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.


Health care is the #2 user of energy in the nation, and therefore the #2 contributor to global warming. It is also currently 15% of GDP, expected to go as high as 20%. An idea for jump starting innovation of practical technologies for non carbon based sources of energy is the following.

Link energy efficiency, and especially use of alternative energy sources to higher medicare reimbursements. Hospitals struggle mightily with the very thin financial margins they work within. Medicare reimbursement is particularly challenging, because it is lower than other insurers. Medicare reimbursement is already linked to quality, and the goal of following evidence based practice. In recognition that healthcare is a big part of the problem of climate change, goverment could also reward institutions that are tackling their energy use issues by increasing medicare reimbursements by even a few percentage points. When healthcare looks for solutions in the market, because of the size (15% of GDP), the market listens.

Another related idea to push the market is to offer no interest bonds or loans to healthcare institutions specifically for investment in alternative energy sources. It saves money in energy costs for hospitals, cuts carbon, and helps create and support a market for alternative sources.

In my opinion our biggest challenge right now is the environment, hinging on climate. A second very large problem is healthcare. They are related, but have not been linked much in public discussions. To work in the overlap area will potentially yield big gains.

Beth, RN (not verified)
January 1st 2009, 10:13 am

Very intriguing and spot on. By the way The Ontario Energy Board in Canada and the Ontario Power Authority announced on Mar 21, 2006 that the Province of Ontario will set "a price of 42 cents per kilowatt hour for solar photovoltaic projects". Remember us - we are just North of you guys and are very concerned as well. Obama is a great 1st step, let's just hope he has some time to address this MOST pressing need - given everything else on his agenda. Interestingly by recognizing this and making it priority ONE - helps almost everything else. The economy, the wars, jobs and so on. Imagine using Iraq as a proving ground for some of the newer further out solar technology and leaving it behind to help the people there once the Green Hawks no longer need them to stave off the attacks on the fuel convoys. An excellent chapter by the way. A win Win WIn WIN scenario. Keep the movement going - we just need some heavy traction!

David in Canada (not verified)
December 29th 2008, 1:49 pm

Dear Mr. Friedman, thank you for writing Hot, Flat, and Crowded, and thank you also for asking for reader input. I would like to suggest that Chapter 18 (or perhaps even a new Chapter 1!) should address physical limits and feasibility of energy sources. I would like to suggest that you read two books (and distill their contents into your Chapter 18):

“Sustainable Energy - without the hot air” by David MacKay

“Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines” by Richard Muller

Both MacKay and Muller are Physicists by training, but both write in a manner “... intended to be accessible to everyone who can add, multiply, and divide.” (MaKay). MacKay looks at what it would take for England to use renewable energy sources. In short he calculates that, “... if economic constraints and public objections are set aside, it would be possible for the average European energy consumption of 125 kWh/d per person to be provided from these country-sized renewable sources. The two hugest contributors would be photovoltaic panels, which, covering 5% or 10% of the country, would provide 50 kWh/d per person; and offshore wind farms, which, filling a sea-area twice the size of Wales, would provide another 50 kWh/d per person on average.” Muller covers many topics in his book, only some of which are related to energy (he cover climate change as well – I think you would get a lot out of reading what he has to say on this topic). In a section on solar power Muller describes that sunlight delivers to the ground about 1 kilowatt (or 1 horsepower) per square yard. This is assuming 100% efficiency (and solar cells today are about 15% efficient). So, solar cells covering a car might be able to deliver roughly 2 horsepower if 100% efficient.

I believe that a Chapter 18 on feasibility will help put into perspective the challenges and opportunities that are ahead of us. Such a chapter can also help readers to better understand green snake oil and other bogus claims of cheap energy sources. Engineering and market forces cannot achieve what is physically impossible. Your readers need to understand what is, and is not, physically possible and feasible.

I look forward to your version 2.0.

Best regards,

Ken Christensen

Ken Christensen (not verified)
December 27th 2008, 12:00 am

Mr. Friedman,

This might be overly simple, but your book talks about a pre-Industrial ppm of CO2 at around 280? Why are our leaders planning for capping (as the EU) rise in global temperature? Don't we need a plan for getting the global CO2 back around 280 ppm? Maybe it would be political suicide to legislate that, even over 5 or 10 years? Maybe it would be regular suicide to not? Shouldn't we attempt to refreeze some mountain water, get the temperature back under control altogether?

Joshua Siegal (not verified)
December 26th 2008, 10:18 pm

Here's a suggestion for Chapter 18...

One of the major unadrressed issues of a Green Revolution is that almost all green technologies require more maintenance.

Solar and wind power for example require very large physical structures that need to be cleaned, adjusted, polished, and supported on a regular basis. Sounds mundane I know but it has been a big obstacle to success over the decades.

Coal or nuclear power plants require much less of this kind of maintenance, on a per-kilowatt basis. Just the nature of the beast.

"Sustainability" of society means more cleanup, more attention to small details, and all this takes physical labor.

Fortunately just as we are revolutionizing green technology, we are realizing huge jumps in the support, maintenance, and construction technologies behind the scenes.

Intelligent wireless networks can constantly watch machinery, even spread out over large geographic distances. Several new robotics ventures are building robotic systems that could do large-scale maintenance and ecological cleanup for a low cost to society. There are other technologies now for "mining" old waste dumps and turning old metal and plastic into pure profit.

So please don't forget all of us who are building "behind the scenes" technologies enabling the green revolution (and having a great time doing it!)

