Posted by: bmeverett | September 9, 2009

Tom Friedman has got to be kidding!

As those of you who follow this blog know, my favorite villain is the New York Times – a once-great newspaper that has turned itself into an arm of the Democratic Party. This week, however, the editorial staff of the Times looks downright moderate compared to one its prominent columnists – Tom Friedman, the author of numerous books, including Hot, Flat and Crowded. Mr. Friedman has lost patience with the American people whom he clearly regards as a flock of stupid sheep. Why? Because they are too stupid to agree with him and therefore do not deserve their democratic rights.

In today’s oped piece (September 9, 2009), Friedman states:

“One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century. It is not an accident that China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power.”

“Has its drawbacks”? “Reasonably enlightened”? What in the world is he talking about? China is a country where freedom as understood by Americans doesn’t exist. This is a country where political dissidents are jailed and tortured, where the practice of religion is forbidden, where the internet and all other sources of information are controlled by the state, where nobody votes, where minorities are brutally suppressed, particularly in occupied countries like Tibet, where corruption is rampant, where the air and water are polluted and where hundreds of millions of people live in misery and poverty. Yet, Mr. Friedman regards these people are “enlightened” because they like solar panels and electric cars.

Friedman’s views are reminiscent of the “useful idiots” of the 1930s American left who viewed the construction of the Moscow subway as evidence that Stalin was the wave of the future. After three generations of misery and 50 million dead in wars, purges and the gulags, the Russians gave up on central planning. Tom Friedman, however, has not.

Let’s forget for a moment the basic issue of human freedom, which is the foundation of the United States. Let’s forget John Locke, Adam Smith, the Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln and the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have died to preserve what Mr. Friedman wants to so cavalierly throw away. Let’s just look at the “Potemkin Village” of Chinese energy policy.

According to the Energy Information Administration, in 2007 the US generated 4,159 billion kilowatt-hours (BkWh) of electricity. About half our electricity came from coal, 22% from natural gas, 20% from nuclear, 6% from hydropower and the remaining 2% from solar, wind and other sources. How about in the Chinese Green Paradise ruled by the Reasonably Enlightened Leaders (RELs)? In 2007, China generated about 3,000 BkWh. About 80% came from coal, 15% from hydropower, 2% from nuclear and the remaining 3% from other sources.

OK, so let’s see. China uses 80% coal, compared to our 50%, and many of the Chinese power plants are old, inefficient and lack the modern pollution control equipment required in the US. The US has about 100 nuclear power plants in operation, while China has 3. The US generates 32 BkWh from wind power compared to China’s 8, and the US generates 0.6 BkWh of solar power compared to China’s 0.1 BkWh.

How about the future? By 2020, the US will have 110 Billion watts of installed nuclear capacity, while China will have 40. By 2020, the US is projected to have 65 Billion watts of installed wind capacity, versus China’s expected 40 Billion watts. The US is projected to have about 12 Billion Watts of solar power by 2020, versus China’s plan of 2. How will China meet its future electric power needs? Coal, coal and more coal. The Chinese plan to build the equivalent of one large coal-fired power plant every week for the next 15 years.

What in the world is Mr. Friedman thinking here? Does he see Chinese electric cars supplied by massive coal-fired power plants as the green future? China would certainly like to sell us green technology, but they don’t seem to want to use it themselves. Perhaps if Mr. Friedman looked beyond the glittering lights of Shanghai to the China where most Chinese live in poverty and oppression, he might not be so quick to give up on democracy. I’m not sure the American people are ready to replace “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” with “Shut up and do what you’re told!”



  1. Bruce: Once again right on the mark with this enjoyable piece. Thank you.



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