Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stop talking. Start acting.

Last week, I took my show on the road once again, this time to Washington, D.C. for the Carbon Market Insights Americas 2008 Conference. The event was well worth the money I was fleeced, er, billed for (seriously, if you want to make some quick cash, organize a conference and put the word "green" or "carbon" in the name, people will come Ray, oh yes, people will come). As with the REFF West renewable energy conference, it was great to see the innovation, both financial and technological, that is being created to solve the global warming crisis.

One of the highlights of the CMI Americas Conference was having the privilege to hear Thomas L. Friedman speak. For those of you not familiar with my good friend Tom (OK, so I wasn't all that familiar with him either, but isn't that why wikipedia was invented, so I can look smarter using unchecked facts?), he is an award winning journalist, op-ed writer for the New York Times, and author of several leather-bound books (e.g. Hot, Flat, and Crowded, The World is Flat, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, etc.). Mr. Friedman's speech was based primarily on his book Hot, Flat, and Crowded that discusses the need for a global green revolution and how Americans (or U.S. Americans per Ms. Teen South Carolina, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj3iNxZ8Dww) should take a leadership position in this budding movement. While he has his detractors and he can be a bit melodramatic (and the speech, albeit a good one, was basically an infomercial for his book), Mr. Friedman's overall message of American action and leadership was inspiring to hear and, in my opinion, was right on the money. I could not possibly convey all the facets of his speech properly so I suggest you either check out this link, http://www.ryanallis.com/friedman-hot-flat-crowded-2/, or purchase his book as I will soon do (I guess infomercials work after all).

Almost as interesting to hear were the varying view points of when to act on global warming. Some would prefer to act sooner (Thomas L. Friedman, Obama's environmental adviser, the World) and some would prefer to act in varying degrees of slowness, I mean cautiousness (U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, various financial industry executives). The fact of the matter is the world is literally waiting on us. There was a session during the conference in which the Vice President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, who is an American, stated his skepticism regarding any meaningful agreement being achieved at the Copenhagen global climate change meetings in 2009. Then, U.N. environmental negotiation representatives from Brazil, Japan, Norway, and Mexico (yes, that Mexico, home of the pollution loving maquiladoras) proceeded to scold the Pew Center representative on his pessimistic view point and to basically plead with the U.S. to take a leadership role next year in setting global carbon standards. That session, more than any other, drove the point home that the U.S. is THE global Superpower (minus the ability to fly, shoot webs, etc. although we do have our Robin, right Canada?) and with great power, comes great responsibility. Yes, there are other factors to be worked out (e.g. what to do about the evergrowing China and India, cap and trade vs. carbon tax, effects on current industries, Al Gore's waistline, etc.), but our children's children (who will hopefully be better looking than us) depend on action sooner rather than later.

Some additional thoughts, green and otherwise:
  • Mr. Friedman spoke of redefining what it is to be "American." We love our stuff (I know I do, especially stuff with chocolate on it). Globalization has allowed others to buy and love stuff too. But as everyone in the world is starting to love stuff like we love stuff, we've started some stuff that is going to cause us to be in for some stuff. Americans always set the bar high. Whether it is innovation, freedom, or gluttony, we strive to be number one, but the world is catching up to their role model (strange tangent time, I love how some athletes have such large egos that they think you choose to be a role model, but I digress) so unless we redefine what that role model should be, we will need to start investing in some speedos, cause it's gonna get a little hot in here.
  • Senator Bingaman stated that Congress may not be able to act on creating a cap and trade policy due to their having to deal with the credit crisis. Pardon me for saying, but last I checked, there are 535 members of Congress. Couldn't they spare one or two hundred members and still have enough hot air in both debates?
  • Today, the Senate put a proposal on the table for rescuing the auto industry. It does not contain any significant strings attached (e.g. reorganization, innovation demands, new cars for every Oprah viewer). Can someone explain to me why we keep throwing money at these industries without demanding improvements? It couldn't be that their workers are unionized and those unions have money, could it? Yes, I know, those industries affect millions of workers, but couldn't a portion of that money be used not for the floundering leviathans, but for retraining the workers who lose their jobs from the restructuring demands that should be attached to this bailout. Then those retrained workers could go work in green industries, problem solved, no need to thank me.
  • One other thought on the auto industry issues. Why is it that when 52,000 Citigroup employees lose their jobs as they did today (http://www.reuters.com/article/hotStocksNews/idUSTRE4AG3JD20081117), we hardly bat an eye. But when the same amount of autoworkers lose their jobs, all H-E-double hockey sticks break loose? For comparative purposes, there are 250,000 hourly auto workers in the Big 3.
  • As always, if you are interested in any of the presentations from the CMI Americas conference, shoot me an email. Don't forget to tip your waiter and leave a Comment below.

1 comment:

jquaglia said...

Hey sounds like it was a great conference. Maybe I will start my own green conference. As long as it will pay my subprime mortgage I am set!

Any good business contacts?