Tom Benson
CEO Readybot Robotics

Tom Benson (not verified)
December 26th 2008, 1:49 pm

Dear Thomas,
your books have been so inspiring to me that my wife and I disposed of our hedge fund businesses and followed your guidance to place a greater importance on planet, people then profit. We have since launched a new alternative energy and water investment business and are now the proud managers of THE EARTH WIND AND FIRE FUND - please keep up the good work, you really are making a difference. Sincerely, Anric and Lauralouise Blatt

Anric (not verified)
December 26th 2008, 11:39 am

Solutions which serve "double duty" and don't require sacrifice are the ones that the American people will embrace. Add government tax incentives and you've created a perfect storm for green energy adoption. For example, if solar roofing tiles were available to individuals building houses or wishing to decrease their dependence on outside energy sources, they would serve as roofs, overcome the objections of solar panels being unsightly as they lay flat on the roof, and they would generate energy for the houses. In addition, if current or enhanced tax rebates were available, these roofs would be comparable to what is available now. These are the types of ideas which need to be nurtured by Obama's administration.

Kelly Davis (not verified)
December 25th 2008, 2:22 pm

Dear Mr.Friedman,
After reading most of the posts here, general opinion that, americans are worried about themselves only seems to be true. Had it not been for americans to be affected by Global Warming they would never bothered to be worried about that. Nobody seems to be really worried about the Green Revolution for that matter. Americans still are i, me, myself generation.
Leaving that aside, i would like to share my experience., which may be the idea for your Chapter 18. We are from place called Sangamner in maharashtra state of India. We firmly believe that to fight global warming alongwith reducing carbon emissions its necessary to plant trees. So we started a peoples movement in our area called as "The Dandkaranya Abhiyaan" over here.
In this, since June 2006 we have planted almost 90 million seeds. This movement was started by our grandfather Mr. Bhausaheb Thorat at ripe age of 84. He was inspired by the book "The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono" also he was inspired by the quote "When we plant trees we plant seeds of peace & seeds of hope by Noble Laureate Prof.Wangari Maathai" . What we think is that planting more and more trees is one of the best solutions.We would also appreciate a visit from you this June 2009 when we start for year 2009. You can go through .

sangram (not verified)
December 25th 2008, 1:13 am

Dear Mr. Friedman,

A Malaysian friend of mine put this on his blog on 5 December 2008.

- Dear all friends and all my viewers. Please... please... please... I beg you all please... please read this book. This book is the best thing that ever happened to mankind. If you love your childrens' future, please read this book by Thomas L. Friedman - Hot, Flat and Crowded -

Now allow me to tell you the significance of this. My friend is a young Malaysian who works in his country's ministry of foreign trade. This week he has been very busy writing speeches for the Prime Minister about the economic crisis. At one time he was tasked to draft his country's oil policy. He often writes columns about economic policy for the national news service and is a frequent TV and radio guest. He is a rising star.

He and I became friends when we met in our Master's of Strategic and Defense Studies class at the University of Malaya. My (mostly Muslim) classmates asssumed that as an American I would know a lot about Israel (a topic which consumes their thinking to a disturbing degree). Unfortunately, I don't know much about Israel and told them that "everything I know about Israel, I learned from Tommy Friedman." My friend with the blog was the only one who came forward and asked to borrow your book "From Beirut to Jerusalem." He and I now have a common starting point in our discussions on Israel and the Middle East.

As for me, I am a US Army officer studying in Malaysia under the auspices of the Olmsted Foundation Scholarship. This is a kind of culturally and politically "out of body" experience which allows me to look at the US from the outside. My perspective leads me to believe as you do that we are witnessing a social revolution at least as momentous as the industrial revolution before it. This will have profound implications for the way we fight wars and do intelligence work in the future. For a taste of what I am referring to, check out something called the "alternate reality game" (Wired magazine did a fascinating article on one such game about a year ago.) This, and the increasingly important "horizontal chain of command" used by some businesses which you described in your book "The World is Flat" are the basis for some really groundbreaking ideas that I have for future military doctrine.

I would like to give a voice to these as yet undeveloped ideas but will only take the time to do so if you inquire about it.

By the way, I think it would be a great thing if my friend with the blog received a note from you. It would make his entire year...Let me know if you want the link.

Lin (not verified)
December 24th 2008, 10:01 pm

I really enjoyed your book and am glad that such a powerful and logical voice is supporting the green revolution. I believe the most important addition you could make to your book is advocating a decrease in our meat consumption.

I am not one of those people who will preach about how immoral eating meat is, although we do treat animals inhumanely. I just think that given the facts that the livestock industry is responsible for 18% of our global warming emissions, and 30% of our ice-free land is used to raise livestock (this was in the New York Times, it can't be wrong!), how can you not at least mention how eating less meat can help our fight against global warming?

I don't know if it is for political reasons or what, but no one seems to be advocating just how much of an impact lessening our meat consumption could have. For me, it was much easier to become a vegetarian than to stop driving my car. I don't expect everyone to become a vegetarian, but what a world of difference it would make if people ate even a couple of meat-free meals a week. It is estimated that 2,500 gallons of water are required to produce one pound of beef. Our rainforests are being cleared to make room to graze cattle. Livestock create noxious waste problems. Think of the land we could reforest or commit to growing biofuels if the demand for meat dropped. Imagine how many hungry people we could feed around the world if our grain stopped going to fatten livestock and instead went to malnourished people.

Please consider advocating a decrease in meat consumption in Chapter 18. People simply don't realize how harmful eating meat is for the environment, and all they need is to be made aware. Your book is the perfect channel from which they can learn.

Tanya (not verified)
December 24th 2008, 9:45 pm

Oh my God...the sky is falling! the sky is falling! everybody panic! the earth is flat and the sky is falling and the ice is melting! everybody panic! let's try to solve all of our problems by trying to very indirectly control the weather by limiting the atmospheric concentration of CO2 to 500 parts per million (that's 0.05% by the way). Good luck. If I'm faced with bad weather, I'm going to do my best to shelter myself from it or move the hell away from it. Good luck with that thing where your going to control the weather thing by capturing CO2, eliminating cow farts, and stopping people from doing it and having babies. Hope that works out for you. How ridiculous! Somebody on this post had the idea of trying to put orbiting mirrors in the sky to help reflect sunlight. As wacky as that sounds, I'll bet it has a much better chance of impacting the weather than all of this focus on CO2.

