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"Geogreen in Texas"
Jon Lebkowsky, 28 Mar 05

Rural Texas legislators are sponsoring bills to increase the state's renewable energy standard. Adina Levin, who's been active in the fight against legislation to prohibit municipal networks in Texas, notes in her blog that some of the same legislators that support muni wireless are seeking the renewable energy standard increase. The original 1999 legislation set a modest goal – by 2009, 3% of Texas electricity would come from renewables. Environmental advocates are encouraging Texas to seek a higher 20% standard. Quoting Adina: "Increasing renewables isn't just a tree-lover's dream. It's also one of the best things the US can to increase national security – what Friedman calls the geogreen strategy. The Wahhabi think tanks that fuel Islamic fanaticism are funded by the Saudi government, which we subsidize with our oil dollars. Just a little less profit margin to the Saudis, and they reduce their exports of terrorism."

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Comments

Not too fond of the term "geogreen".


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 28 Mar 05

Why the objection to geogreen? What's a better term? And why focus on objecting to the terminology, when the mainstreaming of the concept seems like a "good thing".


Posted by: Adina Levin on 28 Mar 05

Why the objection to geogreen? What's a better term? And why focus on objecting to the terminology, when the mainstreaming of the concept seems like a "good thing".

The concept includes a push for much more nuclear power, if you look at Friedman's writings. It's also an indirect endorsement of Friedman's outlook that endorses pre-emptive military action.

I, for one, am not ready to buy into that.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 28 Mar 05

Personally, I feel that if Friedman is helping to mainstream the concept of green energy as a national security issue, as well as an environmental issue, than he's doing a good service.

When the US government puts together a long-term, aggressive program for energy sustainability and independence, we can argue then about the market share targets and relative risks of renewable and nuclear.

In the mean time, the US is favoring oil consumption while the ice caps melt, so we all benefit from the mainstreaming of "geogreen" thinking, whatever you call it.


Posted by: Adina Levin on 28 Mar 05

The appeal of the approach is the sense that one can co-opt right-wing fervor about national security and build coalitions to push for greater energy independence. But energy independence is not the same thing as a renewable energy infrastructure.

Plus, if the discussion is about enhancing national security. it's odd that one would push for more nuclear power, since the greatest single terrorist threat is probably a suitcase nuke. People concerned about national security should be working to scale back nuclear power, not proliferate it. Couple that with the higher costs of nuclear power (which include all the costs to protect plants from terrorist attacks as well), the long-term problems associated with the waste, and the catastrohpic dangers of the technology itself, and it simply makes no sense.

As for "geogreens" rising, Amory Lovins wrote a fabulous book back in the early 80s called "Brittle Power" which detailed the relationship between energy and national security. Our centralized power systems, nuclear plants, and dependence on Middle East oil have long been national security issues - this isn't anything new.

Add to that this "geogreen" notion is an extension of Friedman's belief in "democratizing" the Middle East through military intervention, and I really don't understand why one would choose to sign on to such a thing. One need only look at the experiences of the former Soviet republics, and their "democratization", and contrast that with an approach like Lee Kwan Yu's in Singapore (three-phase development, starting with economic, then on to social, then political) and ask oneself which might be the more reasonable approach over the long-term when working to transform a society.

What's going on in the world right now has little to nothing to do with national security, but has everything to do with controlling the largest oil reserves in the fewest number of hands, thus giving certain people the ability to set prices with a commodity that is essentially price inelastic over the short- to medium-term, and if kept under sufficient check, can be held at artificially high prices over the long-term.

That's what Friedman was buying into (whether knowingly or not) by endorsing the new military doctrines of the United States, and I really think people should be a little more careful in examining his thinking because of it. This "geogreens" notion is yet another surficially-appealing concept which unravels with a little bit of analysis.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 28 Mar 05

I was watching C-SPAN yesterday and I was reminded how much energy goes into "attack the other side" both on the web (as expected) and the wider world (more sadly).

I'm certainly happy that there are "geo-greens" out there, because I can quote them back at anti-environmental conservatives. It gives them a voice from "their side" that (I hope) they are more likely to listen to.

On the other hand, I'm saddened when some neo-cons say that they are endorsing green energies for the geopolitical aspect, and they explicitly state that they don't share the environmental concerns.

It seems that going "geo-green" can mean endorsing some environmental ideas, while at the same time, maintaining a general modern-conservative bulkwork against environmentalism.

