Rethinking Green: Thomas Friedman on the Next Revolution

Thomas Friedman in Hong Kong on Dec. 16, 2008. (Asia Society Hong Kong Center)

HONG KONG, December 16, 2008 - The next great global industry will be, and must be, clean energy technology, argued New York Times columnist and bestselling author Thomas Friedman at an Asia Society luncheon. Discussing his new book Hot, Flat and Crowded, Friedman urged governments and business leaders around the world to invest in energy technology.

Friedman began by emphasizing the strain that human beings are putting on the planet. Climate change has already had a profound impact on the world’s ecosystems, he said, globalization has caused human consumption to soar, and the human population is set to triple by 2050.

Yet Friedman maintained that such problems also give rise to many opportunities. Chief among these is the development of energy technology, which will provide innovative, forward-looking nations with the means to dominate the global marketplace. "Being green is not just about electric power, it is about national power," he claimed. This "green revolution" can be viewed as "geopolitical, capitalistic, and patriotic," he added, pointing out that it was in the interest of countries like the US, China, and India to invest in energy technology.

Energy technology, Friedman continued, should be approached like any for-profit industry and be priced appropriately. In other words, in order for clean energy to be marketed as a feasible alternative to existing choices, it has to be priced to meet the needs of consumers.

Catalyzing such a revolution, said Friedman, depends largely on leadership at the national level, and will require radical action. He told Asia Society Hong Kong Center Chairman Ronnie C. Chan that he has high expectations for US President-elect Barack Obama to inaugurate the kinds of changes he had been outlining.

Reported by Julianne Chou

Excerpt: Thomas Friedman on why the next US President will need to be "more radical" than any since FDR (2 min., 48 sec.)