Making Clean Energy Work

Thanks to all for the comments. As I am finding from the people I meet on the road during events in connection with the book, there is a real groundswell of enthusiasm and commitment to bringing about a change from the Dirty Fuels System to a Clean Energy System. But as your comments indicate, we all know that many, many obstacles stand in the way.

In the book — pages 391-3 — I tell the story of the effort of Southern California Edison to produce wind power in the Thachapi Pass and send it to Los Angeles, 275 miles away. It took eleven years — eleven years — for all the local and state governments, regulatory agencies, utilities commissions, and environmental groups to review the process and make their recommendations. That is why I sometimes wish that America could be "China for a Day."

What stories do you have about the difficulty of making Clean Energy work even when everyone agrees that it is in our best interests?


We are not asking you to go to extremes and start purchasing hybrid cars that can cost tens of thousands of pounds or dollars. Something as basic as recycling can have a significant impact on the environment around us, and also save energy on the manufacturing of new, replica products.

Tommy Tang (not verified)
April 1st 2010, 2:45 pm

We can attempt to save the earth from devastation if we act now, and by making the switch to natural and renewable energy sources, you will be doing your part. Although many other issues need to be addressed, making the switch is a large step forward in the fight against climate change, and the fight for a cleaner environment.
Clean Energy Ideas has been set up in an attempt to try and educate visitors to the importance of the use of renewable energy sources. You will find lots of educational material throughout the website, and much of this information relates to how you can get involved in energy conservation and producing your very own natural energy.

Tommy Tang (not verified)
April 1st 2010, 2:44 pm

No single solution can meet our society's future energy needs. The answer lies instead in a family of diverse energy technologies that share a common thread: they do not deplete our natural resources or destroy our environment. Renewable energy technologies tap into natural cycles and systems, turning the ever-present energy around us into usable forms.

Tommy Tang (not verified)
April 1st 2010, 2:42 pm

Imagine residents, businesses, communities and educators joining together to push for clean, renewable energy sources, in a dedicated effort to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, protect the environment and stabilize energy costs.You are invited to join us on this mission. You have the power to make a difference. Together we can change our world for the better.

Tommy Tang (not verified)
April 1st 2010, 2:38 pm

One of the most important concepts when it comes to understanding energy is the fact that efficiency doesn't lower energy use, it raises it. This at first might not seem to make any sense at all, but it's actually a proven economic principle known as Jevon's paradox.

On a macroeconomic level, the efficiency allows us to do more faster, which inevitably leads to more growth. For instance, a unit of GDP today requires half the oil of a unit of GDP in 1950, but since our economy is six times larger, we use three times the oil. Efficiency, at the very least, lowers the rate of growth in demand, and by that reason alone it should still be increased. Using energy efficiently in the future is a must if we want increased economic growth, but we can't solve our energy problems by efficiency alone.

zack (not verified)
April 7th 2009, 3:49 pm

I picked up your book by accident and after reading realized how much more relevant it was to my interests than I realized. I own a construction company that exclusively builds dairy facilities. Realizing that cows produce a large amount of harmful greenhouse gases and foreseeing the regulations to come, my father and I others have been working on a group of systems to implement into the dairies that I build that would sequester harmful gases and produce alternative forms of energy from the waste of the cows. Please look at our website showing our beginning stages of this idea.

Brandon White (not verified)
February 5th 2009, 7:51 am


I am on pages 186-187 of Hot, Flat and Crowded in the section Clean Electrons. Your most powerful paragraph in the book so far begins with the sentence "No single solution would defuse more of the Energy-Climate Era's problems at once than the invention of a source of abundant, clean, reliable, and cheap electrons." You go on to list many of the currently intractable global problems that a source of abundant, clean, reliable, and cheap electrons would solve. In the next paragraph, you state that "no one has yet come up with a source of electrons that meets all four criteria: abundant, clean, reliable and cheap."

As a self-appointed advocate, I believe that space-based solar power has the potential to meet all four of the criteria you set out. Space-based solar power is the 24/7/365 collection of solar power by satellites in geosynchronous orbit which convert and beam it to receiving antennas (rectennas) anywhere on the face of the planet to be distributed to end users by either the existing electrical grid or by wireless power transmission. On a large enough scale, such a system would give humankind direct access to unlimited clean, reliable and ultimately cheap electrons.

