Introduction to Chapter 18

Hot, Flat, and Crowded has seventeen chapters. What's Chapter 18? Chapter 18 will be a completely new chapter that I’ll add to the next edition of the book: Version 2.0. In it I hope to include the best ideas and proposals sent in from readers: ideas about clean energy, energy efficiency, and conservation; about petropolitics and nation-building in America; about how we can help take the lead in the renewal of our country and the Earth alike by going Code Green. I am eager for your suggestions — please post them here.


eyes smiling intoabsolutelykeen.

Lilu (not verified)
June 17th 2009, 12:55 pm

There is a common misconception that the world needs to stop emitting carbon dioxide in order to solve the global warming problem. Not true! The correct statement of the problem is that we must stop emitting carbon dioxide from burning FOSSIL FUELS. Carbon dioxide from burning biomass can be global warming neutral.

Three precepts should guide our actions. 1) This is a world problem. An expensive solution that works for the United States, but not for China, is not a solution. 2) Ordinary people should not have to change how they live their lives. The solution should still allow cars and planes. 3) Use existing investment when at all possible. Find a new source of hydrocarbons so existing oil refineries and coal-fired electricity plants can continue to operate.

1) Venture capitalists like expensive solutions. They make their money up-front by keeping a percentage of the capital they raise. Many of the solutions they propose simply don't scale well enough to solve the world's problem. Academics don't understand or appreciate capital investment. Industry fixates on it. A good model for how to accomplish this is the world effort, 20 years ago, to replace chlorofluorocarbons with ozone friendly replacements.

2) This is easy for electricity. When a consumer flips a switch to turn on a gadget, it doesn't matter whether the electrons were generated by burning coal or biomass, nuclear fission, falling water, photovoltaics, or the wind. Electricity doesn't care how it is generated. Not so for transportation fuels. Switching from liquid hydrocarbon based vehicles to electric ones or even cars burning ethanol requires consumers to change how they interact with their vehicles. Many pundits think drastic changes in consumer behavior are necessary to solve the global warming problem. Some even called for the abolition of the airline industry. They can conceive of battery powered cars, but not battery powered airplane. Burning aviation fuel produced from biomass would not contribute to global warming.

3) Today, cars in the United States can't burn pure ethanol. Refineries can't make it. To switch to an ethanol-based transportation system would require the country to scrap its existing oil refineries and build new fermentation plants. Very expensive! The existing pipeline and tanker fleet can't move corrosive ethanol to your corner filling station. The underground tanks in your filling station and all the hoses and piping there can't withstand ethanol either. Nor can the fuel lines in your car. It is completely unreasonable to expect Detroit to be able to design new cars capable of running on ethanol fuel. If Iowa didn't hold a presidential beauty contest every four years, ethanol would not even be on the political agenda. Most of the world uses hydrocarbons to power their transportation industry. In the future, this should not change.

Nuclear-power, while carbon free, is not the right solution to the problem. This industry has the ethics of Enron or the tobacco industry. They plant distortions and lies in otherwise reliable publications. If this industry had to compete fairly, it would be out of business. The insurance industry refuses to write them liability policies because they cannot calculate the risk involved. Astute lobbying has dumped the liability on the government, that's you and me, the taxpayers. No other energy source requires such a subsidy. There are better ways to solve the global warming problem than nuclear fission.

Let's make gasoline, aviation fuel, and diesel from biomass. I emphasize diesel, not biodiesel. They are not the same chemically. Biodiesel requires all new investment to produce it from fats. Although the chemistry is simple, it is slow and therefore requires large equipment which is not cheap. All this would be new investment.

What we need is a photosynthetic plant that makes a hydrocarbon that existing refineries can process into the same mix of gasoline and diesel as they do now from petroleum. Coal-fired electrical generating facilities should be able to burn this material to produce electricity.

Such a plant actually exists. It is a pelagic algae, Botryococcus braunii, that grows in the Indian Ocean. It produces a mix of isoprene oligomers averaging n=6. For some strains, these hydrocarbons comprise up to 70% of the dry weight of the plant. Scaling up production of this algae will no doubt be difficult, but so are all the other proposed solutions to the global warming problem. This proposal makes maximum use of existing investment and does not require the consumer to change anything. Since the algae grows in the ocean, it does not compete with food production, nor does it involve land-use changes. Algae grow in the water, and if properly contained would not be visible from land. The existing oil tanker fleet along with converted fishing boats could collect the algae, squeeze out the oil, and transport it to existing refineries. Bioengineering is an infant science. This proposal is amenable to continuous improvement. Imagine what a green revolution could do when applied to this problem.
For more information see:

Let's get started.

Frank Weigert (not verified)
June 10th 2009, 8:52 am

Mr. Friedman,

You have nailed it, congradulations. Your research, formation of ideas, and mainly the integration of the idea that climate change can have non linear consequences, was brilliant. I am glad to see it is still a work in progress.

A reasonable idea, for which we currently have the technology, is large scale water desalinization. I wonder if by harnessing the power of the Universe (nuclear) and using the energy to desalinate water we could turn currently arid parts of the country into areas which are usable for agriculture. In addition, cellulosic ethanol may change the balance favorably toward biofuel. I believe that we are close to rapidly increasing energy yield from plants by using enzymes or other means to break them down further than what is currently available. The yield from algae is expotentially higher than food stock and uses high levels of Carbon Dioxide.

