Illustration for article titled Get Those Electrons Into A Seminar, Stat!

Environmentalism is such a downer, with all the doomsaying and finger-wagging. So maybe it's a good thing that globalization's cheerleader, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, has turned his upbeat, can-do goshdarnit style to green issues with his latest book, Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need A Green Revolution — And How It Can Renew America. Friedman faces up to the downside of a global surge in the energy-guzzling middle class, and offers a variety of solutions, including using the U.S. Army's experience in "out-greening Al Qaeda." But my favorite Friedman gee-whiz idea: the "Energy Internet." Hey, the Internet is awesome, right? It's like a magic fruit machine, except instead of fruit, it dispenses information. And blogs, which are like the nasty seeds inside the fruit. But anyway — what if we could have an Internet, but for electricity? Hook up all of your appliances to the information superhighway and ensure that they talk to the grid and figure out how to use the least amount of electricity possible? Or only guzzle electricity during non-peak hours? This will lead to "clean electrons" because they'll be SMART electrons. They'll be electrons with their own MySpace page. Our cars, our dishwashers, our xBoxes, will all be talking to each other about ways to reduce their carbon footprint. ("Hey xBox," I can just hear the refrigerator saying, "I'm about to make some ice. Can you generate fewer pixels for a minute?") To be fair, Friedman's book also does call for hard steps amongst all the gee-whiz awesomeness. He wants the government to impose a whole new regime of taxes and incentives, including cap-and-trade schemes, to give everybody the incentives to make those electrons as smart as they can be. Electrons don't educate themselves, you know. [IHT and Free Press and Business Lexington]


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