Tom Friedman Finally Makes Some Sense

(Welcome back lightiris. And this is super-silly. - promoted by Charley on the MTA)

After beating the drums of war for Bush’s invasion of Iraq, disgraced NYT columnist and Bill O’Reilly/Fox News wannabe Tom Friedman has of late been trying to claw back some respect from the reality-based community. His latest vehicle of choice has been environmentalism, where he actually has made some sense of late — a first for him in about five years, by my reckoning. In any event, here is his suggested program, complete with nuclear power advocacy (don’t blink: he slipped it in in the middle).

Get Washington to signal that gasoline is never going to retreat from a level of $3.50 or $4 a gallon ? and that wind and solar subsidies will be there for a decade, not stop and start as they always have before; get Washington to commit to buying a fixed volume of solar and wind power for government buildings and Army bases for 10 years, with only U.S.-based manufacturers able to compete for contracts; get Washington to set a new fleet average of 35 miles per gallon for Detroit within 10 years ? with no loopholes; establish government loan guarantees for any company that wants to build a nuclear power plant; and, finally, build a national transmission grid ? a green power superhighway ? so that solar energy from Arizona or wind from Wyoming can power homes in Chicago. Do all that and our private sector will take America from green laggard to green leader.

I actually think these all are good ideas. Welcome back to reality Tom; pity about the bloodstains on your resume.

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21 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Tom Friedman

    I saw him speak at my sister's graduation from RPI a couple weeks back, and he was surprisingly good. Didn't catch any of his speech the next day back at Brandeis, but the clips I read seemed basically the same. He's one of those people like Joe Klein who can frustrate me to no end and every so often make a a lot of sense.

    The nuclear power issue is a very good point: when Ed Markey was here last month he talked about the reason nuclear is near impossible as a shortterm fix during the transition from fossil fuel to renewable is that in the countries where it has worked (Japan and France) the government is able to build, run, and talk all the risk involved in using nuclear power. Since we rely on private investors here, government loans might be a step to help it happen, though unlikely to be enough.

    • Ed Markey

      Is an idiot.


        1) I think you're completely wrong. Ed Markey is a leader on energy independence and on internet rights, and IMO is a prime example of why congressional term limits would be a terrible idea.

        2) Nuclear power is easier to operate when government can take on all the risks: that happens in quasi-socialist countries, but does not happen here because we have a hands-off government and primarily private economy. I think nuclear is important, as do you, but do you disagree that it will be very difficult to achieve with out some government intervention and support to give investors some reason to take the risk? It's a political choice what kind of economy a country has: we have a primary private capitalist system, which has many positive attributes to it, but there are always drawbacks to any system, and this is one of them.

        • in that past paragraph

          I also meant to say, the economy is a political choice and in this country through most of out history the hands-off private economy has been the overwhelming popular choice, and there are many reasons both historical and rational for that. But it does have consequences.

        • Actually...

          ...we have a primary private capitalist system...

          That is far from clear.  Governments at both the federal and state levels heavily subsidize all sorts of "private" businesses.  Agribusiness and the pharmaceutical industry are only two examples.  And by regulating the broadcasting industry (Entercom can broadcast, but I can't) the federal government is indirectly subsidizing them.

  2. Sense?

    Just as Friedman was the principal apologist for Bush's war policies while seeming to make credible critiques four years ago, he is now poised to build support for nuclear power.  Nuclear power = a ticking time bomb, a disaster waiting to happen, a curse on future generations.  The movement for clean, renewable energy needs to say, loud and clear, no nukes, no nukes, no nukes!  Friedman is too steeped in his love affair with global capitalism to get that we can really do this differently. 

    • nuclear power

      Nuclear power is an important stop gap technology: it's extremely dangerous if things go wrong, but I believe it is less risky in the long term than burning fossil fuels. Senator Kerry and Congressman Markey have both acknowledged that it could be a helpful element, in theory. There is imporant place in the popular (as in among the people) debate over moving to renewable and low- to no-emmission energy, but the political reality is there is almost no way Corporate America will allow it to happen. It is much better policy to push support for hydro, wind, solar etc, but the idea of insuring nuclear plants is not terrible.

  3. See ----there you have it.

    The nuke nuts win. The nuke nuts will be the first to rail and lament that they are freezing in the dark, but don't build a nuke plant. Like global warming, the nuclear protest people have adopted their cause as a religious belief. The fact that much of the world has successfully made use of nuclear energy is no matter. The adherence to the mantra, "No Nukes, No Nukes, No Nukes, plays relentlessy and endlessly in their minds. The fact that Ted Kennedy's car has killed more people in USA than a nuclear plant is an annoying fact to the nuke nuts. Of course Ted Kennedy's opposition to renewable energy in Nantucket Sound also must be overlooked. The Progressive NIMBY crowd, a beautiful thing in their own right, "We know what's best for you, the great unwashed and uneducated." While the Uber Progressives sit on the dais in Hyannisport, Chatham, and Martha's Vineyard, the progressive minnions, locked in intellectual servitude for life, go about their merry way, throwing a monkey wrench into the lives of their fellow Americans. 