The idea of space-based solar power, patented by Dr. Peter Glaser in the 1960's, was last reviewed in depth in a 2007 study sponsored by the Pentagon's National Security Space Office. Most recently, the Space Frontier Foundation submitted a white paper to the Obama Transition Team which was subsequently posted by them for public comment.

Here are some sources where you and your readers can learn more about the potential game-changing technology of space-based solar power:

Space Based Solar Power - a public discussion

Citizens for Space Based Solar Power

Space Solar Power (SSP) - A Solution for Energy Independence & Climate Change - (Obama Transition Team website)

I invite you and your readers to learn more about Space Based Solar Power and, if you reach the same conclusions about its tremendous potential that I have, become advocates to have this potentially game-changing technology added to America's system of solutions for a clean energy future for the entire planet.

Best regards,

Rob Mahan : Cit... (not verified)
January 11th 2009, 6:24 pm

Mr. Friedman, I recently finished Hot, Flat and Crowded and am inspired by your words. My dilemma now as a consumer is how to I get some of these innovations into my home? Is there a clearinghouse for any of the items? Are any commercially available that would help my home become "20 E.C.E" now? We have solar panels, compose bins and rainwater collecting systems in our suburban Colorado home, but I need help getting to the next level. Who can help me??

colagid (not verified)
January 9th 2009, 11:48 am

Hi Thomas,

Great idea to solicit contributions via a blog!

Just thought I'd mention David MacKay's book "Sustainable Energy -- without the hot air" (see He is a mathematician/physicist who has done a lot of number crunching on whether various types of renewables can actually generate enough energy in practice to sustain our energy needs.

The book is available for download (free), or you can get the paper version from Amazon.

Keep up the good work!

David Cottingham

David Cottingham (not verified)
January 5th 2009, 1:12 pm

Another example in this war of information:

"EU's new figurehead believes climate change is a myth"


"The European Union's new figurehead believes that climate change is a dangerous myth and has compared the union to a Communist state.

The views of President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic, 67, have left the government of Mirek Topolanek, his bitter opponent, determined to keep him as far away as possible from the EU presidency, which it took over from France yesterday..."

How can the average Joe be expected to understand the imperative of a Green Revolution when things like this occur regularly?

Harvey (not verified)
January 3rd 2009, 2:43 pm


I just finished the book and really enjoyed it. I, like many others on this blog, hope to get involved and have been inspired by your work. I want to post on Chapter 18 often, and I've dedicated a full section of my own blog to post about this on my own. In response to this question, I would say:

There are many stories of roadblocks to clean energy. I think one that we often overlook is not necessarily a story, but an overarching theme: the information war over clean energy. Everyone saw how much of the debate coverage on many network channels were sponsored by America's Power, playing up clean coal technology and other domestic relics from the Dirty Fuels System. The DFS lobby has a lot of money, and they are trying to use it to manipulate the minds of the average American (isn't that what all advertising does?). After about six months of non-stop ads about domestic oil and clean coal, the folks at We Can Solve It launched This Is Reality, a program dedicated to repelling what they call "the myth of clean coal". What do we believe? Clean coal advocates provide their "facts", and so the opponents. Coal says that where they provide energy is cheaper, environmentalists day that the purported clean coal technology doesn't even exist. I fall on the side of We Can Solve It - but that doesn't really matter. The point is that there is war over advertising, information, and propaganda. While Hot, Flat, and Croweded does a good job of providing a sensible point of view, this needs to be given to the masses in the same way America's Power shows their ads to all.

More here:

Thank you for all your great work, and please continue to let us know how we can help.

Harvey (not verified)
January 3rd 2009, 2:30 pm

Dear Mr. Friedman,

I finished reading your latest book within 2 weeks. It is a broad and well written book about the challenges and opportunities the human race is facing. I found many very good ideas and found a new motivation to continue my work in energy policy.

There is only one flaw I can find in your work and that is in regards to your thinking that nuclear should play a part in the green revolution. You stress the importance of energy security and go on about petrodictators. What about uraniumdictators? In 2007 according to the DOE the US imported over 92% on the uranium used in commercial nuclear power plants with over on third coming from Russia. Energy security? I think not.