You will soon see a product called Thermafreeze on the market. It is a reusable coolant that is hydrated and cooled on site and should remarkably improve the carbon footprint of cold chain food shipment. 46 pounds converts to 1600 pounds of reusable refrigerant that gets cold faster and stays cold longer than any known similar substance. It is recyclibe, inexpensive and will be a market shifting technology. (Google it) It is fascinating and no one sees it coming. It is small, I know, but hopeful.

The fact that we can scientifically know the earth is heating is remarkable. My hope is that expotentially rising level of technology will help mitigate some of the impending gloom. Thanks again, Chevies Newman, M.D.

Chevies Newman (not verified)
June 7th 2009, 7:39 pm

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and believe it contains a wealth of important ideas that truly must take hold in today's world.

From the perhaps pedantic viewpoint of a physicist, I would ask that in future editions, you would consider the wholesale replacement of the word "electrons" throughout most of the book with the far more correct terms "electricity" or, in some cases, "electrical energy". We do not generate, create or make electrons. They are always present. We only move them around and it is pushing them around that takes energy. There are no "clean electrons"; there are only clean ways to make them go from point A to point B. Electrons are not valuable and are never scarce. Only the ability to move them around matters.

I think it is important that a book that seeks to convey important technical information to the general public gets the basics correct.

Randy Simon (not verified)
June 7th 2009, 10:42 am

Dear Mr. Friedman,

Earlier in this blog I shared emails I had written to my Senator and to my former CEO.

I communicate with my former CEO about every three months on a range of topics. I had done this even when I was an active employee at DTE Energy, and now as a retired employee.

I wish to share this latest with you, as I believe it may be of interest to you.

The topic is sustainability through individual human change.

From: Gary Carl
Sent: Friday, May 22, 2009 4:11 PM
To: 'xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Subject: My quarterly rant - Sustainability

Mr. Earley,

Dick Cheney is calling from the mountain top that when we learn that the “enhanced interrogation” techniques he condoned saved American lives he will be exonerated.

I believe he actually believes he did a great service to his country with these actions. So let’s fantasize for a moment and say he is correct, though it goes against everything I have learned over the years about psychology, human spirit, and what I witnessed in Viet Nam.

What we must ask ourselves as individuals in the case of torture versus saving lives is what kind of people do we wish to be, and who are we?

If we so intently believe in morals, values, and virtues, as we claim, are we and those we love willing to be in harm’s way or even die to live these inner beliefs?

Or do we justify our evil by saving lives from evil?

Do we have a spirituality that is of compassion, gratitude, faith, hope, and love? Or do we just consciously believe we do, while allowing our subconscious to enact the dark side we all possess but normally contain?

One of the greatest court opinions for mankind, I believe, came out of the Nuremburg trials when the court stated that to follow orders or ideology, even through threat of death, is not reason, but that we must hold ourselves to a higher consciousness.

As human beings in the Utility business we face these same ethical questions.

Do we justify our inaction preventing us from preserving mankind and improve a way of life for billions of people, or do we do what merely appears to be right for the shareholders, stakeholders, and ourselves?

The CEO of Duke Energy has come to the forefront with his admissions of the effects of coal on climate change and the environment. Yet he builds two new coal fire plants when that money could be used towards a strong beginning in distributed green energy in his service area. As you are fully aware, hundreds of billions of dollars will be spent over the coming years to re-engineer existing plants and build new plants; that amount of money could easily provide the change we are headed for in green energy systems and smart transmission systems for the entire nation, not just make a footprint. This is where we must all come together and make these determinations in where and how to spend this money, put the independence of capitalism aside for a moment, put the fear to act away, and become interdependent in order to begin this change.

I commend him on his courage to admit all of our roles, yes - yours and mine also, in the degradation of our planet. Yet I also see him as contradictory as he fears for the shareholder and himself by not continuing that courage and taking charge of what we all know needs to be done.

We need leaders today of equal thought, both left and right brained thinking, linear and abstract.

We are looking for leaders who today, to use a poker euphemism, understand the need to go all in and begin down the path we need, and will, eventually go; today, not tomorrow, not next year, not when the technology improves, not when the government acts, but today we need this. Technology can never improve if the action is not taken to begin the outcome. In this the use of carbon credits will be good. It will force us to look elsewhere, it will force us to conserve, it will force us to be creative, it will force us into what has always been right.

But what a pity it is that any of us need to be persuaded or forced to do what is right, when we already know what needs to be done.

Our higher level of consciousness is not about saving American lives, it is not about Corporate Boards, shareholders or stakeholders, it is not about you nor I, it is about what lives in each of our souls, it is about what is of a greater power than any of these, it is simply to do what we know is right for one another no matter the cost.

In addition to a higher level of consciousness, in my view we need two human elements as individuals to have sustainability in any area, they are will power, and self discipline. This is where we are dysfunctional, as most who lead do not understand that how can any of us have will power if we do not have our will. As a nation, business, and a people we must become functional self disciplinarians. In other words, we must understand and live the four parts to self discipline which if you recall are:
1) delaying gratification; 2) accepting responsibility for self; 3) telling the absolute truth and being dedicated to reality; 4) bracketing ego needs for the sake of spiritual growth.

Sustainability will come through social change which will lead to economic change. And we cannot have social change unless each of us, and here I go again, begin the change to become who we were meant to be as human beings. And as it is estimated 96% of us are dysfunctional to some degree, very few are who they were meant to be. I have written much in the past of what it means to be who we are meant to be, and if you still have the services of Ed Schein he can better describe this.

