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Monday, March 05, 2007

Thomas Friedman and the First Law of Petro-Politics

So the last week was the Entrepreneurial Week as promoted by the US Congress and also celebrated with fanfare here on campus. But also, we had the prestigious Stanford Environment Conference - Energy Crossroads, 2007. And though the entrepreneurial week kickoff had some really good speakers (I wanna blog about that later), the one guy who blew me off my feet just by his oratory skills and the way he drove his point home was the NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman. I mean the guy is a genius. Fit to be the President of the US, the guy is so sharp and has such a keen intellect. I mean his 1.5 hour long lecture was at no point a boring thing - he kept his audience spell bound at all times. For example he would say - 'please switch off all your cell phones, pages, pace makers, etc'. And the close to 2000 people in the Memorial Auditorium would burst into laughter. But he put forth some fascinating ideas which were like thus (the draft is kinda rough as I am mostly reproducing my notes which i took while listening to his lecture):

1. Projecting America in a green way could be a way to re-unite the nation in a new way.

2. Jobs, Temperature and Terrorism are the big questions facing America at the dawn of the 21st century - but cannot be addressed by an America divided in red, blue and green states.

3. After ww2 Eisenhower used the threat of communism to build the highway system - to move weapons - lead to atrophy of railway system - US became addicted to cars - i(Friedman) am not here to propose radically altering our car culture - but we do need to fuel our future in a clean way - the next president has to unite us on clean energy.

4. We (the US) is funding both sides of the war - buying oil from Saudi Arabia and thus funding the 15 out of the 19 people responsible for 9/11 (who were from Saudi). Suggested reading - "The Looming Tower" by Lawrence Wright.

5. The First Law of Petro-Politics: The price of oil and the freedom operate conversely - as the price goes up pace freedom goes down, if oil is at $30 per barrel people in states like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Angola, Nigeria will demand and get more freedom, but when it is close to $70, less freedom in the countries.

6. The US army was a critical instrument for civil rights in this country - if the army goes green - it could be a hugely important institution for making green the new red, white and blue.

7. If China keeps growing at 8% a year, it will have the same per capita as us in 2021, will have a per day consumption of oil equal to 99 million barrels, while the world today produces only 84 million barrels.

8. You cannot tell China and India that we have gone dirty, you go green. In fact China and India already warned us.

9. This year(2006), what shocked me, daffodils in my drive way in Washington DC in January, first time in living memory, Moscow had a Christmas without snow, UK had the highest temperature since it started recording its weather in 1600s.

10.The good news is that people are alive to the problem - we have to avoid going past the doubling of the CO2 level in atmosphere as compared to the eve of the industrial revolution. Here is our challenge - if we do nothing - we will go past doubling in year 2056 - to avoid going past that doubling - and help India china and Brazil - for us to do that will require the biggest industrial project in the history of mankind.

11. 26 trillion watts of energy are required by then, we generate 13 trillion - if we wanna continue to grow from 13 to 26 in a clean green way - we will basically have to generate the rest of the 13 tri from green means - if we do it from nuclear power - we need to build 13000 nuclear reactors - that is like little over 1 a day for the next 30 years.

12. the only thing that can drive tech innovation at that scale is Wall street - challenge is to get green power down to the china price - if we dont have clearn green power scalable to prices in china, India and Brazil - we would be worse off - the real math problem is how do we get these clean green techs down to the China or India price

13. We want to own the technology - but we want to do it at their price - to scale at the china price - unfortunately we dont have an energy policy in this country but energy politics.

14. How nuts is it to invest in ethanol - God bless California - because of the regulations of this state - per capita use of electricity has been flat for the last 30 years - what CA is doing should be should be federal regulation.

15. Who can name the latest energy innovation in this country - dont bother - nuclear power - 1955 - Germany is buying all the silicon - they dont even have Sun out here in Germany - I was in Texas - we have the Saudi Arabia of wind between here in texas and North Dakota - but he had to go to 10 diff regulatory utility companies.

16. Toshiba makes the nuclear plants in Japan - they hv a 40 yr plan - do u know a company in the US with a 1 yr plan.

17. Where is the million person march for green energy - did i miss that - most social reform movements in history - start as protest movements - build a coalition and show that to the government - so i am where i began - the good news - green is the new red white and blue - but are we fooling ourselves?


Nipun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nipun said...

I would suggest reading(if you havent already) - The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman for its comprehensive insighful view on a variety of issues ranging from economics to outsourcing to terrorism.