The End of Green?

With the economy in turmoil, many people have asked me what effect the turmoil will have on all the green initiatives I call for in Hot, Flat, and Crowded. This morning I was talking to my friend David Rothkopf, the energy expert at the Carnegie Endowment, and he put it this way: “Is this financial crisis going to be the end of green, or is green going to be how we end this financial crisis?” Really, that is the question of the hour.

The economic crisis could be the end of green, because without investment capital for research and development, and without confidence in the long-term health of the markets, it will be impossible for us to build a Clean Energy System or create the innovations that will enable us to bring alternative energy solutions to market and get them to scale. I shudder to think of that outcome.

But green may be how we end this financial crisis, because with the economy hitting bottom, everyone is going to be looking to be more cost-efficient in the way they live and do business, and that will mean demand for the most cost-saving energy efficient buildings, cars and heating and air conditioning systems is going to surely increase.

What we are seeing in this crisis is the need for a whole new financial architecture—and people are recognizing that some problems are just too big to solve unless we approach them systematically. As it is with our economy, so it is with our ecosystem: we need a new system, and we are going to have to think things through very carefully and make some hard choices to get it right.

Naturally, I am hoping that the economic crisis turns out to be the beginning of green—an opportunity to set the country and the planet right before it is too late. What do you think?


I think we can sum up the cause of our current economic crisis in one word — GREED.
Unfortunately, many borrowers got slammed when their adjustable mortgage finally adjusted. When too many of them couldn’t afford to make their payments, it causes these lenders to suffer from liquidity issue and to sit on more foreclosures than they could sell. Mortgage-backed securities became more risky and worth less causing investment firms like Lehman Brothers to suffer. Moreover, insurers like AIG who insured these bad mortgages also got in trouble.

Tommy Tang (not verified)
April 1st 2010, 2:20 pm

Have you assessed how potential increased demand for green energy technologies, especially solar power, could be supported by the US industrial base, especially in terms of access to and potential price increases for the raw materials for making solar cells/panels? Could increased demand for solar cause a shortage of materials to make the cells and panels, thereby actually driving prices up? Where are the materials, such as germanium, located for our vendors to obtain?

Darren Rhyne (not verified)
October 21st 2009, 11:01 pm

Unsigned site [] has some using it to debunk greenhouse effects. Anyone comment?

Webb Scrivnor (not verified)
May 20th 2009, 7:57 pm

With high energy consumption goes a high standard of living. Thus the enormous fossil energy which we in this country control feeds machines which make each of us master of an army of mechanical slaves. Man's muscle power is rated at 35 watts continuously, or one-twentieth horsepower. Machines therefore furnish every American industrial worker with energy equivalent to that of 244 men, while at least 2,000 men push his automobile along the road, and his family is supplied with 33 faithful household helpers. Each locomotive engineer controls energy equivalent to that of 100,000 men; each jet pilot of 700,000 men. Truly, the humblest American enjoys the services of more slaves than were once owned by the richest nobles, and lives better than most ancient kings. In retrospect, and despite wars, revolutions, and disasters, the hundred years just gone by may well seem like a Golden Age.

Whether this Golden Age will continue depends entirely upon our ability to keep energy supplies in balance with the needs of our growing population. Before I go into this question, let me review briefly the role of energy resources in the rise and fall of civilizations.

Possession of surplus energy is, of course, a requisite for any kind of civilization, for if man possesses merely the energy of his own muscles, he must expend all his strength - mental and physical - to obtain the bare necessities of life.

Surplus energy provides the material foundation for civilized living - a comfortable and tasteful home instead of a bare shelter; attractive clothing instead of mere covering to keep warm; appetizing food instead of anything that suffices to appease hunger. It provides the freedom from toil without which there can be no art, music, literature, or learning. There is no need to belabor the point. What lifted man - one of the weaker mammals - above the animal world was that he could devise, with his brain, ways to increase the energy at his disposal, and use the leisure so gained to cultivate his mind and spirit. Where man must rely solely on the energy of his own body, he can sustain only the most meager existence.

Man's first step on the ladder of civilization dates from his discovery of fire and his domestication of animals. With these energy resources he was able to build a pastoral culture. To move upward to an agricultural civilization he needed more energy. In the past this was found in the labor of dependent members of large patriarchal families, augmented by slaves obtained through purchase or as war booty. There are some backward communities which to this day depend on this type of energy.

