Tom Friedman, Oversimplifier

Energy independence is easy!

On Sunday, New York Times columnist and centrist Democrat luminary Tom Friedman waxed poetic about all the wonderful energy-related things they do in Europe. Why ever can’t we do that stuff here? He wrote about motion-sensitive lights that turn on and off by themselves and toilets that have two different flush powers! Scandinavia is so energy efficient, isn’t it grand?

Because it was smart taxes and incentives that spurred Danish energy companies to innovate, Ditlev Engel, the president of Vestas — Denmark’s and the world’s biggest wind turbine company — told me that he simply can’t understand how the U.S. Congress could have just failed to extend the production tax credits for wind development in America.

I’m sure the light bulbs are all very nice, but this sort of praise is along the lines of a report by a third grader about energy consumption. Saving energy is good. So sad we aren’t doing more of it. Gold star, Tommy.

But Tom Friedman is an adult and should look at this issue more critically. Friedman’s article addressed few substantive differences between Scandinavia and the U.S. His “Denmark-did-it, why-can’t-we?” take on energy policy is asinine. As if energy independence is just a matter of style and willpower.

There are, in fact, a number of significant structural differences at work between the Kingdom of Denmark and the United States of America. One of these differences has to do with land development, about which one might expect Tom Friedman to know a little more.

Friedman, after all, is married to Ann Bucksbaum, the heiress to the $2.7 billion General Growth Properties fortune. Founded by Friedman’s father-in-law in 1954, GGP is America’s second largest real estate investment trust and owns, develops, and operates regional shopping malls in forty-one states.

That’s right, malls. Fat, energy-hogging, climate controlled, sprawl-inducing—many of the most palpable examples of American waste and ecological irresponsibility are owned and managed by Tom Friedman’s family.

This makes all this gee-why-don’t-you-write-your-congressman naiveté a little hard to take. Friedman actually has direct access to a company with some control over the level of waste the United States perpetuates on the world.

But I guess for some people the world really is flat; and the Starbucks is just next to the Nordstrom.

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Daniel Luzer is web editor of the Washington Monthly.