!

Dennis H Furby (not verified)
March 7th 2009, 3:43 pm

Definitions as Wikipedia pages for TF's alt energy ideas or concepts; Energy Internet, Intelligent Grid and smart homes etc. The Green Energy Revolution, ( not a garden party, Mao). Conservation has become a progressive value that the cons abandoned for power it corrupted them, absolutely. An analytical president is our opportunity to accelerate GR.

Bob Winet/ Ranc... (not verified)
March 5th 2009, 4:58 pm

Regardless of the debate over man-induced climate change, effects of overexploitation are undeniable, tragically by the time we fully understand and implement subversive measures it will be far too late to restore sustainability in the ecosystem.

The 6, 7 billion human animals on this planet are "animals" as any biologist would have to admit. They, like any other animal, will destroy its environment rather than curtail reproduction or reduce its food intake. Mankind is only following natures pattern, reproducing until the resources to do so are exhausted, then face extinction or significant decline, as millions of life-forms have before.

But we should not give up, there is hope... will there be change?

Anonymous (not verified)
March 4th 2009, 6:50 am

I'm an American Buddhist monk currently in Nepal. I'm nearly done with your book and I love it.

The problem right now is that higher taxes on energy aren't realistic given the global economic situation. So, how about massive X prizes? How about a billion dollars to the state that can reach a target of 30% renewables by 2020? Another billion for large scale reduction in water waste and another billion for habitat protection could stimulate even more innovation.

Of course, federal standards and regulations would be best, but billions of dollars in a pot at the end of the rainbow would stimulate states to do on a larger scale what many of them are doing already. And given that there are hundreds of billionaires in America, I think a few could spare the change.

I've blogged about your book and this idea on my site: www.amonkamok.typepad.com.

Rinchen Gyatso (not verified)
March 4th 2009, 12:07 am


I'm not completely through the book and I'm not sure if this has been suggested already and it is obviously a massive shift... but as long as we are brainstorming and enlisting the entrepreneurial ideas of the masses in true Freidman form, here's what I mean:

Instead of relying on the government and energy producers to create massive green power facilities, what if every home was equipped with the ability to produce electricity? We keep the existing grid in place, but instead, back feed it. We decide that new homes must be built this way and tax dollars are spent on retrofitting existing homes. Homeowners first use the electricity they produce and any extra goes to the grid while any over usage results in a payment. Each homeowner's incentive is to use less then they make in order to avoid a payment. This would also shield against attacks or blackouts, as our power supply would be provided by millions of tiny power plants.

Obviously way too complicated for anything more in a blog post, but what do you think?


Brendan Adams (not verified)
March 2nd 2009, 1:21 pm

Mr. Friedman,

Thanks very much for all your books (read them all), but specially for this one.
I just hope that every world president and leader could read it and act upon. Especially President Obama who with his leadership and your ideas can be the greatest president in history. I just wish you could be one of his adviser.
I'm a firm believer that this governments have all the the tools to make it happen, and become again a world leader. However I'm not sure if congress is listening, and I'm afraid that they are taking us to our own economic destruction because of their lack of vision, understanding of the matter and greed base on their own interest.
My questions to you is simple:
How can we make congress listen? Name us movement groups, so those of us that care about the world and support your ideas can join and let congress know that a green revolution must take effect ASAP, that Energy Technology is here and that we want it. That we are tired of dirty fuels and the companies that turn around them. That we want better and cleaner cars, efficient and clean power greed's, less deforestation and no dependency from petro leaders, a cleaner planet for our kids and the conservation of all species.
Please let us know how to help, show us the way

Fernando Sanchez (not verified)
March 2nd 2009, 12:17 pm

I am a big fan of what Obama is doing in general. I recognize that there are mistakes in the stimulus package, and the bank bailout program probably needs to be strenghtened. And exiting Iraq will be challenging.