Slave labor was necessary for the city-states and the empires of antiquity; they frequently had slave populations larger than their free citizenry. As long as slaves were abundant and no moral censure attached to their ownership, incentives to search for alternative sources of energy were lacking; this may well have been the single most important reason why engineering advanced very little in ancient times.

A reduction of per capita energy consumption has always in the past led to a decline in civilization and a reversion to a more primitive way of life. For example, exhaustion of wood fuel is believed to have been the primary reason for the fall of the Mayan Civilization on this continent and of the decline of once flourishing civilizations in Asia. India and China once had large forests, as did much of the Middle East. Deforestation not only lessened the energy base but had a further disastrous effect: lacking plant cover, soil washed away, and with soil erosion the nutritional base was reduced as well.

Whereas past civilization could have maintained their resource base of wood through careful cultivation, nothing can be done to preserve the resource base of fossil fuels. The earth is finite, and coal, oil, and natural gas are not renewable. Equally scary, burning these fuels causes global warming. The United States peaked in oil production in 1970, and now produces just half the oil it produced back then. The world may be at peak oil now.

Anonymous (not verified)
April 6th 2009, 7:42 pm

As a 20 plus year Energy Efficiency ( EE ) Professional I have been active in over $100 million worth of energy efficient lighting projects in my career.

BUt somehting is really bothering me and my colleagues.

It seems possibly you, even as one of our biggest fans and flag wavers for EE, the new administration, also on our side big time, and the culture in general seem to be totally missing about the "new" Green Economy.

1) It's not new and the real answers, the fast solutions and the infrastructure are already in place to literally fire thsi engine up now!

2) If this administration wants to succeed in Energy Efficiency the way they did in the election where they grafted the incredible energy and talent of the Obama Team onto the well laid groundwork of the Dean led grassroots, then they should do the same thing.. graft onto what is already a HUGE, diversified MULTI BILLION DOLLAR industry.

EE is in Lighting, Construction, HVAC, Insulation, Motors, Controls, Software, Hardware, etc.

Why aren't the people I know who are the most successful in this field like NAESCO members ( Nat'l Assoc of Energy Service Companies) like Trane , Honywell Johnson Controls, Siemens, ect, the Utility industry, the Lighting & other trades and the Assoc of Energy Engineers not in the front of this?

Look God Bless Van Jones but this should be led by industry and the trades at the front not non profits and think tankers .

Want to get an idea how wide it is? Go to and look up the trade allies and trade orgs that are listed in each of the categories for energystar and start there.

It scares and amazes me how the stimulus plan right now has literally halted all the work we had going while our clients are waiting for the stim money !! ouch.

Arghgg !!

Frustrated and under utilized

Bob Gilbert
Efficiency 1st

Raleigh NC
"Creating power through Energy Efficiency since 1986"

Bob Gilbert (not verified)
March 28th 2009, 8:14 pm

One of my partners just informed me of your existence I am happy to say. I have enjoyed all of the 10 minutes and look forward to many more.

Regarding the effect of this economy on environmental venture it has been our experience that there has been more interest in our projects than ever before.

It appears that green ventures are more or less immune to the economic crisis. Moreover, this may weed out the concepts and ventures that are not feasible.

We began our environmental work, over 30 years ago, after our friend and mentor was arrested for running a still to make alcohol as a fuel for his vehicles. We formed a non profit group and were going to save the world in 5 years.

Over the next 30 years we made little progress, or so it appeared. Politicians gave us minimal support and investors ignored us. However, I am proud that we did raise awareness. But we paid a price. The Judi Bari story is one example.

Beginning about 5 years ago, interest and investment in our now for profit organization has grown exponentially each year culminating in our receiving enough investment money to build prototypes of several of our inventions such as a new gasification process and a very efficient wind turbine.

A venture into sending environmental technology to Nigeria is also in the works.

We now have more financial, political and moral support that we could have hoped for. Green is just getting started.

David Ball

David Ball (not verified)
February 5th 2009, 2:04 pm

Hi Mr. Friedman,

I'm sorry to say that I haven't read your book...yet... I've been part of a local group of citizens who have been spending all their available time reading document after document and website after website in order to find the words to fight the construction of a trash incinerator in Frederick, Maryland (up the road from you.) I was told that you might be someone who could help us. So, this is a bold, outright plea to you. (And, I WILL answer your question, I promise.)

