Tom Friedman’s ‘Just Do It’ Column Captures Mixed Sentiment on Energy Bill

“Hate” is a strong word. But in using it in a July 1, 2009, New York Times column, Thomas L. Friedman may have captured the sentiments of many backers of climate change legislation.

Friedman used that column to vent his concerns about the House-passed American Clean Energy Security Act. “A simple, straightforward carbon tax would have made much more sense than this Rube Goldberg contraption,” Friedman opined.

Only thing worse than passing this bill, he wrote, would have been not passing it. That would have “undermined clean energy initiatives everywhere.” The green-as-can-be Friedman said he was going by his gut in hoping that even a weak price on carbon will lead to “a new mind-set among consumers, investors, farmers, and entrepreneurs that in time will make a big difference.” He equated the House-passed bill to the start of the effort against cigarettes and cancer: “The morning after that warning no one ever looked at smoking the same again.”

Friedman cautioned against any backing-off from the House-passed bill as the Senate takes up the legislation in coming weeks and months. He said the burden now lies with the Republican Party, President Obama, and “We the People” to carry the water.

Echoing another sentiment common to some who support passing climate legislation, Friedman said Obama’s approach so far does “feel very calculating … he doesn’t quite want to get his hands dirty.” He urged the President to “fight this war” by openly pressuring the Senate and informing the public in “speech after speech.”

“If he is not ready to risk failure by going all out, failure will be the most likely result.”

He concluded by urging young Americans to mobilize:  ”You want to make a difference? Then get out of Facebook and into somebody’s face,” he wrote. “Get a million people on the Washington Mall calling for a price on carbon. That will get the Senate’s attention. Play hardball or don’t play at all.”

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