As always it is good to be able to express myself to you. You can be the leader that is so desperately needed today, I believe this, but you, like I, must first go inward and do the hard work of changing ourselves to allow us to sustain that higher level of consciousness.

Take care.

Gary Carl

Gary Carl (not verified)
June 2nd 2009, 11:11 pm

Dear Mr. Friedman,

Thank you for writing Hot, Flat and Crowded. You did a great job (1) describing the problems of the world becoming hot, flat and crowded and (2) describing a variety of solutions, especially in the energy arena.

However, I hope that in Chapter 18 you will describe in some detail how much we need to rein in population growth and how it can be accomplished. You did a great job describing a vitally needed energy internet. The same kind of analysis needs to be brought to bear upon population growth. This is nothing new; many people realize the seriousness of the population problem. However, it was a glaring omission from your book.

Today, there is almost no politician willing to stick his or her neck out about the need to control population growth. You never read about this on the front page of the newspapers. You do read about water problems, about the price of energy going up, about immigration, about food scarcity in Africa, wars and genocide, poverty and terrorism spreading like a plague. But few people want to talk openly and publicly about how all of these things might be caused, at least in part, by too many people competing for scarce resources. People are reluctant to talk about reducing population. Why? Because people are afraid. They are afraid of all the things that might go wrong if we try to tackle this. Population control is fraught with huge moral, social, religious and political issues. But you are not afraid. You have the desire, the energy and the courage to tackle difficult problems and address them. And the population problem is one problem that is crying out for you to address.

You can help make it politically correct to talk about the need to reduce our population. Because so many people read what you write, I hope you will make population control and how we can achieve it a main topic of Chapter 18. You could start, for example, with the 1972 the Rockefeller Commission Report on Population and the American Future commissioned by then-president Nixon, which stated that “in the long run, no substantial benefits will result from further growth of the Nation’s population”. We need to praise China for their one-child policy, which by all measures makes tremendous sense, and is as urgently needed as the energy internet you have described in great detail.

So, in summary, I hope you will make population control – the how as much as the why – a key part of Chapter 18.


Jim Gaw
P.O. Box 1001
Carbondale, CO 81623

Jim Gaw (not verified)
May 30th 2009, 1:22 pm

In order to allow us to develop living standards in a more sustainable and regenerative way, we should envision a future for ourselves independent of fossil fuels.

It is my contention that if we could reduce building heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems electrical and fossil fuel use by over 90%, we could develop sustainable buildings, communities and cities.

When the temperature rises above 100ºF in the summer, air conditioning systems stretch the electrical grids beyond their limits while cars and trucks choke the air in towns and cities. Hot, humid days are the worst time to have high electricity use and pollution from vehicles, enhancing poor climatic conditions with man-made pollution. Directly connecting air conditioning electrical demand with the electric grid brown-outs and black-outs is no stretch of science, but no one has connected them and presented a comprehensive solution. Politicians and energy companies want to build a “more robust” electrical grid and “safe nuclear” and “clean coal” power plants with the economic stimulus plan, costing trillions of dollars and creating more greenhouse gasses and a worse situation long-term.

Now let us envision a world 20 years in the future when most homes and buildings are electricity generators rather than users, and most public and private transport run on clean electricity. The electrical grid redistributes surplus electricity from sustainable buildings to public transport during the day, and recharges electric cars and trucks at night. Energy intensive buildings, communities and cities are supplemented with energy generated in outlying renewable energy plants.

This vision has buildings using 90% less electricity for heating and cooling, and most buildings producing more electricity than they use during hot weather. Electric utilities use a few efficient generating plants and transportation uses little gasoline. U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by over 80%. This vision may seem a fool’s paradise, but such a vision is the kind we need: Better to aim for a 90% reduction and fall short by a few percent than aim for 50% and achieve our goal.

Can we create this sustainable energy future now? The truth is: Yes We Can!

We have the technology to achieve this vision today. We can make efficient electric vehicles. Sustainable buildings could be built except that current air conditioning systems use too much electricity, particularly at high outside temperatures. Amory Lovins, founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, presented a report in 1988 revealing that newer air conditioning systems performed poorer than older ones, they were less energy-efficient, cost more to install and maintain, and provided poorer comfort. Unfortunately, this trend continues to this day and agencies and institutions are currently recommending some of the worst air conditioning solutions: all-electric solutions such as geothermal heat pumps.

We need air conditioning systems that use little electricity during hot weather and buildings that generate more electricity than they use during hot weather. Sustainable buildings should produce more electricity than they use, repaying the energy used for construction and ongoing maintenance. These concepts should be the primary requirements for defining a sustainable building or community. The overall solution lies in developing an Energy Master Plan for every building, community, town and city. The Energy Master Plan is a comprehensive life cycle plan toward sustainable, high performance end goals: a zero carbon footprint, minimum, easy maintenance, and maximum occupant comfort and productivity. Energy Master Plans integrate Facility Master Plans and Transport Master Plans into a comprehensive Climate Neutral Plan.

New and existing buildings should be developed to be as sustainable as possible, beginning with passive strategies and then integrating passive strategies with active strategies. Three active strategies can help reduce electrical use in air conditioning systems by 90%: utilizing ground source heat exchangers for cooling and warming, eliminating electric refrigeration; using desiccant systems for year round humidity control; and using radiant ceiling systems for both cooling and warming.