I won't be long-winded about this. Our county's landfill is running out and we've been long-hauling most of our "trash" to Virginia for the past few years. With the cost of gas and the uncertainty of future contracts with this mega-landfill, our Board of County Commissioners looked into the construction of a Waste-to-Energy facility, to be shared with our neighboring county, Carroll. A grassroots group of citizens have organized discussions/lectures, sent directed email strings to officials, and created and distributed a "No-Incinerator" sign campaign/website ( The contracts from the proposed incinerator company, were just made public, however, and we're pretty sure our Board will be signing off on them in a couple weeks....if enough people don't step up to tell them "NO."

Many of our citizens, unfortunately, believe that this will be a great source of energy - they don't understand that burning "resources" (recyclables, compostables, reusables) WASTES the inherent energy in them - energy that could be used over and over again, instead of just once. They don't understand that trying to attack the problem of waste (including energy) in our society will NEVER be solved by addressing the "back-end." We need to change the way that society views waste - all around. In saying this to you, I understand that I'm preaching to the choir....

To answer your question (within this true plea for help up here in Frederick): I've been one of a smart, passionate, civil, genuine group of citizens who have been sharing YOUR "hope" for the past couple years: as you so aptly say, "I am hoping that the economic crisis turns out to be the beginning of green—an opportunity to set the country and the planet right before it is too late." So, my answer is, "Yes - I agree with you."

I know you're one of the people who understands what we're striving for here - an opportunity to let our society show our leaders that "we get it!" Is there any way you can help us?

Thanks for all the good you've already done....and will continue to do.

Karin Tome (not verified)
January 30th 2009, 4:18 pm

Dear Mr Friedman
Interestingly, we’ve just asked exactly the same question of our network - "Will the green movement fall out of favour in this economic climate?" (see for more)

(please note that the views expressed below are my own and do not necessarily reflect the position of the professional organizations with which I am affiliated.)Unlike many of the people responding to your article, I have not read your book; I am replying purely to your post.

As the recession is officially announced in Britain, there is the same concern that you raise here, that financial concerns will take precedence over all others. An obvious way it will bite is in lowered spending on the more expensive organic and sustainable options available – see the discussion at – from groceries to energy supplies.
This would be the short sighted way of reacting.

But, the growing number of voices exploring the potential of the current economic climate for environmental issues is encouraging. This is the far-sighted reaction.

Given Obama’s recent speech allying economic stimuli and the development of alternative energy sources I think there is unprecedented potential here for the green movement to present environmental developments as solutions that can drive an innovative future; to move away from frequent typecasting of these developments as costly and painful. Lets hope that politicians and organizations can pull off this concept coherently.

Kathryn (not verified)
January 27th 2009, 4:43 pm

"The meek shall inherit the earth" Right now I feel meek. When I hear talk of the youth that are integral to this change, that are going to inherit the great debt and clean up the great mess, I'm included.

I feel meek because I don't know what to do, I'm the mouse that senses danger and looks right then left, back and forth, taking too long and risking to much by not making a choice. But where do I go? What do I do?

I want to be involved in the environmental industry- taking part in the coming E.T. age. I was, actually, doing press release distribution for an up and coming Environmental newswire...then they folded and I couldn't find something fast enough- ended up taking up a telemarketing position to pay the bills.

I'm not an engineer, and I'm certainly not senior in either of this field. I am, however, creative, quick and passionate. While I'm delighted that there are now "green" and "environmental" job boards...they only seem to advertise positions for senior level/directors/upper-management or on the opposite side of things there are volunteer positions to be had. So how do I join? How do I pay the rent/utilities/etc.? And still make a difference.

I beseech you for help.

Christian Farrier (not verified)
January 22nd 2009, 6:07 pm

There is a UNIQUE and TIMELY opportunity for the Obama administration to take decisive action on something of great importance - GASOLINE TAX! Read this quote from Robert A. Lutz, G.M.'s vice chairman; "Every six months we get called stupid for having the wrong products. Far be it for me to be the first auto executive to call for a gas tax. But, right now it's like fighting obesity by requiring clothing manufacturers to make nothing but small sizes."

I see this quote and the number of electric and hybrid cars showcased at the international auto show as historic events. The government needs to seize this opportunity and support Detroit beginning with a gasoline tax. The gas tax is a win-win-win scenario. It will provide more "predictability" for Detriot. It will put money in "our" pockets versus OPEC's. It will keep up the "green movement" momentum. And it will help to abolish the 'Oil Industrial Complex' that has a strangle hold on our politics and foreign policy.

