Thomas Friedman: The New Red White and Blue
- This article by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Friedman, author of The
World Is Flat, still on Best Seller Lists after 39 weeks,.has been widely
circulated online since Friday. It's an inspiring presentation of the
"geo-green" worldview (a term Friedman coined ).
You may wonder why we posted this to the Calcars-News list, since, though
he courageously calls for a gasoline tax and incentives for renewable
energy, he doesn't get specific about transportation strategies.
1. We wanted to make sure you've seen it and make it easy to forward.
2. Friedman did write about PHEVs back in June, in a column called "As
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/17/opinion/17friedman.html or text:
3. We hope he will return to the subject...so stay tuned...
The New Red White and Blue
Op-Ed Columnist THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
The New York Times Published: January 6, 2006
As we enter 2006, we find ourselves in trouble, at home and abroad. We are
in trouble because we are led by defeatists - wimps, actually.
What's so disturbing about President Bush and Dick Cheney is that they talk
tough about the necessity of invading Iraq, torturing terror suspects and
engaging in domestic spying - all to defend our way of life and promote
democracy around the globe.
But when it comes to what is actually the most important issue in U.S.
foreign and domestic policy today - making ourselves energy efficient and
independent, and environmentally green - they ridicule it as something only
liberals, tree-huggers and sissies believe is possible or necessary.
Sorry, but being green, focusing the nation on greater energy efficiency
and conservation, is not some girlie-man issue. It is actually the most
tough-minded, geostrategic, pro-growth and patriotic thing we can do.
Living green is not for sissies. Sticking with oil, and basically saying
that a country that can double the speed of microchips every 18 months is
somehow incapable of innovating its way to energy independence - that is
for sissies, defeatists and people who are ready to see American values
eroded at home and abroad.
Living green is not just a "personal virtue," as Mr. Cheney says. It's a
national security imperative.
The biggest threat to America and its values today is not communism,
authoritarianism or Islamism. It's petrolism. Petrolism is my term for the
corrupting, antidemocratic governing practices - in oil states from Russia
to Nigeria and Iran - that result from a long run of $60-a-barrel oil.
Petrolism is the politics of using oil income to buy off one's citizens
with subsidies and government jobs, using oil and gas exports to intimidate
or buy off one's enemies, and using oil profits to build up one's internal
security forces and army to keep oneself ensconced in power, without any
transparency or checks and balances.
When a nation's leaders can practice petrolism, they never have to tap
their people's energy and creativity; they simply have to tap an oil well.
And therefore politics in a petrolist state is not about building a society
or an educational system that maximizes its people's ability to innovate,
export and compete. It is simply about who controls the oil tap.
In petrolist states like Russia, Iran, Venezuela and Sudan, people get rich
by being in government and sucking the treasury dry - so they never want to
cede power. In non-petrolist states, like Taiwan, Singapore and Korea,
people get rich by staying outside government and building real businesses.
Our energy gluttony fosters and strengthens various kinds of petrolist
regimes. It emboldens authoritarian petrolism in Russia, Venezuela,
Nigeria, Sudan and Central Asia. It empowers Islamist petrolism in Sudan,
Iran and Saudi Arabia. It even helps sustain communism in Castro's Cuba,
which survives today in part thanks to cheap oil from Venezuela. Most of
these petrolist regimes would have collapsed long ago, having proved
utterly incapable of delivering a modern future for their people, but they
have been saved by our energy excesses.
No matter what happens in Iraq, we cannot dry up the swamps of
authoritarianism and violent Islamism in the Middle East without also
drying up our consumption of oil - thereby bringing down the price of
crude. A democratization policy in the Middle East without a different
energy policy at home is a waste of time, money and, most important, the
lives of our young people.
That's because there is a huge difference in what these bad regimes can do
with $20-a-barrel oil compared with the current $60-a-barrel oil. It is no
accident that the reform era in Russia under Boris Yeltsin, and in Iran
under Mohammad Khatami, coincided with low oil prices. When prices soared
again, petrolist authoritarians in both societies reasserted themselves.
We need a president and a Congress with the guts not just to invade Iraq,
but to also impose a gasoline tax and inspire conservation at home. That
takes a real energy policy with long-term incentives for renewable energy -
wind, solar, biofuels - rather than the
welfare-for-oil-companies-and-special-interests that masqueraded last year
as an energy bill.
Enough of this Bush-Cheney nonsense that conservation, energy efficiency
and environmentalism are some hobby we can't afford. I can't think of
anything more cowardly or un-American. Real patriots, real advocates of
spreading democracy around the world, live green.
Green is the new red, white and blue.
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Felix Kramer fkramer@...
Founder California Cars Initiative
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