Anonymous (not verified)
December 23rd 2008, 9:57 pm

Perhaps this is one of those game changing ideas.

Jim W (not verified)
December 23rd 2008, 12:19 pm

Suggestion: Education is key to the change necessary - raising people's awareness. I have been an educator for the last 30 years - getting ready to retire now. I am reading HFC. Our American Dream came from our feelings of entitlement - our deeply held belief in Manifest Destiny. So far in my reading, you have alluded to it & described it without using that term. It has driven philosophy and behavior for arguably 150 years or more in this country, and this is the philosophy, which infects human beings with affluenza. We must find a way to change this paradigm. When I used to teach English, I devoted my entire school year to the essential question: "Just because we can, should we?" With every unit and literary experience, my students had to write a reflection on this question. We must always encourage the "can," through science and discovery - developing the imagination & curiosity. What we must do is add the ethics of "should," developing the human connection to our planet & its well-being. I don't see much ethics teaching in any of our public schools - I don't see much discussion of ethics in any arena - There needs to be a new area of ethics having to do with our human relationship with this planet. I agree with many of the comments having to do with involving students in this work - they are the future of our planet. I have taught over 3000 students in my career, and there are many who can be trusted with the care and feeding of this planet - they seem to have been born with wisdom. That is the nature of our conversation - we must stop thinking that strength is the only avenue to "success." We must understand the role of "wisdom."

Kate (not verified)
December 23rd 2008, 8:14 am

Dear Mr. Friedman- As with TWIF, H,F and C will stir a great deal of important thinking about these critical issues. Although your reference base for H,F and C is significant, i was particularly struck by the absence of any reference to Thomas Senge's recent seminal work, The Necessary Revolution, which is also about energy. As you know, Senge is "the systems guy," and as you wrote in your book, "it takes a system to create a system." Here is the one point he makes that you suggest to some degree, but it is not completely apparent in your book: A system that results in anything other than a "win-win" outcome will result in collapse. While I am patriotically connected to the "nation-building" you describe for America, any systems that will result in American success and growth must also include GLOBAL success and growth, or we will see a new version of collapse. If China pollutes for five years, and then we step in to sell them clean technology, this is another short-term application versus a sustainable solution.

In a recent educational journal, you had a discussion with Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind. I would be THRILLED to read a conversation between you and Peter Senge about the real systems that can and must be built to address the energy issues the entire world is facing. As a result of such a positive connection, maybe there could be the development of a system that would help everyone to thrive. Aeylin Summers

Aeylin Summers (not verified)
December 22nd 2008, 7:45 pm

Mr. Friedman,

As a seventeen year old, I would appreciate it if you would acknowledge the younger generation in your book briefly. I am so tired of hearing that we have no future. What can we do to reverse this fatalistic statement?
Thank you.

A. Wade (not verified)
December 22nd 2008, 3:09 pm

Hello, Mr. Friedman,

I am one of those millions who have benefited a lot by reading TWIF. I am very impressed by Hot, Flat and Crowded too.

As someone who has been following events and ideas related to climate change since a couple of years, I have some suggestions:

1. If I am not wrong, the term "embodied energy" was used just once near the very end of the book. I think the concept of embodied energy is very important and fundamental. I am sure the amount of energy we spend on importing the zillions of tons of goods and materials from far away places to the US is significant compared to the amount of energy that was spent to actually produce them!

If the embodied energy of a $20 shirt made in China is 100 J (at the point of sale in the US), vs. 60 J for a $30 shirt made in Honduras, I'd buy the one made in Honduras! I wish the Fed mandated printing estimated embodied energy on every product to help make us consumers informed decisions. If the consumers, who basically drive our free market economies, don't have the necessary knowledge, how on earth can the market/system be near perfect???

2. Though I am not an economist or even a student of Economics, I think the ideas of people like E F Schumacher deserve to be mentioned in the book. Unlike many people seem to be thinking, the crises we are facing are not unforeseen; people like Schumacher have been red-flagging since decades!

3. Though you have done a great job in sounding apolitical, I think you have downplayed the true need for us to significantly reduce our rate of consumption and change our materialistic lifestyles. I don't think you emphasized enough how important a fundamental change in our value system is to make a significant and long-lasting impact on our future.

Thank you for your attention!


ASP (not verified)
December 19th 2008, 3:28 pm

I really enjoy your work. Thank you for helping us as citIzens of America become more aware of what we can do. I am commenting on my experience 2 days ago. I live in the Pacific Northwest and have all my life, almost 60 years. It doesn't entitle me to anything except my experience. It took me 2 hours to travel a distance home that should have taken 20 minutes. I made it home 4 hours later. I live on the south hill and we have 7 major roads that bring people home and to work everyday. The snow which fell all day beginning before 7 a m brought our town to a stand still by 4 p m. Thousands of gallons of gas were used up by idling cars waiting and waiting to move. While one is in a car trying to get home there is no tv set to find out where to go to get home. As part of a solution, I would love to see a centralized radio station to help drivers to know that we should either stay off the road until plowing is done, which could not be accomplished because so many people were on the roads. This is also my opinion, with all of the 4 wheel drive vehicles that people are driving, the necessity for plowing has become minimelized. Those of us who have front wheel and do not use studs so there is less damage to streets are rather stuck. Yes, I will carry chains from now on. However, in changing our autos over to smaller and more efficient, less polutive modes of trans we also need to look at the big picture of keeping streets safe for travel and commerce. I cannot depend on my city to keep me safe during the winter. Intersections are sheets of ice as are the roads. So in this transition, which I hope happens, to smaller environtally friendly vehicles, we also need to have environmentally friendly plows and sanders, bio-diesel fueled or ?, and some kind of emergency system that helps people deal with what is going on in the present moment in the communities that we live in.