The compelling logic behind this is that the price for oil is presently at a low point. Yet we all know that the price for oil is enitrely manipulated by OPEC. There is a threshold at which point Americans are willing to pay for oil. There is a threshold at which point Americans feel comfortable buying gas guzzlers. And there is a threshold at which point Americans are outraged and are compelled to conserve. The net difference between the price of oil now and American's comfort level is "up for grabs" and it WILL be taken by OPEC Despots, so why don't WE step in and take it.

We're on the cusp of a potentially new era of how we create and consume energy. The GAS TAX has been vociferously opposed by detriot and NOW they are ASKING for it. I pray that this new administration siezes this opportunity and does what should have been done already for decades. The time is right and we have the technology to make it happen.

Mr. Friedman - so many people read and respect what you write in your columns. Perhaps you could devote some attention to this urgent and vitally important issue conerning the long overdue GAS TAX.

Ralph Stevens (not verified)
January 19th 2009, 9:39 am

My concern is that the low prices of the current oil will not only allow for petrodictatorship to decline, it will also encourage "revolution of change" within these countries. The Revolution of change may not come in the way of Increased Freedom for it's population. With all of the "Oil Money" that currently is available, this revolution could be bad.

With the recent "global recession", I see another "world war" that might actually cause more harm than climate change. One only has to look at the last Great Depression to see the end result of that economic downturn.

Am I wrong? Or just underestimating current human actions?

Tommy (not verified)
January 18th 2009, 7:59 am

Tom, I agree that the need for truly visionary, focusing leadership is crucial to progress against what is coming at us, globally. I’ve read a lot of suggestions in this forum, most are pretty good, but with leadership like what we’ve had for the last eight years, and all the way back to Regan (whom I liked at the time), those of us us who see what is coming are simply doomed to go on “crying in the wilderness” like John the baptist, while the situation becomes increasingly dire.

If the US leadership chooses to give lip-service to real changes, focused on the future, perhaps someone else, like China or India will pick up on it. Personally, I doubt anyone would or could. Americans are uniquely “programmed” to take on the impossible challenges, dream the impossible dream, trial-and-error their way to success, and make what sacrifices are required to see the dream come true. Our leadership needs to stop holding us back. [Read Incredibly American, Zuckerman and Hatala. This describes who we are and why we’re “programmed” for the impossible challenge.]

If America were to take on this challenge as a nation, we would likely lead ourselves, with the rest of the world following, to a much more prosperous and satisfying future than even we dream of today. If we don’t choose to lead, I’m afraid we’re just going to have to wait for another savior to lead us away.

I’ve read a lot on the American Revolution, the sacrifices made by the first Americans and how they worked to create a truly new government by the people. We need to learn from these brave men and women. There came a time to choose to act, which was a terrifying choice (but fortunately, the British were pushing for the Americans/Colonists to choose), and the colonists chose to become Americans and make the sacrifices required. It wasn’t easy, but it worked out well. Now is our time. The threat is there and is real, most of the challenges have been defined. The consequences of action and inaction are relatively defined as well. Dare we?

I remember a set of 4 words from Walt Disney, a true visionary leader, which he used to encourage young people. They were: “DREAM, BELIEVE, DARE, ACT.” We need to re-discover this in ourselves.

Bill K. (not verified)
December 27th 2008, 3:22 pm

Please be aware of the latest developments of Blacklight Power . Check their Website at . They have recently (12/11) completed a commercial contract with Estacado Energy services licensing their technology for use.
The Blacklight process provides exceptionally cheap, absolutely clean, energy that eliminates the dependence on mideast oil and provides a basis for job creation for the building the new infrastructure to transform our energy needs from fossil fuel to a hydrino energy source. A truely integrated concept. The time for change is now!
You have the pulpit - please use it.

Ned Hogan (not verified)
December 26th 2008, 11:30 am

I'm reading Hot Flat and Crowded now..part way through it.

We have experienced sub zero weather for the past week here in the Kansas City area and extreme winter conditions in much of the rest of the country. (This is "Global Warming?)

Perhaps Al Gore is correct, but I suspect that science has not yet arrived at what the effect our contamination of the atmosphere has been on climate.

When they figure that out maybe they'll have a handle on predicting our financial ups and downs.