As for green energy, I completely agree with both your and Obama's sentiments. As the global economy continues to crumble, however, I am quite worried that this concern over being green may suffer a similar fate as to what happened back in the early 1980's. Economic survival is becoming the watchword for so many around the world these days, the need to go green may be something of a casualty. I hope I'm wrong, but if oil prices stay low (a function of a weak economy), world leaders will focus much more on just getting people back to work. The idea that green jobs is going to stimulate our economy -- that will only work if those jobs lead to producing a competitive product. Hopefully the move towards wind power will just continue to strengthen, but solar as a meaningful source of power is becoming more distant as the economy worsens.

I can see OPEC countries cheating on their quotas to raise revenue in their individual countries at the expense of the cartel, further driving down the price of oil. Morgan Stanley now expects oil prices to fall to $25 a barrel. Obama really needs to understand the power of supply and demand in pushing green jobs too much in a weak economy. I like his ideas on conservation (improving insulation in federal buildings is a small example of an idea that provides jobs and is smart), but expecting breakthroughs in new technologies with oil going back possibly to pre 2003 levels? That's pretty tough.

I had argued previously that a gas tax should be implemented to keep gasoline prices at the $2.50-2.75 level (much higher in a stronger economy, with the proceeds originally going to research), but it's now probably too late to do that. Until recently consumers would have viewed that as an acceptable level for gasoline, but we've probably waited too long and the economy has deteriorated too far to do that now.

For now, the main focus should be on smart ways to conserve power. The use of LED lighting, better insulation, tax credits for buying fuel efficient cars, these are all good, low cost ideas. But global standards need to be established, China and India must participate, and at this point we probably should require other countries' involvement in anything we do (at least as it applies to our exporting industries, or industries exposed to imports).

Things have gotten particularly ugly in the economy, and I would worry that all this green momentum could get placed on the "back burner." Obama will not get his budget through as announced. Even though the Democrats hold most of the cards, lobbyists will sink their teeth into enough items that there will have to be compromises. If forced to choose, it sounds like he'd pick healthcare over energy (a reasonable position to take if necessary, as healthcare really threatens to bankrupt the country and 47 million Americans have no coverage). I hope the green movement continues as strongly as it had gotten -- of course it's critical -- but you may see greenhouse gas emissions declining simply because the global economy is now very weak.

Rick S (not verified)
March 1st 2009, 10:47 pm

Ideas for President Obama, no matter how controversial…
• As you suggest, create price floor “dirty energy” carbon tax, leading to investment in clean technologies and efficiency of energy use
• Consider national development of fast neutron reactor technology as specified in “Fossil Fools” and “Beyond Fossil Fools”, by Joseph M. Shuster, in addition to investment in other clean technologies
• Indicate need to reduce world-wide human population – provide world-wide education via computers to reduce poverty and incentive to have children as a means of support in old age, provide birth control education and methods worldwide, encourage maximum family size of two children
• Overhaul transportation system of goods and people, considering phase in of a new electrified rail-based highway system, and standard dual mode vehicles that can go on/off rail, to achieve much higher efficiency, zero emission travel. More details if desired.
• Use Obama database and the internet to create and educate a volunteer corp to assist in home efficiency and local/vegetarian diet planning to assist families in adopting greener lifestyles. Create list of approved vendors to enable easy and affordable acquisition of related products.
• Continue broadband connectivity build-out to enable on-line collaboration technologies to enable business and educational communications, smart grid / smart building / automated meter reading, intelligent transportation, public safety, and other uses.
• Have National Science Advisor / National CTO create and maintain single web site, enlisting volunteer leaders and teams in each area to communicate objectives, milestones, status, answer questions, and provide opportunities for involvement.
• Feedback welcome (StartingNow@cox.net)

Questions back to you, Tom.
• For all the best ideas you collect, what prevents President Obama and the American people from making moving these ideas forward?
• What can we as individuals and groups do to enable the President to remove the barriers and enable him to successfully move forward?