There seems to be a lot of frustration for people with ideas that will bring positive change. My hope that is that your writings and those ideas that are presented here can somehow become manifested. It certainly is a grassroots effort because unfortunately money rules at the top. We need to make efforts of change something that greed will buy into. Why not work with greed instead of against it. Rhetorical question, of course, but what we work against, works against us.

dr (not verified)
December 19th 2008, 11:51 am

I haven't quite finished Hot, Flat, and Crowded, but as an educator I can't help feeling that we are missing a huge bet by leaving young students--particularly adolescents--out of this dialogue. I'd love to see a web site for teachers to use in presenting project-based learning applications of this material. The students of today are the ones who will live with our mess if we don't take corrective action--let's empower them as creative thinkers to help avert disaster!

Anonymous (not verified)
December 18th 2008, 11:23 pm

Great book. I have several comments, but for now, I want to address your suggestion in Chapter 12 that we need to reward utilities for efficiency. Bad idea. This would just create another government bureaucracy with all the inherent potential for corruption and backroom dealing.

The real solution already exists, paricularly here in the rural west. The answer is co-ops. Co-ops are consumer-owned, not investor-owned. They have no profit motive and actively encourage conservation. They offer rebates to customers who purchase energy-efficient appliances and heating systems. They allow solar-powered homes and businesses to sell their power on the grid while the sun is shining - rolling back their meters. They encourage the purchase of renewable energy. At my last co-op meeting, I received 4 CFLs and two strings of LED Christmas lights. "Profits" are returned to the consumers as patronage capital refunds.

Unfortunately, our local co-op doesn't own its generating plants. But that could be changed. Investor-owned utilities should use their profits to buy back their stock and become co-ops. This is NOT nationalization of utilities and does not involve the taxpayers, just the consumers. It's definately the win-win way to go.

Eilene Lyon (not verified)
December 17th 2008, 12:17 pm

I have yet to find any credible "proof" that humans are causing global warming. The media now simply glosses-over this issue as if it is a proven fact. If there is proof available, someone please point me to it. It is baffling to me that Al Gore can simply make a movie claiming that global warming exists pointing only to a tiny part of Antarctica and a timeline chart of carbon content in the atmosphere and temperature in 1,000 year increments and everyone swallows it. One need only look at the rest of Antarctica and shorten the time series to see that his conclusions evaporate. Where is the proof? If it is so obvious and clear that we are causing global warming, somebody please identify the proof! The trust is that the earth has been heating and cooling on its own, and will continue to do so regardless of what humans do. Most credible scientists say that heating and cooling cycles are caused by sun activity, as eevidenced by the quantity of sun spots visible on the surface of the sun-more sun spots means hotter and less; cooler. If anyone out there can identify any proof whatsoever that human activity causes global warming, I would love to see it.

Craig Allen (not verified)
December 16th 2008, 10:37 am

A flatter earth should signal the end of the concave desktop.

As I traveled to my favorite lunch spot with my friends once or twice a week during 2007 I noticed a large construction project taking off. It was set way back in an area that used to be a tobacco field in north central Connecticut.

Each day as we passed the construction site the area grew larger and larger with more and more people and vehicles participating in the project. Before long iron began to be erected and a huge ‘Coming Soon’ sign erected at the drive-way entrance announcing the coming of a big financial firm to the area. As I learned, several smaller units were being combined and being united in this new 2000 person building.

A few months later as the project progressed, I noticed road construction at the intersection where we turned onto the rural road. And again, and the end of the road, past the building project where the road intersected another main road, more road construction was commencing. That’s about where the Day Hill Deli was located – our sandwich shop.

It seems the town had agreed to reconstruct both ends of the road leading to this huge office building so that morning and afternoon traffic would not be impeded by employees coming to and going from the site.

I was reading The World Is Flat at the time and I was imagining many things about this new office building. I asked my friends one day upon passing the site, “Do you know what that company makes”? “No”, one remarked. “I thought they were a financial outfit”. I said, “They are – they don’t make anything. Do you know what three things will go into that building every single day once it opens”, I asked rhetorically? “..People, office supplies, and food. And do you want to know what will come out each evening? Hopefully all of the people, and later on, … trash. That’s it.”

Yes, two thousand knowledge workers and support staff were being located into a five story multi-million dollar office building and roads were being widened and farmland was being covered over for what? In order to produce a few dumpster loads of trash five days a week. Everything else done inside that building either stayed in the building or was sent somewhere electronically – they’re a financial outfit! They don’t make anything!

At first my friends just thought I was a little nuts. But I began telling them about this book I was reading. I said, “Guys, look at the job I do. I conduct quality review audits of software components with people in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Pennsylvania, two cities in Connecticut, and if I’m working from home, another town in Massachusetts.

“Why can’t they work that way”, I asked? I’m certain that all of those people are either knowledge workers or support staff and every single one of them has a networked computer. I’ll also bet that every single one of them has an internet-connected computer in their home as well.

Yes, my friends said, but Management would not allow everyone to work from home – they have to have the people close by so they can see them working. And that was the ‘rub’. Most managers were still measuring work by the concave desk method.

I’ve worked at the same place for 38 years. Yep, I’m one of a dying breed. I was outsourced in 1999, but my desk did not change. Back in 1980 I worked a lot closer to the shop floor in another type of IT function, numerical control programming for machining jet aircraft engine hardware. Interesting and exciting work at times, but the manager was so 1950’s I couldn’t stand it for more than two years. My friend Ray in that department used to laugh outwardly at Doug our manager. Ray used to say, Doug only knows if you’re working hard if you have a concave desk. What?! I said. He explained that if you were sitting at your desk banging your head on the desktop until you dented it in, then in Doug’s eyes you must be working hard. If you were out on the shop floor trying to solve or resolve problems, or if you were sharing ideas with other coworkers, you were obviously not working.

Well, it seems that even today, many managers still measure work by the concave desk method. Those times have got to change. If managers cannot plan and manage work by accurate Project Plans and actual output, then maybe they should not be managers. With today’s technology, knowledge workers can and should work from wherever they live.

