This article is from the In-Depth Report December 2008 Earth 3.0: Solutions for Sustainable Progress

The U.S. Needs to Lead in Clean Tech [Preview]

Steve Mirsky talks with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas L. Friedman on how green technology can save the world economy

What about resistance from people who aren’t even convinced that problems such as global warming are real?
Suppose those who believe in climate change are wrong, but we do everything we can in our power to prepare our economy for a world of climate change anyway. We shift to a clean energy system. We adapt how we use energy. We become hyper­efficient. What’s the worst that will happen? In a world that’s just flat and crowded, we will still be leaders in the next great global industry because we are going to have to make those same changes to adapt to flat-meets-crowded.

The overarching message of my book is: the world has a problem, and America has a problem. The world’s problem is that it’s getting hot, flat and crowded, which is driving these five trends. America also has a problem, though, and it’s that we’ve lost our groove. We’ve lost our edge and our focus as a country. Lurking down the road is the next great global industry. It’s called clean power, clean energy, clean tech—it has to be the next great global industry.

If we take the lead in that industry, if we take the lead in solving the world’s problem, we will solve our own problem, too. We will be generating precisely the kind of innovation and breakthroughs to help the world with the most fundamental challenges it faces today. And in so doing, we will make ourselves more respected, strong, secure, entrepreneurial, rich and competitive.

When you go down that road of clean tech, you not only have cleaner air. You have a new industry that can’t be outsourced so easily. You become more economically stable, because you’re not shipping all those dollars abroad. You become more secure because your source of fuel isn’t dependent on the whims of some petro-dictator. So, it’s not just win-win. It’s win-win-win-win-win.

Note: This article was originally printed with the title, "The Need to Lead in Clean Tech".

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This article was originally published with the title "The Need to Lead in Clean Tech."

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