An Engineer (not verified)
February 27th 2009, 8:58 pm

I think President Obama should be advised as to what the best plans for greening America are, and then just present them to the public. The public is very enthused about this, but all they really know is what they hear from advertisers. Of course, if they knew that greening America involves some sacrifice, they may think twice about it. But because of the public's enthusiasm, and because we now have a charasmatic President who can get his message accross, I think the public will latch onto what the president says about greening, and understand that sacrifice will be part of it.

I am a dentist, and I always give patients a little "goody bag" which includes oral hygiene products. When I ran out of these plastic bags, I ordered the extra large, reusable, green grocery shopping bags, with my practice name on it, for my give aways. What an incredible response! More than 90% of my patients comment that they really need it for their shopping. In other words, the green message has gotten out and the public is in agreement with it.

Since it will take a lot more than switching to reusable bags, the President should tell the people very plainly what it will take.

The public is ready to hear it. Right now, trust of the president is incredibly high, while trust of the established industries is at an all time low. Tell the people now!

Dr APF (not verified)
February 27th 2009, 8:55 pm

Hi all

First - 18 is " Chai" in Hebrew which means "live" - so it is good title for this chapter

Second - You just vote for an Afro American president but for some reason you have forgotten Africa.

The Us should give 20B$ not to GM but to Africans to buy GM cars. If you need to invest so much money on automobiles - why give it for free to GM ? Give it to Africa - let's say Kenya for instance your government will give them money lets say 1B$ to buy American cars or buy wireless infrastructure form Cisco or mini laptops from Dell or what ever else they have in mind that US has and Africa need.

This way you spend the same amount of money but :

A. The US will be leading the world - Africa will be grateful - Bilateral agreements and so on
B. The US companies will have orders for their merchandise - will hire employees.
C. The world will be a better place to leave

It is looking to me a much better way to spend your tax money

Eli Cohen
Jerusalem Israel

Eli Cohen (not verified)
February 26th 2009, 4:02 pm

The first an most important thing the President needs to do is realize that it will take decades before renewables will be a major source of electrical power and decades before a majority of cars will be powered by either electricity or hydrogen fuel cells. 10 million electrical cars would only reduce the demand for oil by about 3%.

He also needs to learn that science and factual observations demonstrate that CO2 is not a pollutant and is not causing global warming. Cap and trade legislation is the very last thing we need; the EU has proved that it doesn't work and only damages the economy!

He needs to create jobs by opening up the off shore and ANWR to drilling.

bill allen (not verified)
February 26th 2009, 3:38 pm

I think you should focus Chapter 18 on what we need to do, to start preparing for a Hot Earth later this century, which can support a human population of maybe 1 billion rather than the current 7 billion. That's what Obama's not doing, because he's only in power for a few years. Tinkering with green living is good, but we are probably beyond the tipping point towards a Hot Earth. Readers that want to delve deeper into this today should read James Lovelock's new "The Vanishing Face of Gaia, A Final Warning". It's a scary read, but we need to start preparing now if we are going to transition to a sustainable Earth, which means a much smaller human population and probably very few farm animals / pets. I am a meat lover, but animals just put out too much CO2 /methane and require too much feed.

Mike (not verified)
February 25th 2009, 7:24 pm

Mr. Friedman

You have often pointed out that Americans love sports; they like to know the score and to win. President Obama should give the country a goal, like 350 ppm CO2, tell them what the score currently is 380 ppm (we are losing by 30 points), and most importantly tell the country what we need to do to win.

People could be reminded of the score everyday and how we are doing by putting a big scoreboard on the White House, in Times Square and in the corner of every Google search result page and cable TV broadcast.

Matthew A. Heller (not verified)
February 23rd 2009, 10:17 pm

Fairness in taxation is a topic that needs to be examined.
I wonder if you will be willing to undertake a exercise reviewing how much of their income people pay as taxes. Assuming a family of 4 with income of 25K, 50K, 100K, 250K, 1M and 10M. Assuming that each owns a house and spends the average for their income level what percentage of their income they pay in taxes. As taxes I would include all taxes, income, SSN, medicare, state, sales taxes, property taxes, etc. It would be interesting to see what percentage of their income each one pays as taxes.

