Monday, September 08, 2008

Friedman on ET (Environmental Technology)


Thomas Friedman does more than write columns for the NY Times. He also writes books and then does a very good job of promoting them all over the media. His latest book is Hot, Flat and Crowded and he has been promoting it with vigor: Sunday on Meet the Press, this morning on GMA, and also on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Click read more to read Lorna Salzman's very articulate commentary after listening to Friedman on Fresh Air.


Commentary on Thomas Friedman, Hot, Flat and Crowded, and the upcoming election:
by Lorna Salzman.

Today Terry Gross interviewed one of my least favorite journalists on her show: Thomas Friedman, someone that most of us do not regard as an environmental friend. But Friedman spoke with fervor and guts, and emphatically put his finger on the utter failure of American energy policy, due to Bush, the Republicans, the oil companies, and on the absence of incentives for reducing energy consumption or increasing renewable energy.

What he didn't do, however, was to include the Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Barack Obama, in his stern lecture.

He criticized Sarah Palin, the Repubs' VP candidate, for denying global warming even as parts of her state melt away. He criticized Republican senators in Ohio and New Hampshire for opposing renewable energy tax credits even though their states harbor two leading renewable energy companies, who, as a result of the loss of tax credits, are moving operations abroad. He criticized the fact that utilities make money from a rate structure that encourages selling more energy rather than less. He bemoaned the fact that there is no tax on carbon, with revenues being rebated to the public through abolition of the payroll tax. And so on.

What he didn't do, however, was rake Obama and the Dems over the coals on the energy issue. This is an amazing oversight, given that everyone agrees that the economy and jobs are going to be the key issues in the election. Obama has hedged and fudged on domestic oil drilling, supports "clean coal" and "safe" nuclear power, but has yet to connect these and the things Friedman raised to his campaign or the election.

Once again, the Democrats are running a campaign out of fear, not principle, not science, not equity, not justice. Like their refusal to come all out for a single payer universal health plan overseen by the government and funded through the income tax, they are dropping the the energy ball, even though the energy issue offers them by far and without a doubt a HUGE opportunity to present the public with a serious and comprehensive economic plan to restore jobs and renovate American industry, transportation and infrastructure.

Why are the Democrats self-destructing again? The answer is quite simple. When your opponent is as cravenly hypocritical and inept and wrongheaded as McCain is, there is no point in playing your strong card when you can win with your weak one. Once again the Dems are taking liberals and their party faithful for granted by saying: you guys have nowhere else to go so stop your whining, you know you will vote for us no matter what. This is cynicism and contempt writ large.

So we must ask: where have the liberals been? What have they been doing? Well, we know many of them have been protesting the war. Many of them are defending Roe vs. Wade. Many are pushing gay rights. Many are protesting racism and poverty.

Duh. They have been doing this for years. When was the last time a liberal Democrat walked into her congressman's office, slammed a fist on the table, and said: I want single payer universal health care, I want it now, and I DONT want anything else. When was the last time she walked into that office and slammed a fist down and said: I want a tax on carbon and gasoline, and I want the money from that to replace the payroll tax. I want it NOW and I dont want anything less.

The big question, however, is this: when was the last time a Democrat, or a liberal group or PAC, said to that congressman: if you don't do this, I won't vote for you. And when was the last time a Democrat withheld her vote because her congressman didn't listen to her? Didn't vote for him at all? Or voted for Ralph Nader? When was the last time that a liberal lobby marched into the capitol demanding an energy bill that did all the things that Friedman says we need?...carbon taxes, an end to fossil fuel subsidies, renewable energy tax credits, mandatory energy efficiency standards and measures?

When was the last time that anyone, any GROUP or movement, put energy and environment first? When they finally understood that these issues are the most important and urgent issues of the day? That we have a global ecological crisis that results directly from economic (and population) growth and overconsumption?
When was the last time that anyone but an environmentalist said out loud:
Economic growth must end. What are the chances that the Democrats will say or do anything about these things?

What should liberals do? Here's what they should do. They should make it clear to the Democratic Party and to their Democratic congressmen that THEY WILL NEVER VOTE FOR THEM AGAIN, or for Obama, unless he and the party get off their butts and get serious, and unless the party stops taking them for granted. They should lay it on the line: we don't care if our vote helps McCain win, because the Democrat/Obama energy policy not only isn't much better than McCain's, but even if it is marginally better, it is completely inadequate and, worst of all, dishonest and misleading.

Unless enrolled Democrats and liberals and their pressure groups speak out loud and clear and say that their vote is up for grabs, Obama not only won't win but he won't DESERVE to win.

Don't let the Democrats hoodwink and blackmail you again. Tell the Dems:
defecate or get off the pot.

Lorna Salzman

1 comment:

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