Bernard Fremerman (not verified)
December 23rd 2008, 2:18 am

Unless I'm mistaken, the last time this country did any voluntary belt-tightening was on the occasion of World War 2, over 60 years ago. In that situation, the menace was clear and visible, as were its effects. Having lived so fat as a culture since that time, with generations now raised in an entitlement culture, along with a media that somehow refuses to cover with any depth the "twin terrors" of climate change and peak oil, can we at all reasonably expect this era of Americans to make the kind of systemic change that going green in any meaningful way would entail? I really don't think so- but I've got a 16-year-old son inheriting this mess, and I hope to God I'm wrong.

Bradley Stone (not verified)
November 24th 2008, 9:20 pm

One of the problems this economic crisis is creating in Florida is lack of funds to pay for rebates that are used to entice people into going green. These rebates were supposed to entice people into buying solar water heaters, helping offset some of the cost.

Problem is, they're not getting their rebate because the state has less tax revenues coming in than before. They ran out of rebate money and now everyone is on a waiting list. That isn't going to make it easier to encourage people to go green.

Good article summing up one of our local reporter's experiences in getting his rebate (he's still waiting).....

Shaun (not verified)
November 22nd 2008, 7:27 pm

“How to Pimp a Shrimp”, sustainable business initiatives.

Live the American Dream by going Green. No manipulation required. Say it as it is and follow through. In Rotterdam they say; No words but deeds! And indeed two inspiring eco-business models have originated from there.

Surely, if you can deliver sustainable shrimps and an eco night-club, there are no boundaries to what can be done to seriously reduce or stop the damage done to our environment. And creating fantastic business opportunities with huge returns on investment$.

Mr. Friedman, have you written something about the Feed-In Tariff?

Sustainable Tropical Shrimps

Green is the new Cool

…innovative marketing...

…and know how to throw a Party...

…with some herbal (green) XTC !
(For the neo-cons and the politicians from the Ministry* of God)

* ‘Ministry’, refers to George Orwell’s modern classic, ‘1984’.

“They were the homes of the four Ministries between which the entire apparatus of government was divided: the Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts; the Ministry of Peace, which concerned itself with war; the Ministry of Love, which maintained law and order; and the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible of economic affairs”.

René de Groot (not verified)
November 20th 2008, 6:38 am

Solar, a great opportunity for America.

Maximize the number of American homes with Solar Water and Solar Electric.

The congress of United States of America and Presidents of the United States have signed into law over the years many bills to assist fellow Americans in purchasing solar water heating units and solar electric generating units and as of today there is another congressional bill passed to extend and continue the same. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I support the idea of assisting American home owners in purchasing Solar Water and Solar Electric units. I also want to make it perfectly clear that I feel that the U.S. Government has in it's wisdom overlooked the one most important step of insuring that the American home owner do not remove these solar units from their homes once they have received the government assistances. Please, I'm not speaking about contracts to ENFORCE, PUNISH and financially bind home owners. Even though contracts are necessary. I'm speaking of years after the installation and the solar units start their decay process and normal maintenance requirements are needed. That's when some home owners simply remove these slightly warn units for dumb and sometimes financial reasons.

Once upon a time:

many years ago America did not have the Electric power system as we know it today. Many homes and business owners stepped up and creating an electric cooperatives to share the costs of building and maintaining the Electric grid systems for themselves and their fellow Americans so all could move into the industrial age. I'd imagine all America is proud of these broad minded people for their contribution. As they saw it each Individual home owner or business owner could not afford their own Electric power system and the maintenance of same. I make the point that the Solar Electric and Solar Water for individual home owners is not-affordable as outlined today, even with the subsidizes. In order to make these solar units affordable for home owners and to motivate more home owners to install solar water and solar electric, there is a need for, “ lifetime maintenance” of said systems. I place the proposition that Utility companies should maintain these home installed solar units. Utility companies are directly profiting from these home owners installed solar units. The utility companies are the repair specialist for the Electricity that the home owners use. This would solve the maintenance need of solar units. All home owned solar installations would stay put on the home owners property serving all Americans as congress intended and always be producing electricity and hot water forever. There is the answer you should be looking for to make the solar units affordable for home owners. And just think how the US Congress really did spend that money to helped all American home owners, not the manufacturers of and installers of solar water and solar electric units. Lets not forget those handyman types that come along and remove those units, throwing perfectly good material in land fills and doing this at the whim of the unhappy home owner.