Just imagine the possibilities and efficiencies of that! Company insurance, and the entire cost of ownership of a huge building; Each employee can write off a room of their home as a home office. Imagine the gasoline saved if just those 2000 people did not drive every day. And what about flu season? Do you know how many people get sick because they work with someone who is sick and doesn’t (or feels they can’t) stay home? Plenty. What would a terrorist bomb, if everyone worked from home?

We can take full advantage of the triple convergence, or we can cover our sore heads with keffiyehs and burkas.

Mark Dintzner (not verified)
December 15th 2008, 11:09 am

Mr. Friedman,
Am a big fan , read all your books, follow the NYT religiously, have met you several times in Sarasota and Aspen. am in the middle of Hot, Flat and Crowded as we speak. On page 54 you go through an empiric description of how the power plant construction in Doha and Dalian will more than overwhelm whatever steps, such as driving Priuses, using flourescent lighting, etc we can achieve here. You use the breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert analogy. Cute, but I think you missed a real opportunity here and perhaps this is something you can incorporate in Chapter 18. I think it would have been fascinating and more relevant to the description of the scale of the global warming problem if you had presented some hard numbers, for example how many hybrid vehicles or flourescent bulbs to counter the polluting effect of even a single new coal-fired power plant, much less the new plants coming on line every other week all over the world. I am sure that the data (1)exists, and (2) is probably depressing. I would not want to scare the public into throwing up their hands because of the seeming futility of any one individual's efforts. But I think the world really needs a major reality check. BAU is just not going to cut it anymore without leading to incredible, destructive environmental consequences.
While we are on the subject of global warming, I wonder what is being done to address the input side of the equation, namely what is being considered to block sunlight before it ever strikes the planet. I know of suggestions for seeding the atmosphere with sulfur dioxide but no-one is sure of all the consequences, some of which may very well be harmful. What about physically blocking sunlight by huge mirrors or massive reflective foils placed over strategic areas of the earth such as the arctic. I know this would be a huge undertaking and that the technology to do this may not exist now, but is anyone even looking at this possibility? Given the stakes here, nothing can be taken off the table. Thanks for the great work. Howard A Grossbard, MD

HOWARD GROSSBARD (not verified)
December 14th 2008, 9:48 pm

Hello everyone,

Thanks Tom, for your work in bringing these problems to everyone's attention and focusing the work that needs to be done on solving these problems.

We too, are also receiving quite a lot of ideas and suggestions regarding Carbon Emissions, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Carbon Free Energy, Pollution Free Power, and Renewable Energy Technologies on our websites:

so many, that we are planning to begin posting them and placing them in blogs.

Several are being analyzed by our Scientific Advisory Board at our Institute for Climate Solutions.

One thing we have learned in the past 10 years..... the present technologies for generating Carbon Free Energy and Pollution Free Power is sufficient to provide the planet with all of the "free" clean power we need, we only need to start building the Concentrating Solar Power plants and Utility Scale Wind Farms - instead of the coal fired power plants.


Mont Goodell
Chairman and President
Institute for Climate Solutions

Mont Goodell (not verified)
December 14th 2008, 3:29 pm

My apologies.. Even a high IQ doesn't guarantee a working brain..Lol. I now see where the comments have been sorted into catagories and my previous post was indeed amidst the visible. I shall again say I am sorry and wish you the very best of holiday seasons.
Gary Lee Connor

Gary Lee Connor (not verified)
December 14th 2008, 6:02 am

I'll preface this by saying I am not spam and I am just seeking an answer. Please do not put me on the "humor the poster/spam list" that is only visible to the people on it..(I have an IQ in excess of 190..Not hard for me to figure out..Lol.)

Dear Mr Friedman,

I have some time ago developed a much superior Hydro-electric system that can increase the stability of our power grid while eliminating the need for for any other type of power plant such as coal burning and Nuclear while also reaping the benefits of reclaiming much more land with pressurized irrigation that can be run hundreds of miles inland. It can also keep waterways open and it is very efficient at flood control along moving waterways....and can be implemented with current technology and materials.
My problem has been when I have contacted 98 of our representatives in D.C. who expressed interest in finding answers to our energy problems or greenhouse emissions, or both, I have not gotten one single response. Not even one asking how it works..I contacted the Australian Government once...And Keving Rudd's office immediately brought me together with Senator the Honorable Penny Wong and Mr. Gareth Evans to do a fast track study on what it would take to implement.
You say our country should be the leader in renewable green energy and that the world should license from us..Ok....FINE!
I am more than willing to work with my own Government. How do you propose I should get them to work with me?
I shall await your answer...
Gary Lee Connor
605 N 2nd St.
Yakima WA 98901

