Summary of Hot, Flat and Crowded

By | December 11, 2008

This is the complete summary of the Book, Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas L Friedman. 

Yup, he is the same guy who wrote that the world is flat a few years back that highlighted how the internet and global supply chains is flattening the world. Now he is on to his next book that is highlighting Hot= Climate Change and Global Warming, Flat = Globalisation and Crowded = the growing middle class. Here is the first part of my summary.

Part 1: Where we are 

1. Where birds don’t fly

American has gotten distracted by its war on terror and has become more insulated and loss its path from global leadership. Friedman argues that green is a new national strategy to take its economic to its new heights.  

2. Today’s Date 1E.C.E

The trends of Hot, Flat and crowded are converging. 

1.     Hot= Global Warming

2.     Flat= Globalisation of marketplaces

3.     Crowded= Growing competition for resources  

The convergence of these 3 trends increase the magnitude of problems: energy supply and demand, petrodicatorship, climate change, energy poverty and biodiversity loss 

We have to do something about these 5 problems as they determine peace, security, economic growth and human rights. 

Part 2: How we got there

3. Our carbon copies

This chapter focuses on energy supply and demand. 

The American lifestyle is wasteful and being emulated in developing countries. If all of them reach American standards, the demand will be so high the Earth will not be able to provide the current level of resources to all. There will be intense competition for resources which will lead to conflict. 

Thus a more sustainable growth model is required. The US needs to take leadership as it is the country using most of the resources right now. 

4. Fill em up with dictators

This chapter focuses on petrodicatorship which is a political development in oil producing country. 

As energy demand exceeds supply, oil prices rises which then gives oil producing countries a lot of money. The influx of Oil money influences politics in countries and turns it less democratic and more anti American. It also fuels terrorism and armies. 

First Law of Petro Politics: As oil prices does up, the less freedom in petrolist countries 

Thus reduction of oil use is necessary. 

5. Global Weirding

This chapter focuses on climate change. 

Climate change is real and proven. We are not sure if they will happen even faster than previous predictions. We are not sure of the changes that might happen because we have not accurately modelled the complexity of the climate. 

We need to increase national awareness of climate change. 

6. The Age of Noah

This chapter focuses on biodiversity loss. 

Rapid climate change and human development destroys biodiversity. Loss of biodiversity directly affects human life quality. Degrading the environment means that we have to do more that the climate used to do for us. 

Later is too late and we have to stop biodiversity loss now. 

7. Energy Poverty

This chapter focuses on energy poverty in developing countries. 

1.6 Billion people do not have access to electricity grid. Without energy, almost all aspect of life is affected. The poorest are the ones most affected by climate change.

Without electricity, one has no access to machines and communication necessary for making a living in this flat world. 

This keeps the poor poorer. 

With communication and electricity, we can move to a more sustainable work life style 

8. Green is the new red white and blue

We have passed the point where we cannot put off dealing with the 5 problems.

The true costs of the problems are becoming clear in a transparent flat world which demands accountability. 

America must take the lead because if it does not it will lose its global competitive edge. America can because it still has innovation, research and capitalist funding that is still leading edge in the world. 

Plan A (There is no Plan B) 

Code Green: Friedman proposes a Code Green Plan and highlights the need for a whole new system to power the economy. Need to replace the entire input of the system (dirty fuel) 

The components of the Plan are Clean Electrons, Energy Efficiency and Conservation 

Clean Electrons: We need to simulate innovation to find a source of electrons that is abundant, clean, reliable and cheap. 

Energy Efficiency and Resource Productivity: In the short term, we must reduce the demand because Clean Energy will not be here soon. 

Ethic of Conservation: Responsibility for the earth. Changing our lifestyle to something that has less effect on the earth  

What We Need: A system of government policies, regulations, research funding and tax incentives that would stimulate a system for innovating, generating gland deploying clean electrons, energy efficient and resource productivity along with an ethic of conservation 

On the next summary, I will cover the remaining portions of the books.

Part 3: How We Move Forward

9. 205 Easy Ways to Save the Earth

In this chapter, Friedman lists how many parties are jumping on the green bandwagon regardless of if they are really going green. He argues that the media is positioning green as the next big thing and mis-leading people into thinking that it will be easy to achieve.

He goes on to show how it is really hard to go green. He shows examples of the rapidly increasing demand on energy, the amount of investment we need to make into alternative energy and the amount of time to start these sources of energy and how hard it will be to achieve all these three. The second example he shows is that to stop the doubling of CO2 by 2050, we would have to make several major changes to the current life style all of which are also hard to achieve.

10. The Energy Internet: When IT Meets ET

The energy internet is the convergence of information technology and energy technology. This and the next 3 chapters describe a system of clean power, energy efficiency and conservation. The current power grid is built patchwork and dumb. Major regions are not interconnected and prices are set by regulation instead of market forces. The system was setup without the total cost of ownership in mind.

