“This is our generation’s Sputnik Moment,” said President Obama in his State of the Union Speech last night. He’s referring of course to the space race with the Soviet Union, which spurred massive investment in research and development… and massive job creation. Today, he challenges the nation to invest massively in the future again, especially clean energy and green tech. It’s the only way we can catch up with (or surpass) China in the clean energy race.
Is China the invincible leader of clean energy and clean tech? It certainly looks that way. In a Fresh Dialogues interview, New York Times columnist, Tom Friedman explained his China envy… and emphasized that government has a huge role in jumpstarting the green economy. Would he like to be Obama’s Green Czar? Not a chance. He explains why in the video below.
What can we learn from China’s remarkable lead in clean energy? I talked with China expert, Isabel Hilton, founder and editor of China Dialogue who has earned a OBE for her groundbreaking work in this field. Her team’s mission: to give the reader an inside look at China’s environmental policy and encourage dialogue between China and the rest of the world. (Check out the site…it’s in Chinese and English)
“If you think you can ignore China, you don’t know what’s coming down the road,” warns Hilton. She describes the strategic economic shift in China over the last four years, from dirty unsustainable development to a new cleaner, greener outlook. In 2011, a new five year plan will be released to position China for the future. Hilton is impressed by the focus and conviction of China’s new policies which invest heavily in research and development; and support for new cleantech industries; strategies Obama says are necessary here in the US.
Hilton cautions that public opinion is a stumbling block to progress in the West and that the “Merchants of Doubt”community is undermining policy change by generating and sustaining doubt on established scientific issues. She challenges Obama to act decisively. So far, she says, “Obama has failed to live up to his convictions.” Time will tell if Obama’s forceful State of the Union speech last night – with its “The Future is ours to win” optimism – and the bipartisan mood of Congress will create real change.
Arnold Schwarzenegger may be a self confessed “lame duck” governor but he is so angry at two Texan oil companies for pouring millions into Proposition 23 that he is taking his considerable charisma and energy on the road to prevent it passing. The Proposition seeks to freeze the California governor’s landmark climate change legislation (AB 32) and undermine his green legacy. Arnold argues the economic case for investing in green innovation (emphasizing job creation) and looks West….
“China has made a decision – backed by billions and billions of dollars – that green tech is where the economic action is going to be…it’s an ancient culture with new ideas. We cannot let American be a young culture with old ideas.” Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I sat down with Pulitzer Prize winner, Tom Friedman, just before he delivered a lecture to an expectant Foothill CollegeCelebrity Forumaudience at the Flint Center in Silicon Valley. We discussed his bestselling book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded and why he thinks the U.S. government MUST jump-start the green economy. According to Tom, creating the right ecosystem is key: funding research, setting price signals and creating incentives to encourage green innovation. Tom admitted to some China envy in that regard. (see below or check out the transcript) He also has some thoughtful words on the Van Jones resignation and dealing with loud critics. Are you listening Van Jones?
In this video excerpt, Tom explains his China envy and why he said “Am I a bad guy for wanting to be China for a day?”
I asked him, in light of Van Jones’s resignation (and the climate of such criticism), does he consider himself a bad guy?
Tom has some strong words for his critics….people like Glenn Beck et al: “If you’re criticizing me, God Bless you…I’m not above criticism. My focus is on my ideas with my audience…You may be writing about me, but don’t think for a second I’m going to waste a column on you!”
This exclusive interview with Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman was recorded on November 12, 2009 in Silicon Valley. Dr. Krugman was in town to deliver a lecture as part of the Foothill College Celebrity Forum Series. Here is the transcript of Part Two: On China and Climate Change. To listen to this interview click hereand or watchvideo (coming soon)
Alison van Diggelen: Paul thank you very much for joining me today on Fresh Dialogues.
Paul Krugman: OK. Good to be doing this.
Alison: Talking about other countries, Spain took the lead… Denmark is taking the lead… China is now way ahead of us in certain clean energy technologies. Do you feel that we’ve lost eight years and we have at least eight years to catch up? Is it feasible we can catch up?
Paul: It’s always feasible. You don’t want to get too hung up on the specific sexy technologies. I guess the Danes are ahead of us in building wind turbines. But a lot of what we’re going to be doing on the environment is going to be… insulation, clever urban design to minimize energy loss. That’s all stuff that’s coming along and look – the history of information technology has said very clearly that nobody gets a monopoly for very long… I don’t get anxiety about it. I’m just more concerned that we won’t do what we need to do to protect the environment.
Alison: How big is the role of government? Ultimately it’s the private sector investment that’s going to make the substantial investment…
Paul: But the government has to provide the incentives…what we have now is the economic concept of an externality…if you have something where you impose costs on other people but you don’t have any incentive to reduce those costs, bad stuff happens. And climate change is the mother of all externalities. It’s a gigantic thing and the private sector by itself is not going to deal with it. Left without any government intervention, we’re just going to basically par-boil the planet, right?
So what you have to do is have a set of rules in place. Now the idea is for it to be market oriented. Yes, there can be some public research, some public investment, some things will have to be done directly by government… but mainly put in a cap and trade system – put a price on greenhouse gas emissions and then let the private sector do its stuff.
Alison: Right. Why is it you favor a cap and trade system over a straight carbon tax?
Paul: Oh, there are a couple of reasons. One is, right now, cap and trade looks like it might pass Congress and a direct tax will not. Partly that’s because cap and trade is relatively well suited to paying off the industry groups, right? We live in the real world. By handing out some of the licenses, at least in the first decade or so, you make it easier to swallow.
International coordination is easier with cap and trade. If we say to the Chinese – well we want you to have a carbon tax – how can we really tell it’s enforced? But if we negotiate with the Chinese that they will have total CO2 emissions of so much, we can monitor pretty well whether that’s actually happening. So that’s a lot easier to envision an international agreement with cap and trade.
So, I would take a carbon tax if…
Alison: If it were politically feasible?
Paul: It’s not clear to me that it’s even superior. But it would be OK, certainly. The fact is, cap and trade could be a bill by this time next year. A carbon tax is like single payer health care. It’s not going to happen this decade and I want something to actually happen now.
Alison: Paul Krugman, thank you very much I really appreciate your taking the time.
Paul: Thank you so much.
Check back soon for more interview segments on the stimulus package, what gave him that “missionary zeal” to write such fervent columns in the New York Times, and whether the green economy can be our salvation.
To check out more exclusive Fresh Dialogues interviews, click here
In advance of Obama’s trip to Chinathis week, Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman gave a short, sharp economics lesson on climate change and China during our exclusive interview in Silicon Valley, November 12. What does he think the US and Chinese governments should be doing to combat climate change and stimulate the green sector?
Why is he not concerned about China’s lead in clean energy technology?
Krugman explains why negotiating with China over CO2 emissions would be preferable to trying to enforce a carbon tax. Hear all this and more in this Fresh Dialogues interview.
Here are selected quotes:
“Climate change is the mother of all externalities…left without any government intervention, we’re going to basically par-boil the planet.”
“You don’t want to get hung up on the specific sexy technologies (like wind turbines)…look at the history of information technology…nobody gets a monopoly for very long.”
“If we say to the Chinese, we want you to have a carbon tax – how can we really tell it’s enforced? But if we negotiate with the Chinese that they will have total CO2 emissions of so much, we can monitor that pretty well.”
For Part One of the Paul Krugman interview – on Obama’s Job Summit click here