Also, there is much talked about in the book about the “true cost of burning coal, oil, and gas”. What about the true cost of the nuclear fuel cycle? Clean nuclear is no less of an oxymoron than is clean coal. The worse part of the fuel cycle is the ecological impacts of mining and milling the ore. “First rule of systems is everything is connected to everything else”.

Also, taking in consideration the fuel cycle nuclear emits 20% to more than 100% of CO2 of a natural gas plant. It doesn’t meet your free fuel forever criteria.

As you have stated billions of government dollars have been spent on nuclear. If that money had been spent on efficiency, renewables, and the smart grid you wouldn’t have needed to write your book.

The nuclear industry is part of the “Dirty Fuels System” they “distorted the facts, placed misleading ads” “bought out politicians”. See the link for how they are spending millions of dollars on new PR.

We need action now! Nuclear is too expensive, too slow, too dirty, and takes money away from the real economical and sustainable solutions to the problems we now face. In order to have a democracy we need democratic power which all people can generate themselves in a distributive smart grid.

Thank you for your work!

JW (not verified)
December 24th 2008, 11:44 pm

Dear Mr. Friedman and "Chapter 18" contributors:

Here's a collegiate story on "the difficulty of making Clean Energy work..."

In suburban Northern Virginia, George Mason University President Alan Merton has joined with his peers in signing the [ACUPCC] Presidents Climate Commitment ( These officials of higher learning aim to make our industry among the national leaders in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Mason has recently created a Sustainability Council and Sustainability Office, conducted its first GHG inventory this fall, increased public transit convenience, and worked with the private sector to implement structural energy efficiency improvements with quick turnaround return on investment (ROI).

As USN&WR's #1 "up-and-coming" school this year, Mason is also experiencing incredible physical growth and demographic changes at a time of decreasing support from the Commonwealth of Virginia. At first glance, this growth and fiscal belt tightening appear to limit our options with respect to achieving "net zero" GHG emissions in the foreseeable future. We're already investing in the "easy stuff," but that alone won't get GMU C-free. So...

* Do we spend a half million or more dollars per year in carbon credits or Renewable Energy Credits (RECs)?

* How can we create or obtain financing for structural energy improvements whose precise ROI is less certain (e.g., weather-proofing old buildings) or more long-term than our current planning horizons (e.g., on-campus solar panels, >15 years)?

* How can we affect meaningful and permanent behavioral changes to reduce our nonrenewable energy usage (e.g., using campus-generated compost for energy or fertilizer, wearing sweaters indoors in winter, turning off electronics when not in use, or voluntarily contributing to a campus-wide "green fee")?

* Finally, what can the University do to leverage our GHG reduction initiatives to simultaneously catalyze increased capacity and interest of our community -- students, staff, administrators and faculty -- in pursuit of the "energy technology revolution" in their careers and lives?

We will consider all of these questions in a very pragmatic sense as Mason students, administrators, faculty and staff collaborate to develop our university's first "Climate Action Plan" in 2009. I look forward to reviewing others' "Chapter 18" contributions as one means to inform our CAP preparation over the coming months.

PS It was a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Friedman, at the Woodrow Wilson Center earlier this year.

Ecologically yours,

Dann Sklarew (not verified)
December 24th 2008, 11:58 am

Mr. Friedman,

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter as I’m sure you are in receipt of numerous notes like this on a daily basis. The members of our organization, Residential Hydrogen Power, are all avid readers of yours as you have obviously become the spokesperson for our green future. I can speak for our entire group that what you put on paper or speak to in various news mediums is exactly the direction we feel the world needs to move, not only in energy needs but every aspect of green consumption.

Mr. Friedman, as you’ve been working as hard as you have over the course of the last few years trying to educate the United States as well as the rest of the world on how The Green Revolution will be the 21st Century’s Industrial Revolution, our team here in Dayton, OH has been working with just as much passion and drive making unprecedented progress in the development of hydrogen production at the point of consumption (residential based). We understand the general public (and most people in the energy industry) seems to feel hydrogen is a generation or more away. We at Residential Hydrogen Power are here to tell you hydrogen production is ready now. Our technology is exactly what you describe in The World is Flat as a Globalization 3.0 product, one that is controlled by the consumer and producing at the consumer level. Our technology, made from truly renewable resources, is producing more pure hydrogen (and oxygen) than what even our wildest expectations were. The coincidence of your educating and our research and development is that we call our new product the ARK and in Hot, Flat and Crowded you named one of your chapters “A Million Noahs, a Million Arks”. Our motto is: “Turning the World Upside Down - One ARK at a Time”

