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Posted: December 20, 2008 5:00 a.m.

National power through green power

Amidst all of the depressing news about the state of the economy, it can be tempting to push concerns about climate change and energy independence to the backburner for the time being. This would be a colossal mistake warns bestselling author Thomas Friedman.

In his latest book, "Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution and how it can Renew America
," the New York Times columnist makes the case for a "green revolution" that he says is the key to renewing American competitiveness and jumpstarting the economy. Using the same accessible writing style that made his previous books, including 2005’s "The World is Flat," so popular, Friedman makes the case for an enormous national investment in energy technology by drawing on his understanding of population growth factors, the rise of the middle class in India and China, petro politics and climate change.

And he does a good job of it. "Green is not simply a new form of generating electric power. It is a new form of generating national power — period," writes Friedman.

Friedman argues convincingly that solution to restoring America to the international gold standard for excellence in science and technology is a massive program to develop alternative energies and to overhaul the nation’s electricity grid to encourage greater energy conservation.

By being the leading nation that other countries must come to buy newly developed energy technology products and services Friedman believes America will ensure that it remains the leader of the pack going forward.

"The countries that inspired and invented the big solutions to the big problems of the past led the eras that followed. And those countries that failed to adapt fell by the wayside. In this Energy-Climate-Era, America has to make sure it’s among the former," says Friedman.

According to Friedman, humanity has just begun a new era — the Energy-Climate Era — that is defined by two powerful forces — global warming and soaring global population growth — that have lead to a planet that is, as the title of the book says, hot, flat and crowded. The five main problems of this era are the growing demand for ever scarcer energy supplies and natural resources, a massive transfer of wealth to oil-rich countries, and their petro dictators, enormously disruptive climate change, energy poverty in the Third World and the rapidly accelerating loss of biodiversity as more plants and animals become extinct at record rates.

While there are currently 6.7 billion people living on the planet, that number is projected to increase to 9 billion by 2050 — a jaw dropping increase of 40-45 percent. Never before has our species repopulated at such a rate. Much of this population increase will be in India and China, countries that have a rapidly growing, educated and tech-savvy middle class that will no doubt clamor for the same natural resource-intensive lifestyle exemplified by Europe and the U.S.

All the more reason to hurry along the process of moving towards a global economy centered on an ideology of sustainability and not consumption. America must lead this change says Friedman or else India and China and other developing nations will see little need to conserve themselves when the biggest glutton of natural resources on the planet feels little need to do so.

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