First, it should be understood that these strategies work in sympathy with the energy flows of the building and climate rather than against them, unlike most active systems that impose their brute force against the energy flows of both the building and the climate. Radiant ceilings create a most comfortable thermal environment while utilizing water very close to the required room temperature and easiest to be obtained from renewable sources. These systems require only 60°F water for cooling in the hottest regions and 100°F water for heating in the coldest regions. Ground source heat exchange is simply using the average deep ground or well temperature of the area to temper the building, requiring little additional warming in the winter for cold regions and little additional cooling in the summer for hot regions. This will also work with a river or lake exchanging energy. A desiccant system is a salt solution similar to the little bags of silica gel placed in shoes and vitamin bottles that absorb moisture from the air and can be regenerated by heating them, utilizing heat in the summer, something readily available. The desiccant can also provide humidification in the winter by adding water to the solution.

To achieve a zero carbon footprint, buildings should be able to make full use of renewable sources such as ground source, solar thermal, solar PV, wind and water. Cities as large and concentrated as New York can have an Energy Master Plan that will move the entire city toward a sustainable future. Cities such as New York are as able to become as sustainable as suburban communities because they have a more efficient transport system and food and energy distribution system.

It takes vision and commitment from city, state and federal leaders, something that the US, UK and EU and all the world is still waiting for.

We are at the tipping point on many global issues including over population, climate change, pollution and the world economy. Must we wait for a catastrophic meltdown far worse than the financial system meltdown or should we use this economic recession to redirect our ideas to develop a truly sustainable green economy?

We are running out of time to act; it has been estimated that we have only 8 years in which to take positive action toward a sustainable future if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change by the end of this century. We currently have perfect conditions to change the way we do business and commit to a sustainable future, all we need is a change in government action at all levels to enact the change.

It is hope, not despair, which makes successful revolutions.

Grahame Maisey (not verified)
May 20th 2009, 10:49 am

Although you illuminated the global scale of the problem, I think there is one area in which your argument can be improved. I think it’s realistic and helpful that you deal with the problem on the global scale by looking at the role of world leaders, but I think that all world leaders play a role now and will play one in the future. I accept that President Obama has a lot more to do with the future than I do, but I think that leaders in the developing world should be included in your argument. Although China or the U.S. will lead, the leadership of developing countries represents billions of people and vital resources for the world’s population. After reading Hot, Flat, and Crowded, I still have no idea how you think most of the developing world fits into your big picture of the impending energy climate era’s future and where they are left in the resulting global economic, political, and social situation. Including the roles these governments will play will not only make your argument more complete; it will help your readers gain confidence in the alternatives you propose for the future. Our lifestyle affects and is closely connected to the lifestyles of people around the world, and I think more and more Americans are realizing this. Offering where these developing nations’ governments, and their citizens, fit in will give your American readers a better perspective of the world. After all, isn’t the issue of finding a solution to global warming an enormous task of global scale that connects each and every person on the planet? Our fates are all bound together on this issue because as we continue to destroy the planet, we all suffer. I think it would only strengthen your book to include all of the world’s leadership. By including them you include all of the world’s people and thus provide a more complete argument.
Thank you,

Molly (not verified)
May 12th 2009, 9:38 pm

Mr. Friedman:

I am not quite sure what is in store for the world as we push forward with our goals of a cleaner planet. Alternative energy and more efficient/less polluting industry will undoubtedly improve the quality of life for all, as well as secure a sustainable future. Both America and China are racing to an invisible finish line and we are battling for every inch, but as we push forward my curiosity lies in exactly what will be the result for the developing world. The superpower status of these two countries unquestionably defines the major economic tides of our frail and sensitive global market. I hope America is capable of leading this economic and technological revolution required to survive as the harsh realities of climate instability become more apparent. My question for you, and what I hope you can elaborate upon in Chapter 18, is what do you predict will occur in the developing countries of the world as we define a new age of technology and economic practices? While I understand their impact is not as great as either the United States or China, I believe that their involvement in the world economy is pivotal, and therefore inexorably tied to the success of developed nations such as ours. I believe your insight to how they will transition into this new era as well as continue onward will give readers greater understanding of your arguments throughout the book regarding the need for a “superpower” to take charge and lead our world toward a sustainable future.

Davis Howley (not verified)
May 11th 2009, 10:56 pm

Mr. Friedman
Before the dawn of the industrial revolution in Europe, European countries were behind the rest of the world technologically, industrially, and inspirationally. But Europe soon discovered what it had that China, India, and Arabia did not (or at least did not know of at the time): coal. At its discovery it could not possibly have been known that it would prove to be one of the poorest investments ever made by mankind. The harnessing of carbon is a gift and a curse. To the industrial world for the majority of the past two centuries it allowed for technological advancements like the steam engine and the locomotive, but we are now paying the price for the luxury the world allowed us.
But it is not too late. Time is of the essence. Simply put there is not enough time for America to fix its problems and watch developing countries make the same mistakes the Western World did building societies based on carbon. We need a system of congruent evolution. Policy makers, alongside a strong minority of educated men and women, need to push for institutional change at the local and federal level. At the same time we should be hiring a young work force from AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, the Green Corps, and any other institution that values life on Earth united under one goal: to educate the people of America and set up workshops in developing nations around the world to teach the value of developing intellect and not industry.. Knowledge of what is right, sustainable, and supportive of a healthy future floods classrooms at present, but the dam needs to break. It needs to be taken to the streets and to the small villages of the world now! Policy in the United States must be enacted and we must practice what we preach. The eyes of the world are on the United States, why not project the image of a sustainable ways of life.
The clock is ticking, and the youth of this nation hear it and are ready to vote yes, vote green, and live by those decisions.

