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Thomas Friedman's energy fantasies

You can tell an aging con man has run out of new ideas when all he can do is mindlessly re-peddle the old ones. Thomas Friedman’s predictable sneer at the Republican primary process in The New York Times on Feb. 11 was a classic example of the genre. He churned out his usual two, tired, old false fantasies -- that the economic future and revival of the United States can only lie in the clean, antiseptic IT companies’ innovation he loves, and that in a world of 7 billion people, we have to switch to renewable energy as quickly as possible.

Needless to say, he sneered at the GOP candidates for allegedly failing to recognize these “self-evident truths.”

Except they aren’t self-evident truths. As I document in my upcoming book, “That Should Still be Us: How Thomas Friedman’s Fantasies are Keeping Us Flat on Our Backs,” they’re self-evident fantasies.

If Friedman had bothered to look at the most recent figures released by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the United States government, he would have seen that after a government investment of more than $13 billion in taxpayers’ money over the past decade, all combined renewable sources of energy by the end of 2010 accounted for a paltry 7 to 8 percent of U.S. total annual national electricity production. Fossil fuels still accounted for two-thirds, or around 67 percent of total electricity production per year.

And by 2035, according to the projections based on the policies of Friedman’s own beloved President Barack Obama, how much is that figure projected to rise, even on the most optimistic assumptions? Only by another 6 percent to a grand to total of 16 percent, according to the EIA.

Instead, what actually makes the U.S. economy run? According to the most recent figures, in the EIA assessment, for 2010, natural gas -- which leaves the smallest carbon footprint of any significant energy source -- provides 24 percent, oil provides nearly 20 percent and that old despised energy source, coal, still provides a whopping 45 percent of all the electricity generated in the United States every year.

Ah, but surely under Friedman’s beloved President Obama, by 2035, that big, bad, evil, dirty coal will be completely phased out and we won’t have to rely on those horrible oil corporations either, right?

Wrong: Obama’s own EIA officially projects that based on the president’s current policies, by 2035 natural gas will provide 27 percent, oil 18 percent and coal will still be by far the biggest energy source, providing 39 percent of all the electricity the American people will need. Nuclear generation will still be around 10 percent of the total, as it is now. (The United States currently has 104 nuclear power reactors generating electricity and another four are planned.)

But since this is the case, what grounds does Friedman have to accuse the GOP candidates of being energy Neanderthals compared with President Obama, his beloved Green Man?

The answer, of course, is -- None at all.

Quite the contrary is the case.

It is Obama who refused to approve the crucial Keystone XL pipeline to Canada, thereby driving Canada’s abundant oil and natural gas producers into the eagerly waiting arms of China. (Canada today has larger recoverable oil and natural gas reserves than Saudi Arabia.)

It is Obama who, urged on eagerly by Friedman and the editorial writers at The Times, is seeking to rein in and discourage hydraulic fracking, the revolutionary new technology of horizontal mining, which is the best news the U.S. energy sector has had since the Spindletop well blew in Texas back on Jan. 10, 1901.

Instead, as respected University of Maryland economist Peter Morici has pointed out, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s energy and industry policies are infinitely more realistic than Obama’s, and they offer by far the best prospects for U.S. industrial and energy revival.

Friedman’s second vision of “a world in which there will be no more ‘developed’ and ‘developing countries,’ but only HIEs (high-imagination-enabling countries) and LIEs (low-imagination-enabling countries,” is an even more ludicrous and dangerous fantasy.

As I document in my book, the primary sources of employment and wealth in China, South Korea, Germany, Japan and any other country that earns more than it imports are based on heavy industry and value-added manufacturing, supported and protected by the national government.

That used to be us (to use the title from Thomas Friedman’s most recent book), that should still be us (the title of my new book), but if the American people vote for policies of hobbling business, crippling practical and successful investment in cheap energy, and rejecting heavy industry and manufacturing, that can never be us.

Friedman tries to paint the GOP candidates as radically opposed to any constructive partnership between government and the private sector, when in reality they are all in favor of it.

It is President Obama who has a well-documented record of distrust for genuine free enterprise. It is Obama who has taken no practical measures to relieve the monstrous jungle of bureaucratic repression that lies on the back of American business (34,000 more pages of regulation than the European Union of 27 nations has).

America has a real serious choice this November: Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich would provide a very real and better alternative to the policies and philosophies that are destroying America. That should be obvious to all.

If you repeat a Big Lie often enough, a lot of people will believe it. The only antidote to Thomas Friedman’s Big Lies is to repeat and repeat the Big Truths that expose them.