As you and I know the Utility companies require financing for this little maintenance task. I suggest a small fee of lets say, 0.20 cents plus or minus a few pennies for that task from each and every none-commercial utility user. This will be such a tinkling damn of costs for each to assist in helping all home owners including themselves. I remind you of, “Once upon a time”.

Think about it. No more home owners removing solar water units because of simple water leaks and that sort. No more removing a solar electric panels because some new home owner dislikes the look of panels on the new home they just purchased. This is such a simple procedure and could be very easily managed and profitable to the Electric company and would reduce the need for some expansion of power lines and building more external power plants. I also have reason to believe that MANY, MANY more home owners would install both Solar water and Solar electric on their homes when they fully understood that the costs were affordable.

I would like to make the point that I have both solar electric and solar water on my home here in Sun City AZ. Some will say, You are suggesting this for yourself. Yes I am and I also suggesting this hoping you will put solar on your home too. The solar on my house is for myself and you, my neighbor. If I offend you with this idea and you cannot support this idea, please come up with an idea for America yourself. I also wish to point out that four (4) of my neighbors have removed their solar water units from their homes. They tell me, because of the high cost of repairing a water leaks. This is a fact, sad but true. Please, don't let such an easy solution slip by.

Leranzo Campbell Retired M/Sgt USAF -- Sun City AZ

Leranzo Campbel... (not verified)
November 19th 2008, 1:49 pm

All the biggest problems we face (the economy, the auto industry, oil dependency, global warming, the Iraq War) have one common solution, and it is actually the opposite of a carbon tax:


It is that simple. No sales or income tax on revenue from clean, renewable energy or technology (like plug-in, flex fuel hybrids) that radically decrease oil consumption. No capital gains tax on companies stocks and dividends in proportion to the percentage of their revenue that comes from green energy technology. That simple policy will supercharge private investment in clean and renewable energy technologies... on the order of $300 billion dollars per year, or more. That includes new investment in the US auto industry, as investors see a path towards a increasingly tax free auto industry. It will encourage oil and coal companies, and utilities, to voluntarily go green, in order to escape taxes.

It will keep the cost of energy as cheap as possible by lowering the price of green energy, creating massive new green energy competition that reduces demand for oil and coal. Cheap energy will in turn stimulate every other sector of the economy.

And NO FEDERAL SPENDING IS REQUIRED. It does not cost one dollar upfront. A focussed tax cut on this one sector of the economy can lift all others by keeping the price of energy low for all, and producing massive domestic employment. A tax cut here will produce a massive tax revenue surge from the rest of the economy. Tax freedom for green energy will make the US the world leader in green energy investment in Obama's first term -- in fact, most world green energy investment will go through the US for the tax advantage.

So forget Obama's $150 billion federal "investment" over 10 years -- that is PEANUTS compared to what is needed and what the private sector can do if we make green energy technology tax free. And puh-lease forget the stupid carbon tax and cap-and-trade proposals that do not really work and will only raise the price of energy, and further depress the economy. A carbon tax is economic suicide, and entirely unnecessary when you can get the same tax differential, and accomplish the same shift with an entrepreneurial boom by making green energy tax free.

A 100% tax cut for renewable, clean energy technologies is the cheapest and most effective stimulus we could provide right now for our struggling economy in general, and for the auto industry in particular. And it is the absolute best and fastest way to achieve our goal of creating a clean, green economy.

But enough. If you wish,

Rod Richardson (not verified)
November 19th 2008, 1:03 am

I've enjoyed several of Mr. Friedman's books and highly respect his opinions on global politics. His work on globalization has provided great understanding to the world. However, concerning his green ideas I worry that he may be too optimistic and lacking in understanding of the interplay between basic economics and the need for global environmental standards. As he urges the country to adopt some sort of cap and trade policy to support a revolution in green technology, I worry that his optimism may exceed the realities of the marketplace. Without global environmental standards, I worry that Mr. Friedman's ideas will not produce meaningful results. Unless other countries (China in particular) agree to implement similar environmental standards (which they certainly won't if trade competitors like Vietnam don't) to the US, unilaterally adopting much harsher green standards will further weaken America's competitiveness globally. I wholly support Mr. Friedman's desire for a greener world. However, I worry that his arguments in this area may reflect naivete. I want to see a much greener world too, and I think there is a role for the government to support R&D so that some day green technology will be able to compete with fossil fuels. Without global standards, however, the US will be at a competitive disadvantage with many of its trading partners.