In other words, they can be for the Prius, but still rage against "environmentalists," or talk about global warming as "junk science."

This dispite the occasional (true) conservative-environmentla movement:

http://www.repamerica.org/


Posted by: odograph on 28 Mar 05

There are friends, who have the same goals as we do, with the same believes; allies, who have some of the same goals as we do, for different reasons, and enemies, who have opposing goals, with antithetical beliefs.

By building alliances with others who want more renewable energy for different reasons, we can acheive bigger goals. This is not at all the same as "middle of the road" comprise -- splitting the difference with our opponents. This is about building a larger majority, to be able to reach bigger, more aggressive goals than if we cooperated only with soulmates.


Posted by: Adina Levin on 28 Mar 05

Joseph:

Our centralized power systems, nuclear plants, and dependence on Middle East oil have long been national security issues - this isn't anything new.

I don't think anyone was suggesting that these are new issues – but we can hope for new thinking about mitigation.

Add to that this "geogreen" notion is an extension of Friedman's belief in "democratizing" the Middle East

What's going on in the world right now has little to nothing to do with national security

That's both overstatement and oversimplification. National security is clearly relevant as a political rationale, and it's clear, as well, that the security of the U.S. (et al) is threatened by persistent acts of terrorism. You could argue successfully that we've made our own bed, but we are where we are. You could also argue that nationalism should diminish and a more global perception and understanding prevail, but we're not there yet.

thus giving certain people the ability to set prices with a commodity that is essentially price inelastic over the short- to medium-term, and if kept under sufficient check, can be held at artificially high prices over the long-term.

I suspect that there are those who would like to hold oil at artifically low prices, as we've had in the U.S., as well.

I actually find it difficult to consider a resource to be the same as a commodity in the sense that it is widely available, given the understanding that the more widely available it is today, the less available it will be tomorrow. This is similar to treating a resource as income, an error you could discuss with various bankrupt former lottery winners.

odograph:

I'm saddened when some neo-cons say that they are endorsing green energies for the geopolitical aspect, and they explicitly state that they don't share the environmental concerns.

Not sure that you're referring to Friedman here, but he's far from a neocon... he's been characterized as a "liberal hawk."


Posted by: Jon Lebkowsky on 28 Mar 05

It's a vibe I picked up in this old "green as a neocon" article:

http://slate.msn.com/id/2112608/


Posted by: odograph on 28 Mar 05

Oops, I does look like Woolsey is on the advisory board of the Energy Future Coalition, which does seem to reach out to environmentalists:

http://www.energyfuturecoalition.org/

Maybe things are finding the kind of pragmatic balance I'd hoped for.


Posted by: odograph on 28 Mar 05

Joseph:

Our centralized power systems, nuclear plants, and dependence on Middle East oil have long been national security issues - this isn't anything new.

For a visionary, it's really frustrating to see the rest of the world is coming around to something we've seen coming for decades.

But it's also an opportunity. Rather than dissing potential allies for not getting the point earlier, we can take advantage of the opportunity posed by the latecomers now.


Posted by: Adina Levin on 28 Mar 05

Adina, I agree with what you're saying about building coalitions.

What is it - 80%+ of people - who consider themselves "caring for the environment"? So, it's not like we're on the wrong side of the issues or that there is a lack of existing desire to help the world.

My original comment had to do with the term "geogreen" and what that represents. It represents accepting nuclear power as not only a considered option but as a desirable one. It also represents accepting that it is the role of the US military to forcibly overthrow governments and end up getting thousands killed, making the world less stable (ala blowback), etc, all for the reason of "spreading democracy", when the real intent is to ensure control over the largest oil reserves in the world by the US, the Saudis, Russia, and other close allies.

If you start buying into "energy security", then you're also going to be buying in to "clean coal" and all sorts of other greenwashing.

The approach championed here at Worldchanging is a far more compelling and intelligent one than these narrow, shallow notions that Friedman and others are pushing. It should be their role to endorse these views than the other way around.

in sum, I can encourage coalitions, but I'm also going to let other people know what I think of the specific ideas they choose to champion. And as I've demonstrated, if national security is truly the goal that Friedman is espousing, then he needs to spend more time contemplating the solutions he thinks will lead to that.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 28 Mar 05

Joseph,

To be honest, I didn't know that the "geogreen" idea was so tightly tied to nuclear power and promoting democracy by force (tho I do know that Friedman has included nuclear, and supported the Iraq war to start).

