"Drill, Baby, Drill!" It's as if that Republican convention, on the eve of the birth of the Internet and the personal computer, was up chanting, "Let's stick with IBM Selectric typewriters! IBM Selectrics forever! Type, Baby, Type!"
--Thomas L. Friedman, three-time Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, speaking on the need for a Green-Revolution in America--
Monday night. I just got home--the phone's ringing as I open my front door. It's my husband. His voice sounds urgent.
Husband: "Are you listening to NPR?"
Me: "No. Why?"
Husband: "I'm listening to "Fresh Air". Terry Gross is interviewing Thomas Friedman on energy, oil, and the presidential candidates. You won't believe this. We are "SO expletive." Turn it on now! I'll explain what you've missed when I get home."
My husband is the antithesis of a political junkie and he rarely listens to NPR. He always listens to AM Sports Talk on his ride home. Why was he listening to "Fresh Air" & why was he so concerned?
I listened to the rest of the interview. Then I went online to hear the complete interview & I downloaded the transcript to read as well. I strongly recommend you do the same and make your own decisions. Friedman travels the world, talks to all the experts, and he knows what he's talking about. Here's the Fresh Air interview. It's only 33 minutes long! Believe me, I had a big pit in my stomach after listening to what he had to say.
**The interview is not a snoozer, I promise!
The U.S. is hemorrhaging middle-class jobs to India, China & Mexico. Gasoline prices are over-the-top. The upcoming middle-class of China and India are hungry for more fossil-fuel energy. Climate change is accelerating. And most of us haven't a clue how our oil addiction supports petro-dictatorships, and inadvertently funds terrorists, and supports the most intolerant, anti-modern, anti-Western, anti-women's rights strain of Islam; as well as reversing democratic trends in Russia and Latin America. It's funding every bad trend we see in the world.
The answer isn't "Drill, Baby, Drill." The answer is leadership that provides incentives to innovators to develop & expand wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. The answer is leadership that provides disincentives for using gasoline, and a system for delivering alternate energy to us, in the same way that we now get gasoline, electricity & natural gas. As Friedman says,
"If we could find a way to truly get off our addiction to oil, it just isn't a win/win, it's a win/win/win/win/win/win. Think of the things that happen. Our trade deficit dramatically improves. Our dollar strengthens. We weaken the worst regimes in the world. We mitigate global warming. We clean up our air. We become healthier, more secure, more economically strong, competitive and respected in the world. And people are out there saying, "drill, baby, drill." What planet are these people inhabiting? What am I missing here? What planet are they on exactly?"
Think it's an impossible pipe-dream?
It's happening in Denmark today.
They took oil independence seriously back in the 70's & 80's, when we just gave up on it. Fortunately, they discovered some oil & gas in the North Sea, but that wasn't the key reason they were able to wean themselves off of foreign oil.
They invested huge amounts in energy efficiency, imposing a CO2 tax, heavily taxing gasoline to create a disincentive for using it, creating systems to capture the heat from burning coal & incinerating waste products, and then using it for home heating. Brilliant! Today they have the leading wind turbine company and 2 of the leading ethanol enzymatic companies in the world. And guess what, when the U.S Congress under Reagan took all the tax incentives away from wind & solar energy in the 80's, Denmark bought the American wind companies that went belly-up, along with their technology. And the U.S. solar companies we helped spawn in the 80's--their technology was bought by the Japanese when they went bust after tax subsidies ended here. And by the way--Denmark's unemployment rate is 1.6%.
What are we doing to encourage investment in alternative energy?
Nothing! Since the oil companies are such huge political campaign contributors to both parties, tax-incentives for alternate energy is completely stalled in the Senate. Alternative energy companies just don't have the political clout or money to compete. So, every major new alternative energy project out there has been stalled. And we're talking about huge projects that would bring the new jobs we desperately need.
Alternative energy tax credits end on December 31, 2008. A bill to extend those tax credits & stimulate growth in alternative energy industries has been defeated 8 times in the Senate this year. John McCain has been absent for every vote. The one time he was actually in Washington, and could have voted, he didn't, and the bill failed by 1 vote, 59 to 40.
Republican Senator George Voinovich from Ohio also voted against solar tax credits, even though he has a major solar company in his own state. First Solar was looking to build a new factory in the U.S. They ended up building their newest factory in Franfurt Oder, East Germany, instead of the U.S., because East Germany was providing tax credits. 300 engineering jobs hemorrhaging to E. Germany. John Sununu, the senator from New Hampshire, also voted down the alternative energy tax credits, and GT Solar, one of the best solar equipment companies in the world is in his state. What's going on here?
It's not Global Warming. It's Global Weirding.
Yes, our climate is affected by us! "The world's top 2500 climatologists have concluded that mankind is interfering with the climate." Hunter Lovins coined the term, "Global Weirding", because it better describes what's actually happening to our climate. Extreme weather! Hotter hots, longer droughts, wetter wets. More frequent, more forceful hurricanes, and tornadoes showing up in places where they've never showed up before. It's not just a little "global warming". It's going to get weird. Do you think that maybe it already has?
What's Making the Weather So Weird?
Friedman asked Nate Lewis, an energy chemist at Cal Tech, "What is it about Hurricane Katrina that kind of bothered us so much?" Lewis thought about it and said,
Developing energy independence is no small task. If we want to move from a "dirty fuel" system to a "clean fuel" system, it's going to need huge investments of money, research, our best minds, and our best leaders. It's beyond partisanship. In fact, for it to happen both parties are going to have to come together. Otherwise, as my husband said, "We are So Expletive." Speaking for myself, I hadn't an inkling of the enormity and complexity of these issues before listening to Friedman speak so passionately about them. I plan to read the book!