One thought might be to try to determine the marginal cost of implementing green standards on certain products being imported from polluting countries. Then the US would assess a tariff on certain products that is explicitly linked to the lack of environmental standards in that given polluting country. Perhaps that could help convince polluting countries to implement tougher environmental standards.

Rick S (not verified)
November 15th 2008, 1:52 pm

Your diagnosis of the challenges facing us is awesome. However, you seem to be unaware that the solution to the major problems you articulate is located down the Jersey turnpike in Cranberry, NJ. Please check out the recent developments at BLACKLIGHT POWER as contained on their Website Dr. Randy Mills has demonstrated and validated a new fuel source that solves the economic, environmental,energy and national security issues you have so cogently framed. If we need to move "with all deliberate haste" it's time for you to promote specific solutions. BLACKLIGHT is America at its entrepreneurial and exceptional best. The private sector developing solutions without taxpayer dollars. Please take the time to understand the potential that exists in Einstein's shadow.

Ned Hogan
Sun Valley, Idaho

Ned Hogan (not verified)
November 13th 2008, 12:49 pm

Why couldn't the government sell bonds to fund alternative energy projects?
People could choose to invest in these bonds, which would offer a
guaranteed if modest (4%?) rate of return in the bond of their choice.
You could invest with cash or in your IRA, 401K or 529 plan.
I think this idea would appeal to people who are very committed to
alternative and renewable energy as well as to people who have
never given much thought to energy but are very weary of all the
volatility on wall street lately and would welcome a guaranteed rate
of return and a promise that their savings would never go down.

Here are some ideas for bonds:
Solar bond - Government would buy and install photovoltaic cells
at various locations (schools, business, private residences). Owners of buildings
would enter into a long term contract with the government with
fixed rates for electricity used. Excess electricity generated at sites
could be sold back to local power companies to meet local need.
Wind bond - Government would install and run wind turbines selling
power through existing grid network.
Amerifuel bond - Government would build gas stations to sell
ethanol and biodiesel.
Carcass bond - Would fund additional plants to turn animal carcasses
into fuel oil. (It's already being done with turkey carcasses.)
Digestor bond - Would fund projects to extract methane from manure.

I think this would be a good way to take control of our energy future.
It could lesson the taxpayer burden of funding alternative energy projects,
and save the porkbarrel dollars that will inevitably be required to
get alternative energy funding to pass. It would give the American people
a safe and guaranteed return on their investment for retirement or college.

It feels like the right time for some big ideas to get our country moving towards
energy independance, cleaner and renewable fuel, and a culture
where modest, steady, SAVINGS is what most people strive for.
I think this idea could help. Thank you for your consideration.

Amanda Wilhelm (not verified)
November 13th 2008, 10:39 am

I wish your book had done a better job describing the Carbon Cycle. In the long run,say 50 years, it doesn't matter what you do with carbon that is above ground. It is only the dirty carbon from underground that matters. Whether trees die and rot, or are burned the result is natural. If you make boards, you tie up Carbon for decades but it eventually goes back to the atmosphere. Cows burp now, but buffalos burped long before them. Termites are the worst methane offenders,but that is all nature. We need to get rid of coal,oil and natural gas. If the permafrost thaws and releases methane, heaven help us. Global Weirding got us.
No tax or restrictions should ever be placed on fuels that are produced from stuff above the ground.

James Baker (not verified)
November 12th 2008, 8:13 pm

With our new hope ushered in as the president-elect, I foresee the dawn of a new reasoning in America. One in which going green is forged through with the sound clarity and resolve that perhaps our nation's best cash crop may one day arise again to it's predominant place of being a beneficial, viable, and renewable resource that even our forefather's took stock in. I'm wondering if the decriminalization and taxation of marijuana might bring solace to our current crises? We could produce biomass fuels with it, and also regorge our society with wealth, prosperity, clean living, and a rebirth of newly progressive American led ideologies.

H.M. Henry (not verified)
November 12th 2008, 4:51 pm

Dear Mr Friedman,

Please watch "HERE COMES THE SUN" @

Hermann Scheer, a member of German parliament, President of EUROSTAR (the European Association for Renewable Energy) and General Chairman of the World Council for Renewable Energy, together with Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, explain how solar energy will transform our world within a decade from now. Enjoy.