Harrison (not verified)
May 11th 2009, 10:05 pm

Mr Friedman:
In your book, you discuss the difficulties that stem from the lack of political activism of individuals who identify with environmental concerns, but who may not have the academic or political background they feel they need to implement change. You seek millions marching for the environment they way they did for civil rights. You also argue that politicians are less likely to make more stringent policies for fear that their constituents would be unwilling to sacrifice for the sake of the planet. I feel it would be helpful to suggest some direct action for the environmentally-aware public, who are often ignored by academic elites pushing for change from the top down, in order to make their voices heard and create immediate reform of our current energy situation, to meet that top from the bottom.
I propose taking a grassroots approach and creating a movement to place some sort of over-arching environmental referendum put to the public in upcoming elections, (that is a question posed to the public regarding whether to make reform of our energy policy.) This movement must begin on the ground with circulating petitions Once enough signatures have been achieved, a referendum could be placed on the ballots of those states which allow them. If those succeed, the initiative can then be moved into the federal realm.
Beginning at the state level, the petition could simply demand a renewed energy portfolio, one that requires that states diversify their energy providers so that renewable energy sources are in higher demand. That same initiative could move into the federal realm, or a different, carefully worded initiative could demand the removal of all subsidies of energy providers who rely on mining/extraction to the energy sources (including nuclear). (After the success of the state initiatives, legislators could draft any number of proposals for the reform of energy policy.)
The success of any initiative like this would be built, like the initiative itself, from the bottom. Accumulating signatures on petitions in support for energy reform will raise awareness among those signing as well as create pressure on the politicians witnessing the movement. This could be an opportunity for those who agonize over the threats facing the planet and what should be done about it to capitalize on the “green consumerism” washing over the nation. As this initiative grows, the government would have confirmation of the attitude of the general public, who increasingly supports government help in moving towards a cleaner economy. The clarification of the public's standpoint could be the inspiration for forward thinking policymakers who have been holding back their ideas for a green revolution, and spur the beginning of change in the nation's attitude towards sustainability.

saralee (not verified)
May 11th 2009, 4:14 pm

Mr. Friedman,

The aim of the book is spot-on: humans have dug themselves into a hole so far as planet and societal management is concerned, and it is high time to change if we are serious about becoming a more sustainable world community. America is indeed in an excellent place to step up and make changes within itself to lead by better example despite our sordid past industrialization and pollution. However, there is one major problem implicit with America motivaving all of its citizens and governments – local, regional, state, national – to lead the way: what is the rest of the world to do?
I’m sure that the petrodictatorships gaining millions of dollars every moment are not going to be happy about the sudden withdrawal of American funds as they begin moving towards clean energy development, or even in reduced use of fossil fuels. How will these countries deal with losing their largest-earning exports and loss of income thereafter, and how will their governments react? In no way does this imply that America should stay cheap and dirty for the benefit of other countries’ feelings and exports, but leaving this major player out in the dark without a plan (and known bad feelings towards America in the past) is a definite problem not addressed in this book. Is solar energy in desert climates feasible? Could thermocline energy be harvested from hot desert days and cold desert nights? Is wind energy an option in narrow mountain passes? Could any of these new energy options be exported or traded for profit?
Also, developing nations must feel an entitlement to develop just as America did with a carbon-rich advantage. While they are entitled to this opinion and indeed are growing each minute via heavily fossil-fueled means, how is this development to be regulated? To say that they can only grow by clean means (especially while America is still churning out smoke and carbon) is hypocritical and dictatorial from one of the world’s leaders. Not only should we lead, but we should encourage these countries to provide leadership and then lead our own country by example. America should provide leadership in the development of treaties, laws, and standards at various social levels (federal, state, and local) to infuse the impact of environmental change into people’s everyday lives in a constructive and meaningful way.

Leading by example on an international scale not only includes supporting change and acting on it at that scale, but it requires much-needed change at home concurrently. While the technologies and structures necessary for these national changes may not exist yet, it is said that necessity is the mother of invention. To spur environmentally-focused inventions of products, formulation of social constructs and processes to promote environmental change, and group together sponsoring foundations and organizations, a national registry and promoter of these initiatives could be created in the form of an overarching organization. In addition to inventing new products, other sponsored projects could include outreaches into local high schools and communities to promote environmental awareness and action in the form of voter support and awareness that drives those targeted to think environmentally beyond just green consumerism or turning off the lights when leaving a room. In leading the world, America must lead and organize itself first with a definite plan.

I really enjoyed the book and I'm looking forward to your future work!

Amanda (not verified)
May 11th 2009, 3:26 pm

Mr. Friedman,

In your book, you address very complex issues that an audience of intellectual elites would understand well, but I am concerned about the accessibility the rest of your readers might have in understanding these multifaceted topics. It seems you are targeting corporate leaders and policy makers as your primary audience, which is one approach to making change. However, I find myself wondering why you mention change through social action such as the civil rights movement, without trying to motivate that very change more within the working class or less educated society. The language you use seems to achieve the top down approach from which those in the position to change policy such as the politicians and decision makers, are given the tools to pressure the industrial powers at play. Wouldn’t influencing voters and consumers make en equally important impact on policy? Maybe this empowerment could be achieved by focusing more on green jobs and other issues understandable to those that might not yet have the critical thinking skills to analyze the complexity of environmental problems. Giving people a reason to believe in sustainability is the only way they will even consider changing their behavior and values. In order to do that, it is critical to consider the perspectives and worldviews of the working class. Doing so would make your book accessible to a broader audience, whether by context or language itself. As a result, awareness among the citizenry will increase, and with more awareness comes more political and industrial pressure for change from conscious citizens and consumers.