A scenario is painted 20 years into the future where the grid is connected to your home appliances and dynamic energy load balancing is done based on the instantaneous price of electricity. The utilities are now incentized to help your save energy and even give you loans and rebates to make your house and your appliances more efficient.

11. The Stone Age Didn’t End Because We Ran Out Of Stones

Clean energy is going to be the next global industry. We need a clean energy input to power the grid described in the previous chapter. However we have had no exponential breakthroughs yet and Friedman says that this is because of both the barrier of innovation and more importantly that we haven’t really tried. We need to create a market of clean energy. Current energy markets are dominated by the interest of oil, coal and gas companies and we need to level the playing field so the market can adopt clean energy.

A price signal is required to make sure investors will invest in the creation of clean tech companies and their products. A stable price signal will stimulate demand and confidence and pull our R&D efforts up the learning curve.

Price signals should show the true cost of burning fossil fuels. There are several ways that it could be implemented such as Carbon Taxes or Cap-and-trade schemes. Friedman concludes it doesn’t matter as much which system is implemented but the speed of the implementation.

12. If It Isn’t Boring, It Isn’t Green

We need to nurture all the cost-effective energy efficiency because it is cheaper than generating electricity. This chapter focus on how standards and regulations can optimise and lead to efficient energy usage.

Friedman uses the case of GE’s Transportation EVO Train of how tighter environmental regulation and standards drive innovation which leads to more efficient products that command a higher market premium. He also brings examples from the auto industry and air conditioning products.

Green building design can also cut operating cost even though construction cost might be higher.

The current utility incentive system has to be redesigned. Instead of aligning profits with the consumption of energy, states should reward utilities from helping to make energy use more efficient.

Transportation has to be electrified as we can then directly control the emissions from transportation. A smart grid can use the off peak power and even out loads throughout the day by exchanging power between parked cars and the grid.

13. A Million Noahs, A Million Arks

We need to develop a system for preservation of our natural assets because the degradation of these assets directly affects the quality of life. Each preservation system will need to be different depending on the local environment. There are 6 components.

1)      National government policies to set aside areas for conservation and other areas for development

2)      Economic opportunities for the local community to thrive without harming the local biodiversity

3)      Investors with an interest in keeping the biodiversity intact and make profits

4)      Local government who is able and willing to preserve and protect the areas

5)      Experts with the ability to do biodiversity assessment to assess which areas should be protected

6)      Education programs for the people so it is less necessary to plunder the natural world around the

14. Out Greening Al-Qaeda (Or Buy 1 Get Four Free)

Out greening is a competitive issue (economically and military). When you adopt a competitive greening strategy, you get more than 1 advantage. Being cheapest also means greenest. We need to change the current mindset of carbon neutral to pro green. Carbon neutral means a cost to the companies. But if you get the green strategy right, you can use it as a competitive tool to outcompete your competition.

Part 4 China

15: Can Red China Become Green China

China has a pollution problem because of the waste and pollution of its industry. China cannot do take the same path of dirty industrialization as the west has done because it would mean serve health problem to its citizens.

The government has realised this and has been taking small steps to go green while still keeping the economy red hot. Executing a green plan however is not easy because of the large inertia and the lack of control over local governments. Transparency in the ground is requiring for citizens to police polluters by using media outlets and civil rights movements. This is possible with the government endorsing this movement.

China is having an emergence of a clean tech industry. Buildings play a large part in the environmental policy of China mainly because of the number of buildings erected.

The US needs to take the moral ground in leading clean energy because China will follow us as it has no choice but to follow the world standard.

Part 5 America

16. China for a Day (But Not For Two)

America has been discussing greening for too long with too little action. Decisions carry too much divergent priorities. The difference between the China and US is that it takes the US takes too long to decide but measures are implemented while China can mandate in an instant but the plan might not be correctly implemented.

Decision making is being impacted by traditional energy companies that oppose any incentive to clean energy. They use advertising to mislead voters.

Congress is also negligent is letting funding go to the wrong projects instead of science and development. Government need to be funding basic research so as to seed the breakthroughs required to solve the green problem.

There is too much red tape involved in construction of a power plant. It took 11 years to connect a wind farm 275 Miles to Los Angeles. This is too slow compared to the speed at which China is building power plants of one every 2 weeks.  

17. A Democratic China or a banana republic

Change will be painfully disruptive and everyone needs to be involved in bringing attention to the issue. The benefit is not immediate but it has to be done for our children.

We need a strategy to move the general public.

The energy climate era represents a new set of dangers and opportunities. We need leaders to solve this multi generational multi faceted multi trillion dollar problem.