Gary Lee Connor (not verified)
December 14th 2008, 5:41 am

Hello Tom,

My name is Fred Abramson. I had the pleasure of meeting you a couple of summers ago. I was Don Dworkin’s guest at BCC and we played a very enjoyable round with you. I told you then, and I repeat it now, that I’m a Tom Friedman fan – despite my what I say below.
I just finished “Hot, Flat, and Crowded” and have to make a number of comments. Let me give you my background. I have a Ph.D. in physical chemistry. I was a professor and researcher at GW Medical School for 31 years before retiring in 2004 to move to La Quinta, CA (where we golf 365 days/year). My qualifications do not entitle me to evaluate or critique the data on global climate change. However, being a practitioner of the scientific method as well as a hard-core contrarian, I have to share some of my concerns with what your book and other commentators say.
The single point from which most of my arguments flow is the book’s seeming equality of ecological goals to petro-political goals. Even before the oil embargo in the 70's, I’ve been convinced that the use of fossil fuels was foolish. Then, it was just the inevitability of shortages, but more recently the devastating effects of the petrodictators further promote my enthusiasm for energy independence. I’ve read “Collapse”. I’m sensitive to the environment. But this country has spent a disgusting amount of money, and lost many lives fighting with the petrodictators. Just like triage in a trauma center, you fix the most acute life-threatening problem first, then move on down the list of problems. Do you disagree that the time frame for energy catastrophe is much shorter than for environmental catastrophe?
You like the phrase “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” I argue we do not now have a crisis, nor can we see one in the near future. I’ll think it a crisis when the first of the Florida Keys goes underwater. Yes, then it will be too late, but it was also too late for New Orleans when Katrina hit. To blame that on man-made climate change, as some do, is not justified. We did have an air quality crisis. We dealt with that constructively. Melting glaciers don’t seem like a crisis to me. Passionate people like you and Al Gore have strong advocacy for the environment, which certainly has moved many others toward these ends, but, as you present the term, these may be “green dreams” rather than green realities.
I believe it is human nature to try to do something positive in solution of a problem, but is that action meaningful? Many years ago, on behalf of the National Academy of Science, I testified before Congress about the safety of saccharine and other artificial sweeteners. That night, I was in a Bethesda seafood restaurant next to a lady who ordered lobster thermidor and a diet coke. I’ve always thought that to be an excellent example of “magical thinking”, where we do things with good intentions but negligible results. I mainly see environmentalists pointing to personal choices as strategies to ameliorate climate change. With your data and the concept of leverage I discuss below, this is not sensible. “Well, we have to start somewhere” is a delusional attitude to effectively solve problems. Kind of like the gas tax holiday proposed last summer.
I have two thoughts that, even if global warming is from CO2 and therefore manmade, maybe it is self-limiting. Your book points out the rapid expansion of fossil fuel use as the “Americas” are emerging all over the world as well as the limitations in its availability. Sooner or later, it’ll all run out. At that time, the CO2 levels will maximize. Where did the carbon in all the fossil fuels we are all trying to avoid come from? Because the origin of petroleum is decayed animal and vegetable products, it all came from a lot of atmospheric CO2 a very long time ago. Why doesn’t anyone talk about what the earth was like then? Somehow, we managed to get to our present state - it did not lead to the end of life for everything, did it? I wonder if this is one realistic way to put increased atmospheric CO2 in perspective?
I next refer to a term called albedo (the reflectance of an object). A NOAA scientist I heard at a meeting a few years ago pointed to a future scenario where the earth had warmed enough so that the earth’s atmosphere became more cloudy. Was this good or bad? He didn’t know. The clouds could hold in extra warmth, or the albedo of the clouds could attenuate the energy from the sun and cool us down. I do not know how important these are in the grand scheme of things, but I’m trying to pile up a range of reasons to let up on the accelerator of “do this” and “do that” NOW. I have to ask the question, “Is this another Y2K?” We all knew that 1/1/2000 was coming, and that computer programs were in place that didn’t look at the thousands and hundreds columns of the year. Some of those predictions were dire. Nobody could carefully delineate the range of impact of this computer glitch, so how was the public or private sector to react intelligently?
Your book carefully explains the earth/sun relationship to eliminate questions of illumination factors creating the temperature changes. However practically noone talks about the ocean’s effects. You point out that ocean temperatures have changed, but why? Have humans created this change or have the oceans changed on their own? It is my understanding that the oceans are the single most important component of the world’s weather. It’s also my understanding that we know only a small fraction (like 2% according to the NOAA scientist I referred to above ) of the movement of the oceans. Phenomena like el nino and la nina clearly affect our weather patterns, but do we know how they arise? Can’t changes in the movement from deep oceans to surface waters rather than increased CO2 cause terrible hurricanes and droughts?
Back to atmospheric CO2. You state that 68% of all CO2 emission is from factories, only 14% from all vehicles combined. These data ought to direct our vision. Where’s the leverage? A 10% reduction in a 50% problem is more powerful than a 50% reduction in a 5% problem. What’s the environmental benefit of all of us driving a Prius vs. a Hummer in light of industrial, residential, and agricultural outputs? Your book states that the burning of trees from deforested areas produces more CO2 than all automotive sources. Why emphasize CAFE standards when the best leverage point is elsewhere? This lack of focus permeates your book, with parts regarding more energy-efficient buildings, vending machines, and the “evil” Hummers belching CO2 all sounding like great ideas but which aren’t solutions with much leverage.
I’d like to better appreciate the “food for fuel” situation. Perhaps I’m wrong, but aren’t we paying farmers to not plant crops? If so, why don’t we increase our production of fuel-foods in order to meet both the demands of energy and nutrition? One of the easiest things to do to lower our foreign oil use even a little would be to mandate 10% ethanol in gasoline. I believe it to be true that all gasoline-powered cars can use 10% ethanol without any modification. Beyond that, few flex-fuel cars exist, and apparently even fewer flex-fuel pumps exist to satisfy their needs. What am I missing here?
You state that corn provides a one for one conversion of the energy to produce the ethanol compared to its energy content. More relevant is to compare that energy ratio to petroleum. I’ve read detailed discussions of the subject and see that this calculation is quite complex and frequently incorrect. How encompassing are the data to generate the production costs vs. the current energy costs? In some analyses, the ratio is more favorable for corn. Regardless, I think a 1 to 1 ratio wonderful if renewable, locally-produced ethanol displaces major fractions of our dependence on nonrenewable, depleting resources of foreign oil. Environmentally, remember that every molecule of CO2 released from biologically-derived sources is a molecule of CO2 removed from the environment during the photosynthesis that created the corn, switchgrass, or sugar cane. Nowhere in your book did I see this very important difference between biofuels and fossil fuels.
Here’s what seems to me as the most direct and practical scheme for “cheap electrons”. Nuclear power. There’s only one problem with nuclear power - people are scared out of their wits by it. An irrational fear regarding isolated nuclear accidents prevails rather than the real and frequent risks of coal mine collapses, refinery explosions, respiratory diseases from gasoline fumes, etc. I propose two approaches to limit these anxieties. Education of the public by people in leadership positions about the relative benefits of nuclear power over all the other alternatives, and the placement of new reactor sites on military bases to combat both the N.I.M.B.Y-ers and those who worry about terrorism. We’ve got lots of military bases that are inherently well-protected and, usually, isolated from anybody’s back yard. Not all such bases have the necessary cooling water supplies, but certainly a good number must. Usually, a Navy base is on water. The final irrational aspect of the public’s distrust of nuclear power relates to storage. I have a good friend with a Ph.D. in Nuclear Chemistry who has worked with Homeland Security to evaluate these issues. Both deep mine and deep ocean storage present very safe scenarios. No, nothing is 100% safe (a wind turbine could fall on someone’s head), but, on balance, this is the best and most readily available answer to replacing carbon-based energy sources. On the other hand, the technology behind your suggestion of sequestering CO2 is not well-developed - it’s really hypothetical at the scale one would need to be practical. I think it’s misleading to look there for solutions within any realistic time frame. And I shudder to think of the horrific landscape of a 40-fold increase in wind farms. I live near Palm Springs where many of these ecologically-wonderful devices are based. I don’t think their massive proliferation would enhance “America the Beautiful”.
I finish with my most outrageous viewpoint. The present concern about climate change is really grounded in an unspoken philosophy that the environment in which we live is the best one possible and, as such, must be vigorously protected. Therefore, any change must be bad. When one looks at the long history of earth, a number of cataclysmic events have preceded our current existence. Who knows whether this exact progression of events was required to create our present environment and evolutionary status? Did the huge number species that became extinct because of those “climate changes” add to or subtract from our current well-being? I can make up scenarios where the changes predicted by climate sages will be disastrous but alternatively could be highly beneficial. We just aren’t smart enough to know the arc of evolution. Maybe we should embrace global warming rather than fear it.
“Hot, Flat, and Crowded” should help convince doubters that a major revision of our energy policy is mandatory. However, your repeated referrals to climate change as a key motivating factor, to me, lack substance. Our myopic energy policy, and our lack of world leadership in that area, is the focal point of the problem with the world’s being hot, flat, and crowded. Energy and ecology share four letters and look similar. However I advocate that in reality they overlap even less than that fraction. As many say, we need to focus on energy policy. We should do so for its own sake, not under the false promotion of ecological goals to as high a level of priority.
I realize that I have sent you a ridiculously long response to your book. I guess that’s just the natural result of producing such an interesting work on such a controversial area and having people like me read it and feel unsatisfied.

