Dear Tom Friedman: Don’t Want You to Die Off … Just Get Well!
In the New York Times editorial page’s latest excursion into shrill climate alarmism, foreign affairs correspondent Thomas Friedman accuses those opposing the current cap-and-tax bill as wanting a few people, say 2.5 billion to die off. And us bad guys are just grasping at straws. “. . . you will notice that the drill-baby-drill opponents of this legislation are now making two claims,” he says. “One is that the globe has been cooling lately, not warming, and the other is that America simply can’t afford any kind of cap-and-trade/carbon tax.”
Gosh, Tom, I suppose that the pace of global warming has accelerated in the last decade, and hurricanes are getting more frequent and stronger too. And those emails from the alarmist in-crowd that the climate world (and general public!) are reading about right now–those are the good guys, the real disinterested scholars at work.
So, Tom, you claim that cap and tax opponents are calling forth a mass plague–a modern Black Death–that will wipe out 2.5 billion people sometime between now and 2050. (Well, I guess this simply extrapolates what John Holdren is postulating by 2020–a possible billion deaths!) In your world that is an inevitable result of modern living using hydrocarbon fuels.
Unlike his imaginative colleague Maureen Dowd, what Tom Friedman writes actually matters. Many people believe that he is proficient about energy and climate. So I must again call this charlatan to task.
A Gulfstream Malthusian
As we have seen, Friedman’s musings on energy and climate don’t stand up very well to actual events, data, or logic. Or as the courtroom wag once put it: if you have the facts, argue the facts, if you don’t have the facts argue the law, if you have neither pound the table. Tom is pounding the table on energy and environment, accusing those who oppose his pet legislation of wishing a dreadful calamity upon mankind.
Unlike Thomas Friedman I actually know people who oppose the cap and tax monstrosity, and there is not a Malthusian among them; and not one wishes a return of the plague. I challenge you to produce more than one or two kooks who happen to oppose cap and tax and who also wish a plague on the human race (contact me here for the terms of the bet). As Friedman surely knows, the Malthusians are pretty much confined to their own loony corner of the left. Oh, and you can always identify the Malthusians at the airport, they are ones headed for the Net Jets terminal (from their 20,000 sq ft homes).
Indeed, unlike the Malthusians, who wish developing countries to stay that way, preferably forever, the “bad people” who oppose cap and tax actually wish to see the Indians, Zambians, Peruvians and whoever else gain as much access to modern technology, including energy, as they can produce, purchase and create. Not from us is the message that the world cannot afford for developing countries to access modern energy.
Renewables as the New WPA? Or Is There Some Other Point to All This?
Point one of Friedman’s “thesis” is that the globe is getting crowded and we cannot therefore provide energy for all of these people the way we do now. Let’s stipulate that your assumption about crowding is correct. So why would we choose, on an increasingly crowded planet, to use land-hog energy technologies – wind, solar and biomass – rather than using compact fuels and prime movers; we know them as oil and gas engines and power plants. As recent articles on wind have increasingly shown, deployment of wind energy to an extent that can make an actual contribution to supplies, uses (and spoils) vast tracts of our countryside, and does not really reduce emissions much. But to Friedman, we need this renewable energy because otherwise we will create so much pollution that the next 2.5 billion inhabitants of earth will die (that’s where the plague nonsense comes from). Well, anyone who was alive in the US in the 1960s remembers what the air and water looked like then. We invested a lot of money in clean up and the air and water in the US are far better now than they were in 1965 with half the population and less than a quarter the real GDP. Everywhere you look rich countries are clean countries – air, water food.
Point two has something to do with making sure the US is the leader in renewable energy or otherwise we will be forced to despoil our land with useless renewable energy conversion devices manufactured elsewhere, or something like that. My colleague, Marlo Lewis, has addressed this particular gem of incoherence. He rebuts the idea that leadership in renewable energy is essential for the future by noting that:
- Renewable energy generally destroys wealth, therefore the more of it you have, the less of anything else you can have (or, as the Eagles put it – you can spend all your time making love, or spend all your love making time);
- Wind and solar do not reduce emissions much since they are intermittent and require hydrocarbon backups;
- Renewable energy jobs require external cash infusions, and therefore are not actually self-sustaining
Point three is posterity. According to Friedman our children will not be able to afford to live well since energy will have become so expensive. That is an almost perfectly self-fulfilling prophecy should we be so foolish as to follow Tom Friedman’s recommendations for our new energy sources.
Sure, energy will become really expensive if (i) you prohibit the production of economical forms of energy, such as domestic oil and gas; (ii) you force us to purchase very expensive and unreliable energy from wind; (iii) you jack up the price of the “legacy” energy output of coal and gas plants with carbon taxes; (iv) you prohibit the deployment of advanced combustion technologies for coal that reduce carbon (and other) emissions by 15-35%; and (v) you have missed a massive revolution in US energy supplies, brought to us by hydraulic fracturing of shale gas reservoirs.
Gas is Energy’s Rodney Dangerfield – No Respect from Friedman
Somehow, the US Congress in its cap and tax extravaganza, the NY Times Foreign Affairs Correspondent, and many others have managed to miss the biggest development in domestic energy supplies in the last 40 or 50 years. What Tom Friedman does not know is that the US has gone from a gas have not, with just 15 years of reserves, to a gas giant, with more than 100 years of gas supplies, due largely to new technology to exploit shale gas deposits. Tom, you need to read your own paper. They have had this issue covered for more than one year.
With enough natural gas reserves to maintain current levels of gas use for another hundred years we have lots of time to figure out what comes next, and to figure out how some of the wealth created thereby can be reinvested in new energy sources that actually produce net wealth for our country. Natural gas plants are compact (hits that crowded thing, Tom), fuel is domestically sourced (so much for the people who hate us supplying our energy), the fuel is clean (no plague there), and they are reliable – can you say that for wind and solar?
Of course, you might try to sabotage the gas bonanza to make renewable more attractive, the Governor of New York has already tried. Apparently someone explained the facts of (re)electoral life to him. For you, elementary economic common sense should suffice. And common courtesy, too.