As I stated at the beginning of this letter I am sure you receive countless inquires and requests to check out a product “that will change the world”. I realize there is a good chance this letter will fall into that bin as well. We at Residential Hydrogen Power are not looking for handouts or any other favors. We just thought you would like to learn more about a few individuals doing exactly what you say is necessary and “inventing and creating green technology in a garage somewhere in America”. And we think it has even more of a storybook tale since it is all happening in Dayton, OH, where the Wright Brothers changed the world with their little invention created in a bicycle shop down the street from where we are working. We feel our hydrogen technology can and will bring jobs back to this region, one known as the “rust belt” and we can reeducate and employ those being let go from the Globalization 2.0 industry quickly fading away in this old manufacturing town.

If you would like to come to the Gem City and see the technology you aspire for our future we would love to host you.

With kindest personal regards,

Mario Parisi and Mike Evers
Residential Hydrogen Power

Mario Parisi an... (not verified)
December 9th 2008, 9:31 am

Mr. Friedman:
I'd like to open by saying that I am a fan of your series of books and I've found each one inspiring in its own unique way. That being said, I am writing here simply to ask a question and not to disagree with any of the ideas that you've set forth in the book. It is not my intention to play "devil's advocate," but simply to satisfy a curiosity.

In the section of the book where you describe a world designed with an "ethic of conservation," you provide a detailed description of a unified energy smart grid which would replace the current "all-you-can-eat electron buffet." As I read about this smart grid, I couldn't help but think of the documentary "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room."

In the 11th hour, when the executives at Enron needed to find some way to bring profits into their failing business in order to keep up the facade that they were the world's greatest energy corporation, they decided that the answer was California. Enron executives had worked hard to deregulate California's utility grid. By manipulating the supply of energy for their own interests, they exploited the people of California for every penny they had, while simultaneously causing rolling blackouts.

If I fully understand the nature of the unified smart grid (and I'm not sure that I do), it appears that we would be open to this type of manipulation again the next time some unscrupulous energy corporation decides that dollars are more important than ethics. So my question is: Am I completely off the mark, or would this be a real danger to be considered? If so, how would we protect against this happening again?


Dave (not verified)
December 7th 2008, 10:36 am

Mr. Friedman,

We need to apply long term systematic thinking to the development of wind generation rather than the current piecemeal approach. The two primary incentives to build wind generation are the Production Tax Credit and the various RPS standards around the country, which both reward the generation of the most MWh for the least cost. Unfortunately, the actual MWh generated are often of little direct use to the power grid without substantial inputs from other generation.

The intermittent nature of wind generation is generally known, but the specific issues this creates are often ignored or simply not fully appreciated. There are three primary steps to building and operating large scale wind generation.

1. Build the wind generation plan facilities
2. Transmit the wind generation to the electrical grid
3. Integrate with wind generation into the overall power needs of the electrical grid.

Currently, all the incentives are directed at the first step, which is also the simplest step to accomplish. There is increasing dialogue regarding the second step, which will require substantial new investment in transmission facilities, but the final step is by far the most difficult since this step is often expected to be provided for little or no cost. Significant physical generating plant capacity must be set aside and maintained to meet load needs and offset the variable nature of wind generation, which is uncorrelated to the demand for power.

While Hot, Flat, and Crowded discusses some the integration issues in a general sense that need to be done and the need to deal with all of these issues in a systematic way, the magnitude of the issue is often not understood. Just as the 15 wedges presented in Chapter 9 are larger in magnitude than we might first think, so is the magnitude of what needs to be done to incorporate the variable nature of wind generation. When the smart grid gets going, it will start to absorb some of this variability, but again, the magnitude must be considered. The smart grid will start slow and be built one kW at a time, while wind generation is currently being built hundreds of MW at a time. We will be using substantial amounts of dispatchable generation for some time to deal with the variable nature of wind generation.

We are building a small number of very large wind farms in the United States instead of spreading the generation around as has been done in Europe. This practice leads to substantial variability in generation, which can be seen if you view the web site below which that indicates the wind generation in the Bonneville Power Authority Balancing Authority for the last 7 days.

