Review of Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman
In the late 70's I started messing around with a Texas Instruments personal computer. It had a cassette tape in place of a hard drive. I graduated from that to the early Apple computer and from there to the first IBM personal computer. I saw the potential of these machines but didn't act on my instinct. In 1995 I had my first glimpse of the Internet. I wasn't impressed. I couldn't see the merit. Once again I missed the boat on a great opportunity. I am totally convinced that the next great opportunity is going to be in renewable energy and green technology. This book spells out the potential that lies ahead; it also explains the many obstacles that could deter this next revolution.
This book doesn't offer a step by step guide on how to implement renewable energy sources. Instead, Thomas Friedman takes a big picture view of where we are now and where we need to go in the years ahead. And he makes a very good case. The nation that is first in renewable energy will be the one to benefit the most.
Friedman argues that the only way for our nation to move forward with regard to renewable energy is through government intervention. Without the proper laws and financial incentives there is little chance that we will overcome our petroleum dependence. He gives a plethora of examples of how innovation and change is often spurred on by necessity. The automobile companies would not have any incentive to increase gas mileage if there weren't government mandated gas mileage goals and timetables to achieve them. A utility company won't change their ways unless a law is passed that forces them to change, such as recent laws that have been passed that require utility companies to produce a certain percentage of their energy from renewable sources. We as a nation need to reward the innovators and punish, in the form of taxes and penalties, those who resist change. Only then can we expect to make the drastic changes that need to be made to improve our environment and energy independence.
The first step in this process, according to Friedman, is to elect the right leaders. We need leaders who share a common vision with regard to renewable energy. President Obama is definitely the right man for the job. But we need to do the same at all levels of government from our congressmen to our local and state leaders. This is a time that calls for more regulation and not less. The next important step is to create an energy grid that ties utility companies together and allows for the transport of energy from its source to where it is needed. The best place for wind farms are in isolated parts of the country miles away from the communities that can benefit from that power. There has to be an efficient way of getting that power to the user.
In the past, the desire for renewable energy has always risen and fallen along with the price of oil. When oil is expensive, there is a demand for better, cheaper energy. When oil is cheap, out come the Hummers, the SUVs and the trucks the size of bulldozers. This time it is different. We have to act now for the sake of the environment. If we don't act, then the world in deed will become hot, flat, and crowded.