Kind regards

Rene de Groot (not verified)
November 12th 2008, 3:15 pm

The end of green? No! The start of making green with clean energy.

Okay, my big idea for Chapter 18 is a happy ending concluding with energy independence for the United States of America. The end of Chapter 18 is the beginning of cheap and clean renewable energy. I wrote a plan to get to there from here. Everything in it is workable and uses technology available today.

My name is Jack Talbert, and I am the CEO of United Renewable Power and Electric, in Manhattan, Kansas.

Whilst I watched the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Mr. Friedman appeared as a guest. He summarized the same problem we all know, no one is making a contribution to a clean alternative energy as it is not cost effective as compared to current dirty sources. Jon Stewart presesnted the question to Mr. Friedman, "Why aren't there people in thier garages working on a solution, like what happened with the computer industry?"

There are, and I am one. I have a solution but no funds to move my designs forward into the market. The technology is here right now, I'm looking at it as I pen this post. I need help, and not just from those who speak of why we don't, but from one who would speak of why 'I' personally don't. The technology is there, and every day when I see what I have wrought with my hands into being, I ask myself, "Why are people allowing this huge pile of cash returns and clean energy to lay unused?"

Is it arrogance? Is it ignorance? Is it apathy? The technology is right there taunting me, laughing at me. I know what it is capable of, and I know what I am capable of.

So, as for Chapter 18, it could end with 'and I (Thomas Friedman) helped to save the world by bringing forth this existing technology for the sake of children everywhere'; or it could end 'and I have done nothing, but for my own personal gain and glory'.

I thank you for reading this post.

Jack Talbert
805 Mission Ave
Manhattan, KS 66502

As always the password is green.

Jack D. Talbert (not verified)
November 11th 2008, 11:53 pm

A quick idea - consumer tax credits for investments that save energy or reduce our carbon footprints. The credit should reduce out of pocket costs for investing in appropriate technologies and should be based upon the long term savings we provide to the benefit of the environment.

Anonymous (not verified)
November 11th 2008, 8:15 pm

Actually, I'm pleased to say the financial crisis actually spurred one of our major "go green" decisions.

We had been considering installing a modern heating and cooling system in our decidedly stodgy 1930s-era farmhouse, which had no air conditioning at all, and was heated with a fuel-fed boiler/radiator system that consumed enough fuel and electricity to power the Titanic.

With our monthly fuels hovering just over $1,000 per month for the five months of fall/winter weather, keeping our fuel-fed system would be fiscally demented. Adding to the mess, the credit card we used only for fuel was maxed out and unusuable. Keeping our home warm was becoming an exercise in How To Bankrupt Your Household.

We needed to do something quickly, and opted for a geothermal heating/cooling system. It was more expensive to install than a traditional heat pump because of the wells that needed to be drilled, but -- environmental benefits aside -- in the long run, it actually made more sense for us financially. It took the heating fuel monkey off our backs, and with the efficiency of the system (running the system at full speed takes less energy than one of the electric floor units we used to heat some of the cold spots in the house), we stood to reduce our electric bill as well.

All total, we estimate we'll recover the costs of the sytem in three to five years -- a worthwhile investment, good for the earth, good for our economy, and good for our state of mind.

Brian (not verified)
November 10th 2008, 1:53 pm

It is absolutely not the "End of Green". As a commercial developer with a green sensibility, I have really seen "Green" become a requirement of new facilities for companies. This is not out of some sort of corporate guilt or sense of responsibility (although these certainly account for many early adopters), but rather the REAL value to the cashflow or balance sheet that companies are seeing.

I am developing industrial buildings for a global client that often exceed 1,500,000 sf each and one is on track to achieve LEED Gold certification. Does the building look much different? No, but it will use almost half of the energy of similar buildings at a negligible additional upfront cost (less than 1%). This gets the attention of the boardroom in times like this.

Additionally, many investors recognize the future value that these buildings will have as energy costs continue to rise. Some investors are already asking "is the building LEED certified?" before they even ask the price.

Green is here to stay.

WJP (not verified)
November 10th 2008, 10:14 am

The IT boom happened organically, as easy access to credit allowed western corporations to invest heavily in R&D and Innovation. Given the recent tightening of credit, I find it less likely that an ET boom will gain much momentum. What other policy mechanisms could the government use to stimulate such an outcome?

Blake (not verified)
November 9th 2008, 11:48 pm