Thanks so much for your time, I enjoyed your book, and look forward to seeing the direction you take with this chapter 18 project.

Maryanne (not verified)
May 11th 2009, 3:20 pm

Dear Mr. Friedman,

America and China need to change their habits as they are two major countries that have the ability to change the path of climate change. Yet I feel that by only speaking of America and China, you place too little emphasis on developing nations to change as a response of the limited energy supply. From deforestation in Indonesia to industrialization in Africa, there are poor choices being made throughout the world with regards to our limited energy supply. Should we be focusing on repairing America and China, while leaving these other countries out of the picture until Americans can redeem themselves? If developing countries begin to industrialize quickly or in an environmentally detrimental way, as some already are and others will in the near future, then they too will be faced with drastic policy changes, unless they act now. By providing the necessary knowledge and skills in sustainability and efficiency with energy programs within developing countries that are in need of attention, we can help to direct where their development towards sustainability while trying to repair America’s. By providing direction for developing nations in Chapter 18, you will better accentuate the crucial role they will play in changing sustainability standards.

Loved your first book and look forward to the second!


Erika Bradley (not verified)
May 11th 2009, 2:58 pm

Mr. Friedman,

Your book brought to light something I hadn’t considered before. What can this green revolution movement really do, anyway? Consumers are thinking green, but they aren’t thinking more than that. To most consumers, buying a green product is doing their part. And their part ends there. It’s true that a consumer based movement won’t do much in the long run when it functions like this, but it might be a fantastic starting point. Ask your readers to begin thinking critically about their actions. If these green consumers begin thinking critically about environmental ideas – in short term and long term – I think the green revolution could become invaluable. Your book communicates so many fantastic and well developed ideas. But for any large scale change to occur, people must be thinking critically about the problems, observations and experiences – and know how to absorb and then act on them.

That being said, your book was wonderful and I enjoyed it! I look forward to the new Chapter 18!

Sara Simon (not verified)
May 10th 2009, 8:00 pm

Dear Mr. Friedman,

Thank you for defending the idea that we need to confront the great challenges facing us today. You have the ability to impress on citizens their capability to address pertinent problems and overcome obstacles the climate-energy crisis.

First of all, I want to clarify my own position and its impact on my beliefs and ideas in relation to my suggestions for Chapter 18. I am currently a college student studying the policy sciences. It is my hope to advocate for and address social and environmental challenges to improve society – a major challenge if our goal is sustainability.

You present some great ideas and have taken an active approach to addressing the problems we face with a strong analytical perspective. However, I think that you can reach a fuller potential to motivate and empower people to bring about serious and urgent change. One crucial purpose of the book is that you explore the problems by incorporating past and current trends and conditions (scientific, economic, and political) to demonstrate the relationship between humans and the environment. Unfortunately, I feel that one of the book’s limitations, which ultimately prevents it from reaching its full potential, is the lack of effective and explicit communication of alternatives and solutions. This occurs as a result of an incomplete description of social interactions in complex problems and, as a result, only partial recognition of the participants involved and those who will ultimately connect with the book.

Moreover, it is important to think about who can be the agents of change for the revolution that we need and how you (and Chapter 18) can better enlist those participants to understand the necessary and explicit alternatives. I believe that Chapter 18 has the promise to provide and create a sense of feasibility, collectiveness and urgency required to address these challenges through a better analysis of who is participating and who should be participating.

However, in order to create a positive vision, this book needs to better translate and make connections to participants across all sectors. You are well aware that this is a complex problem that is not only an environmental issue but a social, economic, technological and security issue. This can provide you with countless leverage points to empower citizens as change agents from top down, bottom up and across all sectors of America, as each of us, as part of our democratic process and institution, has an opportunity to improve the conditions of society to ensure sustainability.

I think that you do not address alternatives specifically or explicitly enough, and this impedes your capacity for empowerment. There is a disconnect between the problems that you describe in detail and the solutions that you provide. Your readers, I feel, struggle to be functional because they are left understanding why we need a green revolution but not fully how to improve conditions in America and how our leadership, individually and collectively, can influence our interactions with others as a force for good (either locally or globally).

Your readers (and all peoples) can become agents of change. We need to renew America to help set an example for other nations. It is essential for Chapter 18 emphasize the need to take swift actions, environmentally, socially, and economically. These actions should come not just from the leaders of our nation but from each individual, understanding and accepting the responsibility that comes with our power and affluence as citizens of the United States and the impacts that can have on a national and global scale.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration,
Elizabeth Cannon

Elizabeth Cannon (not verified)
May 10th 2009, 11:23 am

To impregnate the conservation idea in American's head, we need positive reinforcement at the point of purchase at retail venues nationwide.
Mandatory use of recycled carrying devices should be the norm. How to get there?
How about public service advertisements nationwide visually showing the ease of storing them in our Rolling Energy Storage Units?
This could germinate exponentially.