Best regards,

Fred Abramson (not verified)
December 11th 2008, 7:15 pm

Dear Mr. Friedman:
I just completed your excellent book Hot, Flat and Crowded. However, I feel that you should change the title to “ Crowded Equals Hot and Flat”. Here’s why:

As is quite clear our global population has dramatically increased in the past 100 years with ever more people moving out of poverty and becoming “consumers”, moving to the big cities looking for jobs and basically driving the energy consumption engine. Through out the entire book this point is driven home quite nicely. It seems that for the most part the “Hot and Flat” is a direct consequence of massive, unchecked global population growth that is in overdrive with no sign of letting up! Your acronym on page 198, REEFIGDCPEERPC On page 298 you refer to developing a global strategy for the preservation of our rainforests, oceans, rivers, and endangered biodiversity hot spots, to enable the smart growth that does not destroy our natural world. This strategy MUST include a global initiative by all denizens of this magnificent planet to focus on the fact that it is our crushing worldwide population that for the most part is behind the Hot and Flat!! We as a global people need to recognize that there are way too many of us on this blue ball!
You also discuss creating abundant, clean, reliable and cheap electrons to solve the last big problems of health, education and energy, but also mention that an additional method to accomplish this goal is to reduce electron demand through conservation and using energy efficient devices. I posit that fewer people inhabiting this planet can also accomplish reduced demand.
You refer to a “soaring population” and “population expansion “ on page 301 without ever really saying anything about how to bring it into check and maybe even reducing it. Quite frankly I come away from reading this book with a rather empty, hollow feeling that unless we do something about the egregious size of our global population the Hot and Flat will steam roll over us all in time. I was somewhat surprised that you did not mention this AT ALL in the book. Maybe this would be a good topic for Chapter 18?
How do we control AND reduce our global population? Well I’m no political or social scientist just an ordinary person doing my best to limit my impact to this world. Here are some of my ideas that may seem obvious but I’m sure will be very tough to convince people to adopt on a voluntary basis:
First, we all must resolve to limit our families to no more than two children. Having more than two children will result in the loss of tax deductions and maybe even a head tax for each child over the limit. Very large families need to become a thing of the past and all peoples must adopt a global birth control initiative. As the saying goes “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”.
Second, we all must realize that we have a “duty to die” as coined by the past three-term (1975 – 1987) Governor of Colorado Mr. Richard Lamm. What he was generally referring to in his statement was that people who have very debilitating sicknesses have a duty to die and not needlessly prolong their life all at the emotional expense of family members as well as the huge cost to the medical establishment. People MUST say enough is enough and bid farewell. I agree with this concept, while I’m sure I will be severely denigrated by the throngs, as Mr. Lamm was when he made his statement public.
Third, all people worldwide need immediate access to education to help them understand our worldwide predicament (especially the crowded part) and learn how to create businesses and life styles that will support them and their families without destroying the rainforests and at the same time keeping them in their communities. Greg Mortenson’s book Three Cups of Tea is a superb example of how a committed plan to educate the less fortunate can dramatically change the fortunes of people. Every one should read this book.
I’m sure I am not the only one concerned about the “Crowded” part of your excellent book not being addressed. It seems important to me but I see no other comments on your web site that broach this subject. This is strange to me. Am I alone on this? I do not thing so.
With Regards,
Frank J. Bernardi

Frank J Bernardi (not verified)
December 11th 2008, 3:48 pm

Thank you so much for writing this book. I am a social worker I can tell you that almost 100% of my clients dealing with substance abuse, poverty, mental health issues, etc. have no clue how to get help with birth control. I'm saying this because most of them know little about family planning and most babies born are not planned. And most people do not realize that we don't have free birth control in America. It is especially impossible for addicts to get birth control as they don't keep appointments, but they do have babies. And I'm not saying parents don't love their children. I'm saying being a parent is a struggle for many people yet we are afraid to talk about birth control. We need to wake up and stop avoiding the topic. We need FREE and EASY birth control in every county in America. You would be surprized how many people want it.

