Friedman on Bailout: Gov't Should Mandate Green Construction

      It was just a matter of time. Now that government has taken over services normally offered by private corporations as a result of the recent series of bailouts, environmentalists have proposed green building requirements be incorporated into new mortgages.


     New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman suggested Sept. 23 that any construction financed by government-funded mortgages should be certified “green” according to the standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System.


     “If we’re going to be in the mortgage business as a government, then every government-funded mortgage – at least for a new building – means that building has to be at least Silver LEED certified, okay?” Friedman said at the Sixth & I Synagogue in Washington, D.C. He appeared to promote his new book, “Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America.”


     Friedman also brought up the possibility of compelling big three automakers currently seeking a bailout – Ford (NYSE:F), General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Chrysler (NYSE:DAI) – to build cars that suit the green agenda. But as for the proposed $700 billion used for the financial bailout, Friedman insisted it should have green strings attached.


     “This is critical,” Friedman said. “The IT revolution was a bubble. But that bubble, through amazing innovation, left us with the Internet superhighway. The railroad revolution was a bubble and it left us with a country knit together by railroads. This financial revolution is a bubble and is leaving us with dead derivatives. We cannot afford to use this $700 billion for anything other than a full-blown transformation.”


     But Friedman’s recommendations don’t always benefit society. On ABC’s “Good Morning America” on March 9, 2006, he boldly announced his preference for the future of U.S. energy policy.


     “[C]harlie, if they [Iran] cut off oil and oil went to $100 a barrel – that would make my day, because the sooner we go to $100 a barrel, the sooner we’re going to have everyone in America driving a plug-in hybrid car fueled by corn and ethanol,” Friedman said. “And I think that would be a great thing. And that would ultimately free us from having to worry about these people.”


     Oil prices did go above $100 a barrel, but things did not work exactly as Friedman suggested. The high price of oil, which has traded between $150 and $90 a barrel over the past six months, caused the demand for corn to increase significantly. That corn was needed to create ethanol as an alternative to high-priced petroleum. The diversion of corn to energy has been blamed for food shortages are breaking out in Haiti, Egypt and other parts of Africa earlier this year.