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Tom Friedman on the “Green Energy” Communication Challenge

Appearing on NPR’s Fresh Air to discuss his new book “Hot, Flat, and Crowded,” Friedman was asked by host Terry Gross whether or not the term “green energy” might be implicitly off-putting to many Americans. As Gross put it to Friedman “How do you shatter the boring, ‘granola’ image of the green energy industry?”

Here’s what Friedman said (full transcript of interview):

That’s what the book is about. The problem is the term “green” was really owned by its opponents. To name something is to own it. The people who named it “green” named it a “liberal, tree-hugging, girlie-man, sissy, unpatriotic, vaguely French!

What I’m out to do in this book is to rename green. Geo-political. Geo-strategic. Geo-economic. Innovative. Competitive. Patriotic. “Green” is the new red, white and blue. Because this is all of those things. To conservatives, I say, “Look, this book is a plan to make America stronger, more energy and nationally secure, more competitive and entrepreneurial, more economically healthy and more respected in the world. (Oh, and by the way, all that stuff Al Gore talks about? We’ll take care of that as a by-product!) To liberals and “greens” I say it’s a plan to make America greener. (Oh, and by the way, all that stuff Dick Cheney talks about? We’ll take care of that as a by-product.)

I’m doing it because I honestly believe this is an issue joining both of those things. It not only does it intellectually, but it must. Because if you don’t — if “green” is owned as a kind of Birkenstock-wearing hippie wine-and-cheese-eating issue and isn’t seen as an issue about national security and growth and making American stronger, healthier, more competitive … then we’ll never have scale. Until you have scale on this issue, you really have nothing.


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