live blogging at Ga Technology Summit pt1 – Thomas Friedman

March 3, 2009 § 1 Comment

Okay,  if you’ve read this blog before you know what live-blogging is all about – rapid-fire stream-o-consciousness writing from a live event.  It won’t be polished, but it will be real.

Taking the stage now at the Georgia Technology Summit is Thomas Friedman, author of Hot Flat and Crowded, and the World is Flat.

TF – stands for me horribly paraphrasing Thomas Friedman.  I don’t type fast enough to give real quotes unless they’re really short.

TF – worried that US has lost it’s lustre. He’s pissed off at a billboard – advertiser dissing America for the lack of innovation.  But despite the hype we are exploding with innovation.  Excited about ET — energy technology.   The World is getting Hot Flat and Crowded.  The Hot comes from global warming – Al Gore stuff — 2 degrees different in average temperature.

So the world has a fever – that’s not a bad way to explain it.

TF – we’re 6 degrees away from being an iceball

Now I’ll really sleep well tonight.

TF – Thomas Friedman says too many Americans – we need to make Americans more sustainable.  Crowded – is about population growth.   We’re adding a billion people in 20 years.  We’ve got 6.2 billion now in 2053 forecast is for 9+ billion.   More people added between now and then, then were around when he was born.

TF- 5 global megatrends

TF – a billion lightbulbs = 20,000 metric tons.   Stats on what if you put them on – there is a number, but just too much.   Flat is the impact of the globe catching up with living like we do, and rapidly ramping up there consumption of resources and energy, and of course, outputing waste, carbon, BTUs etc. Other countries are “sprouting” Manhattans – cities springing up in deserts.

TF – said to his wife that everyone is getting hybrid cars (ironically) – the emergence of these new cities are causing energy consumption to vastly outpace any of these efforts to reduce energy usage.
TF – 300 million people living like US = an Americome (sp?)  a unit of measure to help understand the increase of global consumption.

TF – first law of Petropolitics – showing a slide –

I can’t read the handwriting on the slide, looks like an oblique baseball diamond – I don’t think that is what he meant to communicate

TF – the freedom index for countries (petrol states) that depend on oil for their GDP-  as price of oil goes down, the pace of freedom goes up, and vice versa.

TF – Bahrain -first arab gulf state to start running out of oil, also first  to adapt more democratic principles.

TF – “global weirding” – not global “warming”, but “weirding” – warm is too nice a word.  Things will get weird (and not nice).  If we keep adding greenhouses gases, we will raise the temp – and the problems.  2 questions.  Who’s making hot? and Doesn’t Gore owe us all an apology?  We have introduced so much CO2 into the atmosphere  that we don’t know what climate effects are natural and which ones are caused by human actions.   Are we making it hot or is Mother Nature?   So now the Al Gore question – he monitored a talk with Al Gore – told him he should write an op-ed piece apologizing for “completely underestimating climate change”  – that would be an attention getter.  Climate model is changing rapidly. Showing slide of greenland in 1992 compared to 2002 showing snow melt – dramatic increase.  Summer 2007 lost twice the ice than is in all the Alps.

TF- showing slide of British Columbia – pine beetle devastation – pine beetle not getting knocked back by winter the way it used to be so it is running rampant destroying forest.

TF – 1.6 billion with no connection to the energy grid.   This will be devastating as the world gets more hot flat and crowded.   Will amplify poverty. Fall behind, no Internet, no power to get water in droughts. Students in Guinea doing homework in parking lots because thats the only place with light at night.

TF – last of the mega-problems loss of bio-diversity – extinction and near-extinction of species. “We are in the age of Noah”  – human intervention the only thing keeping some species alive.   Two turtles in captivity in China, last of their species and they are trying to get them to mate – no luck yet. Word that will disappear from the dictionary – “later” – Later was a luxury for previous generations.   Everything changing too fast now, nature was once unlimited, now “later” is gone. Later is over.  If you’re going to save something you have to save it now.

So now is Thomas going to give us any hope?

TF- Looks like we’re cooked.  Or is a list of opportunities masquerading as insoluble problems.   They all have the same solution.

  • Energy and Natural Resources Supply and Demand
  • Petrodictatorship
  • Climate Change
  • Energy Poverty
  • Biodiversity loss

TF-Abundant cheap clean reliable electrons – solves all of the above problems – Energy Technology is the key – own ET and you own security, global respect.  It has to be the United States of America, or we’re in deep doo-doo.  Someone has to solve it – We need to be “big in big things”.

Give the guy a glass of water, would ya?

TF – “Green is the new Red White and Blue” – green revolution- sarcastic “everyone’s a winner” have you ever been to a revolution where noone got hurt?  That’s not a revolution that’s a party. You’ll know it is a revolution when somebody gets hurt.  Change or die – when that’s the choice that’s when you’ll know the green revolution is really here.  when the word Green has disappeared that’s when you’ll know we won.  When a car isn’t designated as a green car, because normal means green.

TF – We’re trying to prevent the  doubling of CO2 since the dawn of the industrial age.  Massive build out – if we were only using Nuclear Energy to solve the problem = 1 new plant every day for 36 years(not sure if I got the number right)

TF – believes in capitalism – got to make this an issue of innovation not regulation.  This is a problem for engineers not regulators.   Get 10000 to try thousands of ideas, and get the best out there and build an eco-system for innovation.   Eco-system for innovation guy.  Price signals for innovation.  Stimulate the inventors in the garages and find the ideas that can change thing.   Differnece between IT and ET – IT was a greenfield, there was no incumbant, no competitive pre-existing, cheaper thing in the way.  The new Energy Technology has to be cheaper than what was before, need tax incentives to stimulate this, make it viable. Technologies vs. Commodities – price responds differently to demand.

This is the “tragedy of the commons” in action.  Without outside stimulation (government encouragement through policy and tax breaks) there is not sufficient incentive for people and companies to adopt more expensive, but greener solutions.

TF – cold we have gotten funding for the Apollo Space program if there had been a cheaper dirtier way to get to the moon already?  Of course not.  We need to create the government leverage to make this happen. Need to create a long term price signal to stimulate innovation. “Change your leaders not your lightbulbs”

TF – if only we could be China for a day – just one day to play dictator and put in the beneficial policies that could stimulate ET innovation

TF – the last chapter – leaving Iraq, the biggest transfer of air conditioners of all time.  A Democratic China or a Banana Republic? Banana – Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.  Throwing in his lot with the optimists

Thanks Tom, we need that.

TF – Optimism – from the last page of the Hot Flat and Crowded book – a eulogy, ants and termites display high-intelligence collectively, but not individually, humans the opposite. All glasses half full, but not shrink from bad news, future is a choice.  Can we solve the problems – We have exactly enough time, starting NOW.

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§ One Response to live blogging at Ga Technology Summit pt1 – Thomas Friedman

  • […] It attracted tons of venerable attendees, companies and speakers. The morning started off with famed author and journalist Thomas Friedman’s keynote speech about how American can lead the green revolution. While it started off a little slow, Thomas brought in solid numbers and statements that really help put things into perspective. […]

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