A few dollars spent at those industries as an incentive would be well spent.

keithpiccirillo (not verified)
May 10th 2009, 8:11 am

In Hot, Flat and Crowded you showed two examples of how top-down change can, and in fact is the only way to change the world we live in. You first give us an example on an international level, showing us that what the United States and China do as world leaders are what is going to ultimately decide the fate of the rest of the world. Your smaller example shows us how even within our American system of government, top-down change is what will promote stewardship among our citizenry. I feel as though both of these are valid and well argued points. However, there is one link that I think you could better clarify. You make no mention of the repercussions that will occur within developing and even developed nations other than China and the United States. I think that it would be best to complete the circle you have created by relating back to the readers what effects a change in our American system would have on other nations. In addition to doing this on a broader international scale, I think it would also be best if you addressed this more comprehensively on a national scale. You don’t seek to clarify the relationship between the American public and government once the government begins to initiate top-down change. I feel as though your argument would be more complete if you were to account for the viewpoints of individuals other than the extremely powerful, both at a national and international level. What happens to Saudi citizens when we stop buying Saudi oil? What happens to the average American citizen once we as a nation move into the energy climate era? Without considering the views of all involved your argument fails to come full-circle and thus loses some of its validity.

Kyle Shelton (not verified)
May 9th 2009, 3:48 pm

The most important line in the book is in italics on page 243: incremental breakthroughs are all we've had, but exponential is what we desperately need.

Only nuclear power has taken this exponential leap. Most nuclear plants around the world are light water reactors. A key concept of the book is that efficiency doesn't lower consumption, it allows clean growth. So, with maximum efficiency, the world needs at least twice what it uses now:15 terawatts. To provide the world with 30 terawatts would require 15,000 2,000 Mega Watt nuclear plants. If we built this many light water reactors, we would deplete global uranium reserves in 5 to 10 years. The reprocessing techniques now used in France would only double this short interval.

However, if we use Fast Neutron reactors, the fuel supply will last until the sun consumes the earth, billions of years from now. Now that's an exponential leap. Basically, Fast Neutron reactors (like the Superphoenix, built in France in 1984) are 100 times as fuel efficient. Uranium can be extracted from seawater for only 10 times the cost. So using seawater uranium in fast reactors would be 10 times cheaper, since these reactors are 100 times as efficient! Unlimited clean energy!

Anonymous (not verified)
May 8th 2009, 7:54 am

I welcome the Chapter 18, and Tom has to make some corrections about China. The common myth is, as shown on page 364, that about 40% of energy goes into buildings. That is true for most industrial nations, but it is not the case for China. And he insisted that ".. the one I believe will be most decisive in determining Red China becomes Green China is how the Chinese deal with their new building challenge." I agree the new building is really a challenge, but obviously we must focus on our energy efficiency of industrial sector, who consumes more than 70% of our energy. It is very important because if we are aiming something not that significant, or the west is trying to judging China's performance via building, it is misleading, and probably we can not get where we want. So I suggest to modify this idea and put industry first.

Samuel Zhou (not verified)
May 6th 2009, 10:45 am

Hello everyone. Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.
I am from Switzerland and also now am reading in English, give please true I wrote the following sentence: "Now, with his trio of pet like wall clocks named."

Thanks for the help :-), Zelia.

Zelia (not verified)
April 24th 2009, 2:16 pm

Dear Thomas,

This e-mail is a precursor to sending you a note about an idea which could be a breakthrough in the current struggle for the right stimulus and an evolutionary way of growing a new environmentally friendly economy which is much more sustainable than the current one.
I am an Israeli who has been living in Sydney Australia for the last 25 years. Our common acquaintance, Mr. Uzi Dayan, will attribute to me the same optimism, common to short men, who see the half full glass. I am preparing a sketch of the above idea to send to Mr. Kevin Rudd; however, it would be nice if I could run it via a sounding board. In similar circumstances, some thirty years ago I interacted with Prof. Haim Harari as a sounding board, to found and build in Israel a project which eventually became the largest enterprise in the world in the area of one to one tutoring for disadvantaged children, called “Perach”, winning the Israel Prize last year.

I hope that this e-mail will establish contact, subsequent to which I will send you for a start a one pager that captures the essence of my idea.

Sincerely yours,


Dr. Rony Attar (not verified)
April 13th 2009, 8:00 am


I am reading your book right now, I find it interesting and have been using some of the ideas in my daily work. i help companies automate their processes, and come across some pretty bad examples of energy wastage and unecessary waste creation!
I love your book and ideas, but I think the energy and waste aspect I see every day on production plants is unknown to the common america which consumes no matter what! Through people like yourselves, we can make green manufacturing a consumer choice- the trigger could be that every manufacturer will have to label products with how much energy was used to produce it and how much waste was generated! This could be the new selling point- well and beyond the current efficiency data, ingredients etc that we see on products at the automobile dealers and grocery shelves!

How about the new holistic and consumer driven approach to energy management and waste reduction being the basis of Chapter 18

madhukar (not verified)
April 10th 2009, 9:44 am

I made an interesting observation on how the media takes scientific data and puts their own false meaning behind an environmental/"global warming" subject:

1) A certain news agency reports a story of how driving one's car or operation of a motor boat will cause the sea levels to rise in 2050 therefore possibly flooding parts of the Eastern United States.

2)Same news organization reports that an underwater volcano erupted in the Pacific ocean spewing millions of units of methane, etc. into the ocean and the atmosphere. The article goes on to report that there were no reports of human beings, flora or fauna affected by the eruption.

That's BULLSHIT!!! How can that be? It is a natural activity that causes "Global Warming". The effect was short term with no immediate human impact, but the creation of an island HAS a long term global enviromental impact. It is neither negative nor positive just a natural impact.

and my favorite.....