My impression was more basic -- that more people are tying energy policy to national security.

I agree with that basic position -- I believe that we should move toward energy sustainability to avert global warming catastrophe, AND to be good long-term inhabitants of the planet, AND to improve US national security instead of fighting more wars, rather than in addition to fighting more wars.


Posted by: Adina Levin on 28 Mar 05

The idea of "National Security" as zero-sum game needs to change. Friedman (I think) still sees the U.S. as a pre-eminent, exceptional power, and for us to win, others must lose - for instance, the Arabian Gulf nations.

One premise of smart sustainability is to find the win-win scenarios. Energy conservation is win-win; microcredit is win-win; tree planting is win-win. If national security and "green" are linked, then national security needs to be recast into the "green" perspective. The idea of "for me to win, you must lose" needs to change to "for me to win, you need to win."


Posted by: David Foley on 28 Mar 05

Interestingly, that's very different from the way that I read Friedman. To my ears, he has been largely patient and sympathetic with the need for existing regimes to reform, and for the people in the region to transform their own culture.

The difficult question about "win win" is with whom and how. For example, is there "win win" with the Saudi Monarchy or the Egyptian dictatorship?

The beauty of the green strategy (call it what you will), is that it removes from the US the perceived obligation to prop up these regimes militarily, and therefore gives us many more options for peaceful engagement or disengagement.


Posted by: Adina Levin on 28 Mar 05

Adina, thank you for a thoughtful comment. I don't know if there can be a "win-win" with the plutocracies governing Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but there can be with the people of those countries.

I may have misread Friedman. But if we're to embrace nuclear power, then others should be able to as well. But in fact, we don't want that, because of proliferation concerns. Friedman has supported that position. That's unilateralism, or a zero-sum game. And it's misguided, in my view: trying to replace our current elephantine energy consumption with nuclear power would suck up nearly all the discretionary investment capital in this country for the next 20 years. Not to mention the intractible technical and geo-political problems.

Likewise, Friedman advocates energy independence largely to deprive regimes he dislikes of the oxygen of capital. A kind of boycott, if you will. Maybe not a bad idea, until you consider the large, young, under-or-unemployed, seething, frustrated populations of those countries. Then a "boycott" seems hardly in our interest.

I thoroughly agree with your last paragraph, and if Friedman does as well, then I should reassess my view. Thanks for helping me see things a little differently.


Posted by: David Foley on 28 Mar 05

That reminds me of something else - I'm a bit weary of the fuzzy linking of oil dependence and our electricity infrastructure, which Friedman has perpetuated. Seeing as oil is used to produce less than 3% of the electricity in this country, it has essentially no relationship to our electricity needs.

The only indirect relationship is that car dependent design which encourages sprawl also encourages enormous waste in electricity consumption because of oversized, inefficient homes, among other things.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 28 Mar 05

It will become more direct if we end up with natural gas cars.

And natural gas cars make more sense to me than converting natural gas to h2 and then burning the h2 in cars ... unless I'm missing something?


Posted by: odograph on 29 Mar 05

It will become more direct if we end up with natural gas cars. And natural gas cars make more sense to me than converting natural gas to h2 and then burning the h2 in cars ... unless I'm missing something?

Hmm. I haven't heard of any plans by carmakers to depend heavily on natural gas as a fuel. And if there's going to be a "hydrogen economy", there are other options for making hydrogen than reformation. I guess your thinking is that nuclear would susbstitute for natual gas plants that generate electricity? I don't see that happening. Even if it did, this is a pretty long stretch of logic just to accomodate Friedman's sloppy thinking.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 29 Mar 05

I was really just branching off, to one of my warm-buttons.

We're seing a lot of news about natural gas to h2 conversion. I'd like someone to reassure me that it isn't a boondoggle, and that it makes more sense than just burning natural gas in cars.

There was an article at Green Car Congress today about converting natural gas to ammonia and ammonia to h2:

http://www.greencarcongress.com/2005/03/nanocatalyst_pr.html

great, two conversion losses before you get to your car.

now, there may (in theory) be "green" sources of h2 ... but it looks like a mini-industry is going to make money with h2 whether it is "green" or not.


Posted by: odograph on 29 Mar 05



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