If you view this site from time to time, you will have a feel for the magnitude of the situation in the NW where generation flexibility has traditionally been supplied by the hydro system, and the NW as been pushing the limits of the allowable variations in hydro generation even before the recent construction of large wind generation plants. There may not be much further development of hydro power in the NW due limitations placed on hydropower in renewable portfolio standards. The effects of hydropower on the environment are generally benign, especially when taking into account the quantity of power generated. As with all renewable resources, there are exceptions.

Transmission providers are required to provide certain services to generation located in their system. Historically, these services have required a small amount of generating resources compared to the amount of energy flowing on the transmission system. Wind generation, as it is being built in certain areas of the United States, does not fit this mold. Contributing to the issue is the failure to acknowledge the significant costs of a power plant to stand by ready to generate. There needs to be a mechanism to reimburse these standby costs. If this mechanism fails to develop or is simply not sufficiently recognized, we will not produce the lasting transition in operations needed to continue developing higher penetrations of wind generation as we progress towards the smart grid.

Wind generation development cannot continue at its current pace without recognition by all the stakeholders of the need to use a systematic approach that recognizes the need to do quite a bit more than just build wind generation facilities.

I make two suggestions for Chapter 18

1) Encourage future incentives, tax breaks, and standards for renewable resources to consider all aspects of the systematic development of renewable resources.

2) Urge all who develop renewable resource standards to recognize hydropower as a renewable resource for purposes of compliance.

Rod Noteboom (not verified)
December 1st 2008, 11:53 pm

I am Swiss, married to a Californan wife. Everytime we go to the USA, I freeze in the supermarkets in summer and I feel too warm in winter. It seems that there would be a lot of energy to save. I agree that 26 degrees in China is excessive, but I wonder how much would be saved nation-wide if the temperature of buildings would be imposed at a comfortable 21 degrees Celsius, for example?
I love you books and I am an avid reader of your editorials in the IHT.
Blaise Haldimann, MD

Blaise Haldimann (not verified)
December 1st 2008, 7:08 am

Dear Rene,

The daily sunlight energy content point is a good one. Virtually all our energy sources originally come from the sun, but are converted and stored in various ways by the earth, so we can think about the problem in terms of the most clean and efficient ways to harness that solar energy.

While I agree that storage is a major problem; I think that conversion and distribution are equally important.

Ed L.

Ed L. (not verified)
November 30th 2008, 3:02 pm

Dear Anonymous (posting November 29th 2008, 2:47 am)

Thanks for the oil floor tax explanation which believe I understood.

That said, I'm concerned that an oil price floor will cause some adverse effects. Friedman makes the point in the early chapters how freedoms and associated support for non-government violent groups in the middle east tends to go up when oil revenues go up. Not to mention the profits going to MobilExxon that get used to lobby against change here in the US.

Granted the idea on this side of the pond is that if we set a price floor it will spur investment in alternatives and increased conservation and efficiency, so in the hopeful future scenario, we will be buying less oil so even if the price is higher perhaps the net revenue to Saudi Arabia will be less and therefore freedoms increase and support of violent unrest decreases.

So, if the purpose of the floor is as you say, then I would advocate for something more complicated such as a $25/barrel US tax plus a $100/barrel floor. This would drive the market price (neglecting other influences) to $75/barrel plus our tax to make it $100/barrel.

Presumably OPEC and MobilExxon wouldn't like that and perhaps try to manipulate the Fed govt by reducing supply. Nothing is simple of course, so there would need to be a strategy to handle that.

I would favor phasing in my suggestion over a few years spanning less than the length of Obama's first term:

1. Immediate $10/barrel tax.
2. By Jan 2010 a $75/barrel floor including a $15/barrel tax
3. By Jan 2011, $90/barrel floor including a $20/barrel tax
4. By Jan 2012, $100/barrel floor including a $25/barrel tax

Ed L.
(not to be confused with another Ed on this list)