3) Again the same news organization reports that the analysis of ice from glaciers(similar to interpreting tree rings) suggests that there was a warmer global warming period much more significant than the current trend, about 13,000 years ago.

Where were all the cars, factories and polluting technology?

Look to the history of our surrounding planets. The planets have a natural cyclical, yet violent history? We are no different. It is arrogant to think so. We should be MORE concerned with stopping or lessening waste and pollution. We need to stop the global warming gloom and doom rhetoric, similar to the gloom and doom rhetoric of the nukes race of the 1970"s and 1980's. There are a lot of great ideas about lessening energy dependence, stopping pollution and waste and creating newer energy resources. Let's focus on that and let science focus on science and its meaning behind the measurements. The media needs to be careful not to contradict itself in so many details.

Don (not verified)
April 8th 2009, 10:26 am

The best book I've ever read about sustainable development is "Prescription for the Planet," by Tom Blees. Basically, if you think nuclear power has to wait around for fusion to be truly clean and sustainable, think again. Generation IV Fast reactors have an unlimited fuel supply, employ passive safety mechanisms, can burn up nuclear waste from light water reactors as fuel, would eliminate the need for mining, milling, and enrichment of uranium, and use a proliferations-resistant fuel cycle. All at a reasonable cost, which will become cheaper through mass production.

If you really want a treat about energy, google "Rickover energy speech." The father of the nuclear submarine predicted what we would be facing now over 50 years ago.

Anonymous (not verified)
April 6th 2009, 6:56 pm

I dont believe the World is Flat. In fact i feel it is full of TRENCHES in which the billion odd people are crawling like SPIDERS.

Secondly I WANT TO BUY GOOGLE. Caught you off guard, right?

Actually this is the title of the NANOWRIMO winning novel i wrote in 2007. It tells the story of an autistic child who belives GOOGLE is a toy and can be bought in a supermarket.

Globalisation is not due to technology development but due to cultural integration and knowledge diffusion.

Dr Jayanth G Paraki (not verified)
April 3rd 2009, 8:35 pm

I just wrote a 15-page term paper review of your (and my) ideas on green jobs.

The premise is that this field, while booming now, is still missing a lot that will be needed for it to reach its potential as a major factor in the transformation to a green economy.

Please let me know of a way I could send it to you.

Matt Polsky

matt polsky (not verified)
April 2nd 2009, 6:25 am

The term 'sustainable' has been devalued. It means 'that which will sustain' and, in the context of our sustainable future, it probably means environmentally beneficial living. Not only do we have the knowledge to do this it also promises to be extremely prosperous rather than a state of sacrifice and denial.

If this knowledge were to be integrated with corporate economic knowledge there is the possibility of a multi-national corporate organism offering, in the development marketplace, a product considerably more attractive, affordable and prosperous than its only competition; suburbia. In addition this organism can offer the most attractive long-term, sustainably growing, product in the investment market.

There must be people with corporate economic knowledge who not only 'get it' but would like to kick-start the major growth industry of the 21st century.

The concept is outlined at

I hope the idea engages with you and that you can help answer a question. How do we get the idea under the noses of people with the skills we need?

Thank you so much for your work

Robin Harrison

Robin Harrison (not verified)
March 31st 2009, 5:17 pm

Well this is not to comment on Ch.18. I lived in the Middle East - in Kuwait,Iran & Iraq for about 35 years. I wanted to thank you for answering the questions I used to ask my Palestinian,Lebanese,Iraqi & Syrian friends about their leaders' perverse habit of declaring defeats as glorius victories.I never did get an answer from them. I too was on the road from Beirut to Jerusalem but as an Indian expatriate worker in Kuwait & Iran who watched the madness of the region with exasperation and sadness and also anger.However in Kuwait we Asians were not supposed to have any opinion - we were just "Rafiqs" meaning "hey boy" or "you niggers" though I am sure you know that in Arabic the word means "friend" or even "comrade".But let one Asian dare call a Kuwaiti or Saudi "Rafiq" and all hell would break loose!!

But there was this thing about Israel - after we went through the invasion in Kuwait, Kuwaitis said to me, "An Israeli soldier would not have done what these Iraqis did here." And having been always an unabashed supporter of Israel ( especially when called a rafiq by some idiot in Kuwait) I did feel that in Gaza, the Israeli Army acted no better than the Germans in Warsaw. It hurts, especially when in Auschwitz I knelt and cried, though I am not Jewish but a Buddhist Indian. Israel has lost its moral bearings. Something I feel Gandhi would have predicted if he had lived long enough.

Thanks again for giving me the privelage to read From Beirut to Jerusalem.

ravi nayar (not verified)
March 30th 2009, 7:46 am

If you want to be credible, you need to answer, with valid science, the following: Since the ice core data that Gore used in his movie shows that temp. rises for several hundreds of years before CO2 begins to rise, how can CO2 be the cause of rising temperatures?

Also, since it has cooled for the past decade and for about 45 of the past 68 years while CO2 has risen dramatically during that time, how can you claim that CO2 causes temp. to increase?

Since the UN's IPCC and many other science org. have agreed that the planet will cool for at least the next decade and most likely 30 years or so, why is there any urgency to curtail CO2 emissions when CO2 emissions imporve all plant growth and have caused no net warming since the 1930s; 1934 being the warmest year on record for the US?

Since NASS satellites show that the extent of ice in Antarctica is about 20% greater than when the satellites first went up about 30 years ago, why is there any need to be concerned about sea level rise?

bill allen (not verified)
March 21st 2009, 10:44 am