RealTime IT News

Friedman Calls for an Energy Tech Revolution

Tom Friedman
Thomas Friedman
Source: Melissa C. Beckman

SILVER SPRING, MD -- We need massive change, author Thomas Friedman told the Freedom to Connect conference, calling for a green revolution to solve the nexus of problems that gives his most recent book its title, Flat, Hot, and Crowded.

"It's not a revolution if nobody gets hurt," he said. "It's a party. And that's what we've been having. We've been having a green party. It's a lot of fun and I get invited to all the parties but it's not a revolution."

The Energy Technology (ET) revolution will be as disruptive as the IT revolution, he claimed. Friedman said that he covered the IT revolution in his previous book, The World is Flat, and at the time the IT industry had a motto, "adapt or die." Until companies have to adapt to green principles or die, it's not a revolution.

It's necessary because of five world crises: demand for natural resources and energy, petrodictatorships, climate change, energy poverty, and the loss of biodiversity. "We're going to burn up, choke up, smoke up, and eat up this planet," he said.

Changes are urgent. Friedman said he told Al Gore to write an editorial apologizing to the world -- for underestimating the extent of climate change. While initial predictions said that polar ice would disappear by 2101, the polar oceans may be free of ice for the month of July by 2013.

Friedman said that in too many countries, the price of oil is inversely related to the extent of freedom. He noted the Arab world is not culturally hostile to democracy -- the Arab world's one democracy is Lebanon, a nation with no oil, and its most rapidly liberalizing country is Bahrain, which was the first to discover oil and will be the first to run out of it.

As to biodiversity, which some at the conference suggested was not as important as the other issues, Friedman said that it's occurring at a rate that's 1,000 times faster than normal. "If anything else were at 1,000 times the norm, that's all we'd be talking about."

All of this is being driven by the rate of growth of the world's population. We're adding a billion people every 13 years, Friedman said. If all they required was a single 60 watt light bulb for four hours a day, we would need twenty new 500 megawatt coal burning power plants.

Energy poverty means that many people don't have even a single light bulb, Friedman said. He showed a photograph of students in Africa doing their homework in an airport parking lot because that was the only location that had light at night.

"People who have no electricity won't be able to dig a deeper well when the water runs out, power even a small fan when it gets hot, or, most important, get to Google -- to the world's libraries, universities, and books," he said. "They will fall behind, not at a normal pace, but exponentially."

Next page: "We're cooked. Let's party."