Ed L. (previous... (not verified)
November 30th 2008, 2:56 pm

Maybe I missed something, but I was surprised to see you mention nuclear as part of the energy mix we should be promoting. I don't care if its thorium or a next generation plant, it seems to me that anyone that pushes for nuclear is somehow totally ignoring the major issue of the waste in generates. It takes forever to build a sorta safe facility to accommodate all the waste for many thousands of years. Nobody wants such a facility in their back yard. From what I understand, that Yucca Mountain storage site is essentially already filled before it even gets started because of the tremendous amounts of waste that already exists in on site storage at the nuclear plants.
I don't see how any electron coming out of such majorly wasteful and deadly source can be considered "clean". Maybe a reactor that's a few design generations down the road, that would totally reuse it own fuel, would be something worth messing with, but not what we currently have.
I'd also like to see people be very specific when putting down or even just discussing biofuels. I agree that ethanol from corn and biodiesel from soybeans is a bad idea, but I can't see where getting biodiesel from an algae farm out in the the desert is going to starve anyone, and it has a lot of potential return for the energy put into making it. I don't think even algae biodiesel is long term solution, but in the short term it would be a help.

Ed (not verified)
November 29th 2008, 6:32 pm


It would help if you would be more specific yourself. What exactly is it that you believe Mr. Friedman has gotten wrong?

What numbers do you need? Tom has used a lot of numbers in his book and his presentations. So far, no scientist has refuted any of them. None have disagreed with his conclusions.

Once you accept that the population of the planet is groing and the size of the planet is not, you can draw the conclusion that we are going to run out of room and resources. You don't need a lot of calculus to do that math.

There isn't even any disagreement among people who study the climate that we are getting dramatically warmer. Are you disagreeing with that?

If your point is that he's not a scientist and therefore doesn't know what he's talking about, then you must be for giving only people with science Ph.D's the vote on issues regarding the planet. I'm not sure you'd like the outcome of that.

We can't all be scientists, but we are all responsible for guiding the future of our society and our home (Earth). We have to read and listen to the people who understand the details and do the math and make our decisions based on what they say.

Tom has named the scientists he gets his information from and the institutions with which they are affiliated. He has laid his cards on the table.

If you want any credibility - if you don't want to be considered nothing but a ranting ideologue - please name the people who inform your opinions, tell us their qualifications and what institutions they work for, and point to their published, peer-reviewed work.

if you can't do that, at least be specific about where you see Mr. Friedman's errors.

Anonymous (not verified)
November 29th 2008, 4:09 pm


I'm not Tom, but I did study economics, and you raise a good question. It wouldn't really matter who got what cut of the $100/barrel. The idea is to create a price floor.

This is basically a Pigouvian tax. It's used to make up for negative externalities in order to set the quantity of the good demanded at the level it would be at if all of the costs involved in the production and consumption of the good were included in the price (internal vs. external). This is really a market solution to the problem. All the theories about competitive markets are based on the willingness of the purchaser to pay for all of the costs of production and consumption. The price of oil is artificially low because it doesn't include: 1) the cost of maintaining a military/naval presence in the parts of the world we get our oil to keep them secure; 2) The environmental damage caused by the production, transportation, processing, and consumption of oil (including hefty medical costs of treating various cancers and lung ailments); 3) The cost of dealing with the Global Wierding Tom writes about in his book (hurricanes, blizzards, floods, etc.); 4) The cost of combating terrorists that much of the profits fuel.

The intent of the tax is to correct market dysfunction, not to fund the government.

Anonymous (not verified)
November 29th 2008, 1:47 am


I have a question about your idea in Hot, Flat, and Crowded about setting a price floor for oil. I'm not sure I understood how you thought that might work. I'm envisioning that the government sets a variable tax to keep it at a minimum of $100/barrel. My problem with that is that wouldn't OPEC and MobilExxon then just drive their price to $99/barrel so that we only get $1 or less in tax revenue and they get richer (and as you say their countries become less free in those conditions)?

How did you think it might work?


Ed (not verified)
November 28th 2008, 11:39 pm

Bleh, this is the same cancer that's growing on the republican party, and apparently it's growing on us as well, just pure abstraction and emotionalism. Friedman is essentially not researching any topic and building an emotional campaign to support his baseless ideas. He basically moves in a simple pattern, without any sort of proof or margin of uncertainty he says something's wrong, then blames and says the solution is "THIS". Anyway, I would argue with "facts" but since he gives none I'll show he can't possibly be right with MATH, yes math. Ok, advanced calculus, Friedman uses abstraction in every argument, via metaphor, accusation or analogy, if you use abstraction you've essentially made all your arguments "fuzzy" or open vectors, in other words you no longer have one argument, you have many and many interpretations which are arbitrary and you can reinterpret the original argument indefinitely. The amount of solutions come from the interpretations, however, you have many solutions coming from multiple interpretations of the original abstraction.
Not necessarily wrong or right solutions, you may throw darts and hit the bullseye, but your chances with a blindfold on (not doing any research) are going to be less than nailing the pretty girl in the face.

