More than anything else Friedman talked about, I was riveted to his comments about "Green China" and the important technological opportunity coming our way. He said China will go green for the simple reason that the country can't breathe. Its economic advancements are destroying its environment and its people. The only question, says Friedman, is, whose innovations will meet China's enormous needs? Will it be China itself? Or India? Or... us? Says Friedman: "Imagine if China started making low-cost green appliances and cars the way it does cheap shoes and shirts?"
He offered the audience this friendly advice: If your son or daughter is college-bound, he or she should study anything green -- green building design, green transportation, green waste-management -- because that's where the future lies.
Disturbingly, he doesn't see Washington getting this message. Writing in a recent NYT column, he asks:
And what's the U.S. doing as green technology is emerging as the most important industry of the 21st century? Let's see: the Bush team is telling our manufacturers they don't have to improve auto mileage standards or appliance efficiency, is looking to ease regulations on oil refiners and is rejecting a gas tax that would help shift America to hybrid vehicles.For signs of hope he looks to California and the "West Coast foreign policy team":
But while the Bush team is in no position to lecture China on the environment, California is. Thanks to the energy efficiency standards that California has imposed on its own power industry, buildings and appliances over the last 30 years, and its increasing reliance on renewable energy sources, California today consumes a little more than half as many kilowatt-hours of energy per capita each year as the rest of America..."We can't tell China not to use so much energy, especially given what energy gluttons Americans are," says Friedman. "But California can."
...This summer the California Legislature can push ahead even further when it votes on the Global Warming Solutions Act, which would set a statewide cap on emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other gases that cause global warming. The limits would be phased in by 2020 and require suppliers of electricity and fuels to dramatically reduce their use of fossil fuels through more efficiency and renewable energy, so much so that the law, if passed, would probably spark a boom in green technologies in California and help California companies become leaders in this 21st-century industry.