Lois (not verified)
December 10th 2008, 8:02 pm

The New E Bond: The Energy Bond in a Time of Economic Challenges

Energy Supply, Climate Change, and the Financial Crisis

Energy supply and climate change. Economic meltdown. Loss of manufacturing jobs. A devastating credit-market crunch. These are the challenges of our time. Today governments, financial markets, and individuals across the globe will need to make difficult policy choices and to alter collective and personal behavior to try to find solutions for these complex challenges.

There have been great challenges before. In the 1940s the United States and the world faced one of the most threatening times in history. We are not now engaged in a world war. However, the challenges of our time will affect profoundly the economy, health, culture, and, indeed, the future direction of the United States and the world. Climate change; economic disruption due to higher energy costs and a future of decreasing supplies of traditional fossil fuels; loss of employment and economic hardship; bank failures, and a credit squeeze; and political and social instability due to economic contraction and climate change that could bring about a global crisis are all challenges that must be addressed.

Funding Solutions from Another Historic Crisis

During World War II our government answered the challenges of that time by issuing a direct appeal to the civilian population to step up and participate in the war effort by purchasing United States War Bonds. Eighty-five million Americans of all income levels answered the call in the amount of $185.7 billion. War bonds were more than simply a loan: the bonds gave ordinary people a moral and financial stake in the conduct of the war as well as in the recovery of the domestic economy.

Today the solutions for climate and energy problems and financial disruption will need to be multifaceted and interconnected: the need to alter energy-consumption behavior through serious conservation to address issues of global warming; the need for energy independence for national-security reasons; the need for a Manhattan Project--type investment in sustainable and affordable energy research and technology for the future; the need to create new employment opportunities that cannot be outsourced; the need to invest in crumbling and outdated infrastructure; the need to reduce in the long-term an historically unprecedented federal budget deficit; the need to reduce inflation; the need to offer secure financial instruments for investment that will offer attractive returns and thus bolster an alarmingly low national savings rate.

Bold Solutions for a New Administration

Much rhetoric was offered during the campaign season defining these challenges. Serious questions were raised about responsibly financing the solutions. President-elect Obama has been asked what programs he would consider “putting on the back burner.” Energy independence and slowing the effects of climate change cannot be put on hold. Proposals for financing a path to energy independence, prior to the economic meltdown, included dipping into the profits of oil companies or introducing an energy tax. In light of an historically unparalleled financial crisis, bolder and more innovative funding solutions that might prove to be more politically viable and economically sound should be considered.

I propose the creation of a bond similar to the War Bond—the new E Bond: the Energy Bond. The revenue from these loans would be dedicated solely to investment in research and development of alternative-energy technology as well as the financing of broad subsidies to enable industry, federal and state governments, as well as individuals of all income levels to invest in alternative-energy and energy-conservation infrastructure.

A massive program to “green up” our public buildings and private residences would create jobs in the building industry not by encouraging the building of new housing and, thus, setting the stage once again for a never-ending cycle of boom-and-bust over-development but by subsidizing responsible improvement to existing housing stock. These subsidies would help the United States to decrease dependence on fossil fuels and lower carbon emissions. These subsidies would help to speed twenty-first century investment in the greatest new economic engine for good growth and widespread job creation: the green economy. The effects on overall economic development and national security once petrodollars stopped flowing to the Middle East would be deep and far-reaching in their implications.

Those who have purchased EE Bonds or I Bonds from the federal government know that these types of loans/investments in our government signify not only participation in the future of this country but also represent smart and effective savings instruments. Currently, there is a torrent of international investment in U.S. treasury bonds as a safe haven for money in a turbulent economic climate. Why not maximize the impact of dollars that flow back to the U.S. from across the world—for example, from China and the Middle Eastern petro-states--to help finance our green future?

How Would the New Energy Bond Work?

The bonds could be made available in a variety of denominations so that institutions, individuals, and investors of all income levels could participate. Perhaps there could be an incremental savings program, such as the one instituted for War Bonds, which would further enable broad participation. These bonds could be promoted, marketed, and highly publicized in order to encourage the widest participation. The interest rate on these bonds should be favorable to the purchaser, thus providing a financial incentive for participation. Fortunately, the mechanism for selling other types of bonds already is in place. Added expense would be manageable as the creation of a new department of the federal government would be unnecessary.

A Shared Commitment for the Future

We hear much about the dire economic and security situation facing the United States as governments of countries around the world have become the primary holders of our national debt. Why not encourage our own citizens to become active participants in solving the challenges facing us today? Why not give Americans an incentive to increase personal savings? Why not give Americans the opportunity to do something more significant than just “going shopping” as a way to fuel our economy? Why not channel the concept of shared sacrifice by encouraging savings through investment in a new Energy Bond that would yield shared benefits?

The War Bond program of the 1940s was a financial and psychological success in that crisis. The Energy Bond could become our own success story in our own time of crisis.

Renee Shur (not verified)
December 10th 2008, 6:19 pm

I think what we need to do first, to assist in achieving our dreams, is to save, to be able to spend where we should, and not where we are cornered into spending.

One way to do that is to cut out the "per hour" concept and change it to "per product" or "per output". As of now there is no way we can estimate how much a project will cost due to over-runs that are most of the time unknown and intentionally ignored. Unknown because we live on crutches that allow us loopholes to add or recover costs. Is there any US company today, that can bid on an international competitive contract that allows no variations or extensions?

Screwed up by the defense contractors who know how to milk the economy, the private industry has fallen victim to that approach.

How can we even think of claiming to know how much the cost of changing over to the "green" world would be. Or are planning to outsource that too?

JG (not verified)
December 10th 2008, 10:59 am