    No drilling, no refineries, no cutting timber, no nukes, no coal. I wonder how far this will go? Of course the remainder of the world is going about their business planning for the necessary and vital energy oil requiremnets for their respective countries. Russia has proven oil and gas resreves in the trillion of barrels and  cu/ft and they are quite content to sit on it.

    • Have you lost your mind?

      If you want to make a case for building and using nuclear power, try to do so.  All you have so far is derisive comments about anyone who disagrees with your point of view and a personal attack against Sen Kennedy.

      Try some substance.  Here's an example:

      * Nuclear power is "big government" at its worst.  * No private insurance company will insure a nuke plant.  The  government has to do it.  * No private enterprise (and there's a lot of private capital out there) will undertake building a nuke plant without using government money.  * You cannot get your private house insured against radioactive damage if you live near a nuke plant.  The insurance companies just will not insure you for that.  * Government must inspect, regulate, and monitor these plants on the taxpayers dime.

      This all does not come cheap.

      After all our tax money is sunk into such an enterprise, you still pay top dollar for the energy you pull from the grid.

      Tell us again what's so great about nuclear power?

      • I notice that the hecklers' veto is quickly getting to the point that...

        ...MCRD's post, and responses, will likely be removed, so I am not going to spend a lot of time on this.

        In response to Banned's comment, point one.  The reason that private insurers originally refused to insure nuclear power plants was because they did not have the actuarial data to set insurance rates.  MCRD is quite correct that a properly build nuclear power plant--with a containment vessel--has never killed or even injured anybody.  The Three Mile Island incident was due to operator error, and it didn't kill anybody.  The Chernobyl incident was also due to operator error.  Chernobyl did kill people, but it was improperly build--it didn't have a containment vessel.

        Point two.  Property insurers are pulling out of Gulf coast states.  They do have actuarial data indicating that property damage due to hurricanes is problemmatical for them.  What is replacing private insurance companies?  The states.  That means, state taxpayers.

        Point three, regarding government inspection, the federal government purports to inspect food for safety, and pharmaceuticals for both safety and effectiveness.  The federal government also purports to inspect workplaces for safety and to ensure that effluents do not exceed EPA limitations.  So, what is your point of taxpayer-supported inspection regimes?

        • If there is a safer, cheaper alternative, why take a more expensive risk?

          Actuary data should not be that hard to assess for a scenario where a home must be abandoned due to conditions that would make an entire region uninhabitable.  Think 9/11 where the target was Seabrook.  It is a total loss.  But the larger point is that it presents a cost and a risk to the taxpayer that is far beyond other forms of power generation.

          raj, you make an excellent point about the FDA, EPA and other regulatory functions.  Note that poor regulatory effort (or poor funding, or cronyism) can result in dangerous conditions due to the lack of oversight that can occur.

          Solar and wind do not pose such costs or risks.

          If there is a safer, cheaper alternative, why take a more expensive risk?


  4. did he address population growth?

    we can easily reduce our need for power by reducing the number of people sucking it up.  i'm not talking anything cataclysmic.  just that, at 300 million+, we're wya overpopulated.  slacking off on population growth would ease our demands on water & power & other resources.

    • Laurel, stop being silly...

      ...the US is not overpopulated.

      • pithy

        you really persuaded me.

        • Laurel

          Are you extending the arguement that planet earth does not have a population issue. Food source is boundless?

          Tell that to the Mixicans who are now paying twice what they were a year and a half ago for corn. How about the folks in Zimbabwe who gave the boot to the Afrikaners and now are crying because they are starving. The North Koreans, the Sudanese. India, Indonesia. No problem. A chicken in every pot.

          I would suggest that in fact the earth's energy and enviomental issues are directly related to burgeoning population growth. How about the destruction of the Amazon rain forest. They clear cutting that to improve the view.

          I wonder if Raj can come up with a joules/kg of energy equation that is applicable to every million people. What is the energy requirement for one million people in western civilization as opposed to say Laos. What is the energy requirement just to sustain life for one million people, what is the resultant CO2 byproduct released into the atmosphere. Calculate for todays population of earth viz a vis the 12th century. I would hazard that it is substantial.

          • MCRD

            did you read my original comment and the many others like it on the subject?  my response to raj was sarcastic.  it's nice to know that i'm not the only one around here that thinks population is an important factor, though.

          • This is a nonsense challenge

            I wonder if Raj can come up with a joules/kg of energy equation that is applicable to every million people.

            Both joules and kilograms are units of energy.  E=mc^2, remember?  The masses of sub-atomic particles are usually measured in units of energy, GeV (giga-electron volts) to be specific.

            On the substance of your comment, two points.  One, if the issue is population density, the population density of the US is far less than that of, for example, Germany.  A few years ago, I did a quick calculation of the population density of Germany with that of Massachusetts, which, I believe, everyone will recognize, is fairly high.  They were approximately the same.  The population density of the US as a whole must be much lower than that of Germany.

            Two, if the issue is CO_2 emissions, allowing for immigration from 3d world countries is likely to do little more than displace likely CO_2 emissions from the immigrants' home countries to the US, and the US is likely to be able to do far more to, say, sequester carbon than their home countries.  Whether or not the US does so is a separate issue.

  5. Friedman's been big on the gas tax

    Since before the war even started

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