I won't go as far as to say he's absolutely wrong which means I think I'm absolutely right, but to say you're absolutely right about ideas which have high degrees of uncertainty paired to them is just idiotic.

Mister-E (not verified)
November 21st 2008, 9:39 pm

Dear Mr Freidman,
I just saw you on the Colbert Report and you made a comment about cows burping being one of the major contributors to global warming. I think that since you have written a book and are also appearing on major media, you should know the REAL FACTS. The reality is, is that cow's excrement (poop, 87,000 pounds per second) is the main contributor to global warming. And the root cause of so much excrement is the raising of them as food. Did you know the following statistics?
-more than 1/3 of all fossil fuel is used to raise animals for food
- more than 1/3 of all the water is used to raise animals for food
- a vegetarian diet saves many trees (since you also mentioned deforestation in your interview), deforestation is due to clearing of land to raise food for animals and animals as food for human consumption
-please visit this link for more education on the topic

Anonymous (not verified)
November 21st 2008, 4:55 pm

I have many ideas about solutions to environmental problems like making clean energy work, but my best idea is how to integrate hundreds and thousands of ideas into a coherent, "whole systems" solution. It combines 1) a design process called a "Pattern Language", and 2) a type of website called a "Wiki", to make what I call the "Ecopatterns Wiki".

1. Pattern Languages and Ecopatterns

"Ecopatterns" are design patterns for ecological and environmental problems: waste management, water conservation and energy for example. Essentially a design pattern is a generic solution to a recurring design problem, a rule-of-thumb that can be applied in a number of specific ways.

These design patterns link to one another in a cascade, from patterns at a global level, to patterns at a regional level, on down through levels at urban, buildings, vehicles, devices and parts scales. This way patterns form a system of solutions that support each other. As each pattern can be referred to by its title this system of design patterns forms a "Pattern Language", in this case an "Ecopatterns Language".

2. Wikis

A wiki is a website where people can work together on user-generated web page articles, such as the online encyclopedia called Wikipedia. The Ecopatterns Wiki will use this technology to enable many many people to create Ecopatterns. In this way hundreds and thousands of ideas can be integrated into "whole systems" solutions to environmental problems - like clean energy.

3. Examples

To illustrate how Ecopatterns hang together as a system of solutions, let's follow a thread down through the cascade, from a global level pattern right down to the level of something small.

An Ecopattern titled "Local Energy Sources" addresses remote (foreign) energy dependence at a global scale, lays out where the world's nine primary sources of energy are (four non-renewable and five renewable), and concludes that it's more efficient, and more secure, to use energy resources indigenous to local regions.

That Ecopattern links to one titled "Small Energy Sources", which says that, because they are difficult to connect to large interconnected distribution systems, small local sources of energy are best suited to small decentralized standalone uses.

That Ecopattern in turn links to (for example) "Passive Solar Heating and Cooling" for buildings, which links to "High Performance Windows".

For more information about Pattern Language, Ecopatterns and the Ecopatterns Wiki, with examples, see:

1. The "home page" about Pattern Languages:
2. The top-level page about Ecopatterns:
3. The page about the Ecopatterns Wiki itself:

Gary Swift,

Gary Swift (not verified)
November 21st 2008, 1:48 pm

If we could find an engineers and scientists who could write well then perhaps there would be a book that was both easy to read and factual. Unfortunately, what we get is Thomas Friedman. I guess good writers never let facts get in the way of a good story.

Modern marketing is based on defining and then eliminating "dirty" things. Low fat, low carb, wheat-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, and now we have "clean" energy. This green energy concept is marketing, pure and simple.

The idea that energy should be "clean", is a conflict between physics and humanity. We have the tools to understand physics, so we can generate as much energy as we care to. Unfortunately understanding humanity is more difficult.

