Thomas Friedman, Phone Home

Thomas Friedman, Phone Home

Originally published in Real Clear Markets

In his ceaseless efforts to boost green energy, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has engaged in propaganda that is so blatant and so bogus that it would make Uncle Joe blush. "Stalinist" is not a charge that we make lightly, but we're not sure what else to call it.

Remember that the famed Russian ruler frequently used straw devils, especially foreign straw devils, to frighten the poor proletariat into swallowing his policies whole. Orwell parroted this totalitarian tactic in 1984 when the state manufactures Emanuel Goldstein, Enemy of the People, to justify its vise-grip on power.

Friedman is attempting to use this same strategy to foment a brand new revolution, this one of the green variety. He understands just how wary Americans are of costly carbon controls while the economy sputters. So he has fabricated a foreign devil to galvanize the petrified public: a wholly fictitious green China that might as well have come from outer space.

According to Friedman - and we swear that we are not making this up - the thing America really has to worry about is "E.T." He believes "energy technologies that produce clean power and energy efficiency" will be "the next great global industry," which theoretically creates a serious problem for the United States.

America's inaction on climate change, he claims, has people "high-fiving each other" in Beijing because the Chinese recognize that Americans "are going to be paralyzed on green tech." Friedman predicts historians will forever associate the first decade of the 21st Century with China's "Green Leap Forward." He warns that the Chinese are going: to "clean our clock" unless the U.S. government spends trillions of dollars on a modern Manhattan Project for green energy.

We wish we were making this stuff up, or quoting him out of context, or, well, something. It's simply false that China is greening up while America is scraping the bottom of the brown barrel. Even a cursory glance at Chinese energy policy puts the lie to Friedman's assertion that China "is going to out-green us."

China is currently building about one coal fired power plant every week. That's down from two coal fired plants a week a few years ago, but the reason for the reduction is due to the recent global economic downturn and has nothing to do with some misgivings that the Communist regime has abut the size of its carbon footprint.

And across the world, China is investing in oil and gas production and infrastructure projects. In Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Venezuela, and Argentina, the government is snapping up resources to ensure unfettered access to fossil fuels for the Chinese economy. The China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation recently bought a stake in Canadian oil production.

Indeed, Friedman's own newspaper recently reported that China's "surging demand for power from oil and coal has led to the largest six-month increase in the tonnage of human generated greenhouse gases ever by a single country." The headline writers exhibit an almost comical naivete about this, reporting to readers that "China's Energy Use Threatens Goals on Warming."

Friedman trumpets all the new energy that China is generating with wind power but completely ignores the fact that much of it is for show. Remember, this is a command economy that builds whole empty cities to meet quotas. The Chinese government mandated that so much green energy be "generated" and so Chinese utilities have built whole wind farms in windy remote regions and not even bothered to hook them up to the grid.

We're not saying that Americans should start copying the Chinese example - the actual one as opposed to the one from Friedman's fevered imagination - but one lesson seems to offer itself up. At the same time as China ramps up energy production to meet demand of a surging Chinese middle class, the U.S. government frets earnestly and endlessly over the supposedly wasteful energy usage of Americans and tries to curb this through more taxation and regulation. Which model of economic nationalism is more likely to lead to future prosperity?