DK (not verified)
February 23rd 2009, 10:08 pm

I think the fundamental change in the economy can be brought about only by first making a fundamental change in the thought process.In my view it is first important to drive this thought that only a non-bubble solution can bring us out of this economic mess.I think energy initiatives are looked at long-term goals.No there are not!They need to be done now and at a scale which is large and at the same time simple.With this mind I would suggest making energy initiatives a part of the daily life of a common man.Think of using solar power at home using do-it-yourself kits as a daily routine.Just imagine building and installing a solar panel at home as a cooking activity.What do we do for cooking?We go to a grocery shop and buy the raw materials and cook at home.Same way why can't making a solar panel be as simple as walking to a shop nearby and doing it ourselves.It benefits the individual in terms of savings in their electricity bills,empowers small businesses and also in-line with government's goals as well the global goal.If the savings are not appreciated by the individual for the effort involved the government can chip in to provide tax savings for such initiatives.Apart from these direct benefits it lays the platform for a sustainable energy transition as it gives the existing energy service providers using coal technologies enough time to transition to renewable sources as these initiatives are not going to completely eliminate the electricity bills.
So my idea here is to drive using solar panels at home at a retail level and make it part of every individual's daily or weekend routines.

Karthik (not verified)
February 22nd 2009, 1:05 pm

Job growth in the United States depends upon the availability of new capital. Money can come from the government or the private sector. Hopefully, many new jobs will be created by the stimulus package. But will large private venture capitalists put money where it is most needed to create new jobs anytime soon? Sadly, the answer is no.

The most difficult component of start-up company creation and small company growth is funding. Organized, institutional venture capital in the United States is venturesome by name only. The vast majority of venture funds invest in operating companies well beyond the start up stage. Institutional venture capital is risk adverse. In the current environment that aversion is exacerbated by the lack of public market "exits," like initial public offerings or sales to other companies; in addition large venture capital investments raise liquidity concerns while the money is tied up for longer periods.

America’s Fortune 500 companies, in the aggregate, have created no net new jobs in the past 30 years. According to most experts, start up companies generate more jobs proportionally than the rest of the private sector. The Kaufman Foundation issued a January, 2009 report in conjunction with the U.S. Census Bureau which confirmed the central role of start ups in new job creation.

The financial capital for start up and small enterprise comes from entrepreneurs themselves and from the individual or so-called, “angel” investor. “Seed” round investment comes from these angel investors and family and friends. These entrepreneurs will create new businesses for the new energy “green” economy, digital media, health care, information technology, and every other field imaginable — where they perceive opportunity.

So, here's my idea: zero capital gains for investment by individuals in start up and small enterprises. The zero capital gains treatment would be for individuals only with investments of any amount up to $250,000 in start up and small companies. I leave it to the tax policy wonks to determine the nuance regarding the use of funds from 401(k) or IRA accounts and the definition of small business.

This tax incentive would dramatically accelerate the growth of the economy and unleash the promotion of new ideas and new technologies which would both stimulate and benefit the nation. (Moment for disclosure: I have been an entrepreneur and active angel investor for over 25 years.)

Could it be enacted? It should enjoy broad bi-partisan support. It will generate new tax revenues from the ordinary incomes paid to employees in new jobs. It will ignite anew the innovative spirit. In my view, the proposal should grow net tax revenues through new jobs. It gets capital now sitting on the sidelines into investments that build a new economy, not just prop up faltering sectors.

There is some political momentum in this direction. During his campaign Obama supported reduction of capital gains for start ups and small business. Clean energy enterprise and all start up and small business enterprise would benefit from this approach.k

Ron Erickson (not verified)
February 22nd 2009, 12:39 pm