Anonymous (not verified)
November 21st 2008, 3:32 am

“We do not have an energy problem; we have got a storage problem”,

(In half an hour, enough sunlight reaches planet Earth to supply the world’s total energy needs for a whole year),

according to Ad van Wijk and re-affirmed by the other experts in the 4th and last episode of Energy in Abundance, VPRO Backlight. (Energy War, Here Comes the Sun, The Race of the Car of the Future). The discussion was moderated by Rob van Hattum with the partcipants; Ad van Wijk (CEO of Econcern), Peter Blom (CEO of Triodos bank), Wubbo Ockels (astronaut and professor at TU Delft) and Willem Vermeend (former minister and entrepreneur).

Underneath, you will find some paragraphs, a short selection of ideas and sometimes shocking facts, presented at the discussion;

Two large 600MW coal-fired power energy plants could be made redundant if the 200 million doorbells in Europe will be altered in such a way that they don’t need to be powered 24/7. How is this possible, why can this not be changed was the rhetorical question posed by Wubbo Ockels. Because there are people who benefit from the current situation! There is a lot of disinformation, the scientist are part of the problem according to Hermann Scheer’s own findings.

Our national policies are not long term, our investors need to be sure where they stand, like in Germany where they know for the coming 20 years what they will be earning. FEED-IN TARIFF

A national plan needs to be developed by private investors in the renewable energy sector and executed locally with the help of the provincial governments. The politicians would have to follow suit.
Especially if you would issue shares for the public and make them stakeholders in those renewable energy sources. Wind and solar belongs to everybody. Make the people owner, there will be a huge shift in (self) interest. A whole new industry will emerge, with lots of jobs.

1 litre of gasoline will cost you 3 times more than the electric equivalent. The public does not know, not informed, misinformed, even politicians say the most foolish things.

The REAL calculations need to be made public via good media and good journalism in such a way that the general public gains trust in the energy policies and developments.

We have got 7 million cars, one car equals 50 KW = 350.000MW on the road. That’s more than 20 times our current energy capacity in the Netherlands. Wubbo Ockels, now the REAL numbers, a car which drives 12.500 miles a year needs a 144 square feet of solar panels.
This needs to be published, accessible to everybody!

According to his own experiences, former-minister Willem Vermeend says, the biggest problems in regards to renewable energy are the CALCULATIONS. Example;
The government says we need a new coal-fired power plant. (life span 40 years) The calculations of the Ministry of Energy are coal power plant is cheapest per KW hour. COMPLETELY wrong because some factors have not been included, i.e. gas, coal and oil price over 40 years, and what about health and pollution impact. CONCLUSION, a coal-fired energy plant is hugely expensive.

US Congress to debate German style feed-in tariff.

Germany sets shining example in providing a harvest for the world

“The Race for the Car of the Future”,

“Here Comes the Sun”,

The LadderMill is the response to the challenge for exploiting the gigantic energy source contained in the airspace up to high altitudes of 10 km.

President of EUROSOLAR
General Chairman of the World Council for Renewable Energy (WCRE); President of the International Parliamentary Forum on Renewable Energies; Member of the German Bundestag; Author.

About solar energy

World's largest photovoltaic power plants


How Africa's desert sun can bring Europe power

DESERTEC (summary)

DESERTEC website

René de Groot (not verified)
November 18th 2008, 7:10 am

There's a great opportunity today for convergence of clean technology and education. Every pubic school system in the country is facing exorbitant energy costs. Yet every system has a huge number of facilities tied to the electric grid. Few are net zero.

My proposal is that instead of using billions to bailout failing US industries that haven't nimbly adapted to changing conditions, the Federal Government should use the billions to invest in removing our schools from the grid. Either through photovoltaics or wind, imagine if our public schools could dramatically reduce their energy costs. The existing budgets could then be focused on education and positioning our kids for future success. The facilities should be a national priority to make our schools sustainable and build concept of responsibility into the value system of our kids.

Barry (not verified)
November 16th 2008, 3:35 pm

I would like to ask Mr. Friedman a philosophical question: Would an unlimited source of clean energy be a good thing if it meant that we could then make all the plastic we want, all the chemicals, all the fertilizers and pesticides, all the cement, and all the disposable products we want and supply these things to everyone in the world? Perhaps the unforeseen consequences of unlimited, clean energy on natural resource depletion, on waste, and on biodiversity should be included in the discussion of how to make clean energy work for the benefit of humankind.

Adam Cherson (not verified)
November 14th 2008, 11:14 am