NYTimes' Thomas Friedman Cites CalCars' Felix Kramer on Global Fleet Electrification
- Thomas Friedman, Pulitzer-Prize winning NYTimes
columnist, has been writing eloquently and
persuasively about cleantech's potential to
change and improve the world. He says "E.T. --
energy technology" will have an even greater
impact than "I.T. -- information technology." In
his bestselling book, "Hot, Flat and Crowded," he
devoted great attention to plug-in hybrids and
the smart grid, citing CalCars' work and views
); he also included us in his film, "Addicted to
Oil." On Monday, he moderated the panel at the
launch of the Electrification Coalition
event (more from us on that soon), after which
he and I exchanged emails. In today's column, he
writes about oil dependency, and cites a comment
I made to him. Read the column below, followed by
the complete thought from which he quotes part 1.
(Shortly after it goes out on email, this posting
will also be viewable at
http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html -- there
you can add CalCars-News to your RSS feed.)
For an index to Friedman's columns, see
(among the best recent ones are "More Poetry,
Please," (Nov 1) and "Real Men Tax Gas" (Sept. 20)
The New York Times November 18, 2009
" What They Really Believe" by Op-Ed Columnist Thomas L. Friedman
If you follow the debate around the
energy/climate bills working through Congress you
will notice that the drill-baby-drill opponents
of this legislation are now making two claims.
One is that the globe has been cooling lately,
not warming, and the other is that America simply
can't afford any kind of cap-and-trade/carbon tax.
But here is what they also surely believe, but
are not saying: They believe the world is going
to face a mass plague, like the Black Death, that
will wipe out 2.5 billion people sometime between
now and 2050. They believe it is much better for
America that the world be dependent on oil for
energy -- a commodity largely controlled by
countries that hate us and can only go up in
price as demand increases --rather than on clean
power technologies that are controlled by us and
only go down in price as demand increases. And,
finally, they believe that people in the
developing world are very happy being poor --
just give them a little running water and
electricity and they'll be fine. They'll never want to live like us.
Yes, the opponents of any tax on carbon to
stimulate alternatives to oil must believe all
these things because that is the only way their
arguments make any sense. Let me explain why by
first explaining how I look at this issue.
I am a clean-energy hawk. Green for me is not
just about recycling garbage but about renewing
America. That is why I have been saying "green is the new red, white and blue."
My argument is simple: I think climate change is
real. You don't? That's your business. But there
are two other huge trends barreling down on us
with energy implications that you simply can't
deny. And the way to renew America is for us to
take the lead and invent the technologies to address these problems.
The first is that the world is getting crowded.
According to the 2006 U.N. population report,
"The world population will likely increase by 2.5
billion ... passing from the current 6.7 billion
to 9.2 billion in 2050. This increase is
equivalent to the total size of the world
population in 1950, and it will be absorbed
mostly by the less developed regions, whose
population is projected to rise from 5.4 billion
in 2007 to 7.9 billion in 2050."
The energy, climate, water and pollution
implications of adding another 2.5 billion mouths
to feed, clothe, house and transport will be
staggering. And this is coming, unless, as the
deniers apparently believe, a global pandemic or
a mass outbreak of abstinence will freeze world population -- forever.
Now, add one more thing. The world keeps getting
flatter more and more people can now see how we
live, aspire to our lifestyle and even take our
jobs so they can live how we live. So not only
are we adding 2.5 billion people by 2050, but
many more will live like "Americans" -- with
American-size homes, American-size cars, eating American-size Big Macs.
"What happens when developing nations with
soaring vehicle populations get tens of millions
of petroleum-powered cars at the same time as the
global economy recovers and there's no large
global oil supply overhang?" asks Felix Kramer,
the electric car expert who advocates
electrifying the U.S. auto fleet and increasingly
powering it with renewable energy sources. What
happens, of course, is that the price of oil goes
through the roof -- unless we develop
alternatives. The petro-dictators in Iran,
Venezuela and Russia hope we don't. They would only get richer.
So either the opponents of a serious
energy/climate bill with a price on carbon don't
care about our being addicted to oil and
dependent on petro-dictators forever or they
really believe that we will not be adding 2.5
billion more people who want to live like us, so
the price of oil won't go up very far and,
therefore, we shouldn't raise taxes to stimulate
clean, renewable alternatives and energy efficiency.
Green hawks believe otherwise. We believe that in
a world getting warmer and more crowded with more
"Americans," the next great global industry is
going to be E.T., or energy technology based on
clean power and energy efficiency. It has to be.
And we believe that the country that invents and
deploys the most E.T. will enjoy the most
economic security, energy security, national
security, innovative companies and global
respect. And we believe that country must be
America. If not, our children will never enjoy
the standard of living we did. And we believe the
best way to launch E.T. is to set a fixed,
long-term price on carbon combine it with the
Obama team's impressive stimulus for green-tech
and then let the free market and innovation do the rest.
So, as I said, you don't believe in global
warming? You're wrong, but I'll let you enjoy it
until your beach house gets washed away. But if
you also don't believe the world is getting more
crowded with more aspiring Americans -- and that
ignoring that will play to the strength of our
worst enemies, while responding to it with clean
energy will play to the strength of our best
technologies -- then you're willfully blind, and
you're hurting America's future to boot.
FULL EXCHANGE FROM WHICH QUOTE IS TAKEN:
On Monday, Friedman asked, "How close are we at
scale from clean power? If not, what's the point
of elect cars powered by coal?"
It's of course true that we need to fix the grid
while we build green cars. (That's where we get
my favorite thing about plug-in cars, quoted in
"Hot, Flat and Crowded" -- they're the only ones
that get cleaner as they get older, because the grid gets cleaner.)
Still, Nissan's Carlos Ghosn gave the simple
answer to that question: we're ahead on emissions
even if we power cars by coal. That's because
electric motors are up to 4x more efficient than
internal combustion engines (well-to-wheel energy use).
But what about China and India? Here's the
scenario I've NEVER seen analysts or journalists talk about:
What happens when developing nations with soaring
vehicle populations get tens of millions of
petroleum-powered cars at the same time as the
global economy recovers and there's no large
global oil supply overhang? These countries and
their customers will have to scramble to fuel
their cars. (As you know, China is already
working to lock in contracts around the world.)
What if they can't get enough? India and China
will then look to their enormous coal reserves.
As Germany and South Africa did when they had no
supply, they will go the route of liquifying coal
into gasoline. The CO2 impacts will be 2-3x
higher than using that coal directly to power
EVs. (Let's not even talk about water....)
That's why, YES, we'll better off if starting
right now, India and China build new cars that
run on electricity. Even if (short-term), that
electricity comes form coal, long-term they too
will have every reason to get their grids off
coal. And then everyone will be glad their vehicles can plug in.
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Felix Kramer fkramer@...
Founder California Cars Initiative
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