We’ve been writing about clean technology for a while now, but we haven’t articulated how Silicon Valley’s possible contributions to new energy sources can directly help foster world peace. Thomas Friedman, in today’s NYT, outlines an interesting argument along these lines. Not everyone will agree, and some environmentalists will take issue with his endorsement of nuclear power (which critics say creates a huge radioactive waste problem, sucks up subsidies, is more expensive than the industry sometimes owns up to, and leads to verification problems precisely in prickly places like Iran). Yet it’s worth mulling over. Of course, only a tiny fraction of the Silicon Valley’s venture capital investments are earmarked for energy related technologies, perhaps a sign of the limits to how much technology can produce alternative energy sources. Still, even if the opportunities are few, they are potentially huge.
Can’t paste the whole Friedman column here, but the following paragraph is the crux of his argument:
Yes, there is an alternative to the Euro-wimps and the neocons, and it is the “geo-greens.” I am a geo-green. The geo-greens believe that, going forward, if we put all our focus on reducing the price of oil – by conservation, by developing renewable and alternative energies and by expanding nuclear power – we will force more reform than by any other strategy. You give me $18-a-barrel oil and I will give you political and economic reform from Algeria to Iran. All these regimes have huge population bubbles and too few jobs. They make up the gap with oil revenues. Shrink the oil revenue and they will have to open up their economies and their schools and liberate their women so that their people can compete. It is that simple.