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Thomas Friedman: Energy Cooperation Will Unite the West

"Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Western allies have been asking: What will replace the threat of communism as the cement that holds together the Atlantic alliance? Some have argued terrorism, but I don't think so. I think my German friends have the best idea: the issue that will and should unite the West is energy and all its challenges." writes Thomas Friedman in his column "Allies Dressed in Green" in the NY Times (subscribers only) (HT: Elmer):
After all, nothing is a bigger threat today to the Western way of life and quality of life than the combination of climate change, pollution, species loss, and Islamist radicalism and petro-authoritarianism --all fueled by our energy addictions. And no solution is possible to these problems without concerted government actions to reduce emissions, to inspire green innovation and to shift from oil to renewable power. Therefore, green is not just the new red, white and blue — the next great American national security project -- it should also be the color, focus and cement of the Atlantic alliance in the 21st century. As a German official remarked to me, "The whole issue has the potential of becoming a big trans-Atlantic project at a time when we have no other good big project that [embodies] a vision." (...) Germany's foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, recently gave a major address on how "energy security will strongly influence the global security agenda in the 21st century."
The biggest obstacles he sees are European opposition to genetically modified crops and nuclear energy and President Bush's lack of environmentalism: "One reason President Bush has failed to become the leader of the West is because he has failed to lead on green, which has become so important to all our allies." Ah, apparently the phrase "leader of the West" is still in use. On "leadership" see Atlantic Review post about "Germany's Comeback" and Leadership.

Gabor Steingart makes another suggestion to keep the Euro-American alliance vital: A transatlantic free-trade zone could be like a "NATO for the World Economy."


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Isolationist on :

I last thing in the world I want, the very last thing, is anything that will keep the US connected with Europe by treaty, alliance or common policy. I most certainly do not want another damn "vision," or a project on energy or anything else that will slow or reverse the division of Europe and the US. We are separating from one another--hallelujah!--and that is just the way I want it, and the sooner the better.

Clarsonimus on :

The Bush government's record here has been poor at best, but it's changing for the better. And if it can change there it can change anywhere, right? I'm not so sure. I think most Americans are unaware as to how skeptical (feindlich) Europeans are about technology. I see a bigger problem there in the long run(gene technology, for example)because that kind of hysterical opposition takes much longer to change.

Don S on :

The major problem with statements which begin "The Bush government's record has ...." is that it implies that whilst there are two actors (the US and the EU) only one of them is required (or able) to take action to bridge the gap between them. 'Europe' is constantly going on about how disappointed they are that the US has failed to do this or that. This is very fine but misses the point that people in the US are also disappointed that Europeans have failed to do this or that. Compromise is necessary to bridging gaps but it often appears that most Europeans fervently believe in what might be termed unilateral compromise. That is that Europe sets the standard and the US complies with it. Take GM for example. There seems to be no EU-level GM policy which can be changed by negociation. GM policy is set by each nation and it seems that the most rigorous anti-GM policies win out because of inter-EU trade; If you wish to export products to Germany or France you must comply with their GM policy. 'Europeans' are dismayed that the US hasn't come close to the GM policies now in control in the EU and there are actually trade sanctions on many US exports within the EU to attempt to force the US to comply. The trouble is that European GM policies aren't rational for the most part. They are based on fear of technology - and thus far that fear cannot be negociated away. So the US is often left with a quandary when dealing with Europe. Our choices are to comply with what Europe does - or not comply. Unilateral compromise. Effective negociation and multilateral compromise seem to be increaingly difficult to manage because the refusal of one or more major European countries to go along renders the compromise moot..... I often ask the question "What's in it for the US?' - this is part of what I mean. Europe seems to be so busy gazing at it's collective navel at times that you lose track of the US completely. Except for the denunciatoions of course. That you do extremely well....

Assistant Village Idiot on :

I usually about half-agree with Friedman, and find him at least creative in his thinking. I disagree with the primacy of climate change as an issue going forward. While there is evidence for slight warming, the evidence for looming catastrophe just isn't there. Even if, arguendo, it were true, and the number of species dwindled and the natural world looked more boring: would wine cease to gladden? Would the young no longer fall in love? The preservation of certain values, notably the worth and freedom of the individual, means far more to me that whether we slide toward a diminished selection of rodents to observe. So I agree with the energy part, but not the greenness-or-perish part of Friedman's discussion. And as in other things, it does seem to be Germany taking responsibility, trying to map out a way that is neither reflexively pro nor anti-American. I don't think energy will pass terrorism as an issue of importance. Lack of safety in world trade would be in itself an enormous problem, even if there were no direct threat to American soil. And of course, I believe there is a continuing threat to American soil as well. Nonetheless, energy consumption is a large issue in its own right. As to suspicion of technology, if you believe that Americans are culturally (not realistically) too optimistic and unwilling to consider the downside of technology, doesn't that open the door to the possibility that Europeans are culturally (not realistically) too pessimistic about the dangers? If one would expect that Americans raised on territorial and economic expansion would cruise jauntily in where angels fear to tread, would it not also imply that Europeans raised on stagnant economies and increasing containment would be unnecessarily timid? Neither appeal to culture necessarily brings us nearer the truth.

ROA on :

Concerning climate change, apparently there is new research just released by Danish scientists that questions the impact of CO2 vs water vapor: ‘The greenhouse effect must play some role. But those who are absolutely certain that the rise in temperatures is due solely to carbon dioxide have no scientific justification. It’s pure guesswork.’ [Henrik Svensmark, Director of the Centre for Sun-Climate Research, Danish National Space Center, joint author of the new research] ... And here is the link to the report from the Danish National Space Center: ‘Getting closer to the cosmic connection to climate’ (October 4). One especially eminent science writer has already declared: ‘The implications for climate physics, solar-terrestrial physics and terrestrial-galactic physics are pretty gob-smacking…’ ... Their results suggest that temperature fluctuations over the past 550 million years are more likely to relate to cosmic-ray activity than to CO2. By contrast, they found no correlation between temperature variation and the changing patterns of CO2 in the atmosphere. But the mechanism remained far from understood…..until now. For it seems that Svensmark and Pedersen may well have discovered that mechanism. link: "[]"

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