Tom Friedman Has a Way with Words
Posted January 8, 2009
The Senate Environment Committee got the 111th Congress off to a great start yesterday with a briefing on spurring economic recovery through green tech investing by Tom Friedman, the author most recently of Hot, Flat, and Crowded, and John Doerr, the legendary venture capitalist behind Sun Microsystems, Amazon, and Google.
Their message was clear and compelling. In fact, this was the best panel I have ever attended on global warming, energy, and the economy. And I have attended a lot of panels. Friedman led off by focusing on five major challenges-energy and natural resources supply and demand, petrodictatorship, climate change, energy poverty, and biodiversity loss-arguing that the good news is that all of the problems can be solved with a clean and efficient Energy Technology (ET) revolution. Not a completely novel point, but the way Friedman delivers the message is unparalleled. One clever turn of phrase after another, yet he manages to do it without seeming too clever. Watch the video here.
John Doerr followed up with real world stories about green tech entrepreneurs who have the potential to transform ET over the next 15 years the same way Silicone Valley entrepreneurs (many with financial backing from Doerr himself) transformed IT over the last 15 years. He then offered a comprehensive set of six policies needed to support the ET revolution:
- Unified National Smart Grid
- Put a PRICE on CARBON and a CAP on Carbon Emissions
- National Renewable Portfolio Standard
- Utility regulations (and incentives to drive efficiency, decoupling
- Get serious about funding R&D and D at scale
- Double the number of qualified engineers graduating from U.S. universities
Chairman Boxer and six members of the committee (including new members Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley) engaged in a lively discussion with the panel. The most important question was asked by Senator Tom Udall: Should we start now or should we wait for the economic crisis to abate? Both Friedman and Doerr argued for starting now, both through the economic stimulus bill and by putting a price on carbon to create the needed incentives to put people to work deploying ET at scale. This critical issue is addressed head on and in more detail in a policy brief NRDC released yesterday. The key point is that if a carbon cap is enacted in 2009 the actual emission limits and price on carbon would not kick in for several years. In the meantime the future value of emission allowances can be used as a kind of collateral to mobilize immediate ET investments, putting people back to work now.
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