New York Times columnist and author Thomas Friedman has entered the world of film with a new documentary that was screened at Yale on Friday.
In Friedman’s documentary, which was shown to a crowd of over 200 people at Davies Auditorium, he discussed the geopolitical, economic and environmental need to further develop green technology. He suggested that Americans be efficient with existing sources and use alternative sources of fuel and energy in order to reduce oil dependence. Friedman, who serves as the film’s narrator, also made specific suggestions in his talk at Yale for what can be done at the University to encourage energy efficiency.
While America’s population is only 4 percent of the world’s population, the country consumes more than one-fourth of the world’s oil. Friedman said that the nation’s dependence on oil cannot be alleviated easily.
“There’s no twelve-step program for oil addiction,” Friedman said. “We need to look at what’s at stake, and we need to find a cure.”
In discussing the need for geopolitical participation to address the problem, Friedman said that dependence on oil is toxic to American foreign policy. He also spoke about the threat that global warming poses to our own world and way of life.
“We are running an uncontrolled experiment on the only home we have,” William Collins, a senior official with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said in the film.
In the documentary, Friedman explored renewable energy and the development of solar power, including the use of wind farms for energy. According to James Dehlsen, CEO of Clipper Windpower Inc., wind power has the potential to provide us with one-third to one-half of our energy. However, the government is not promoting a level playing field financially, since the oil industry receives billions of dollars worth of government subsidies while the wind energy industry receives merely millions, Friedman said.
“The question is whether to get energy from ‘Bin Laden Land’ or get energy from the wind,” Dehlsen said. “There should be no question there.”
Some Yale students agreed that alternative forms of energy require more government assistance and recognized that it does not purely have to come in financial form.
“Wind technology is at least in need of verbal support from some authority figure to make people aware that such efficient technology does exist,” said Matthew Eisen ’10, who attended the event.
Emphasizing the need to invest in our future, Friedman said that political decision-makers need to support what people really need.
“We already have the resources,” Friedman said. “Now we need the leadership from Washington.”
When an audience member asked what Yale students can do in the effort toward expanding energy efficiency, Friedman spoke of a program known as “Do It in the Dark,” which was implemented at Williams College. The program is designed to promote energy efficiency on the college campus with a competition among dorms for which housing unit can have a lower monthly energy bill.
Friedman said it is within Yale’s power to do something on campus and that at the very least there should be a study of campus energy use.
“You need to occupy President Levin’s office and demand that there be a carbon-neutral plan for Yale within the next few years,” Friedman said.
The University made policy changes last year to reduce emissions, setting a target of reducing the University’s greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent below 1990 levels through investment in energy conservation and alternate energy sources.
Nevertheless, students agreed with Friedman’s demands in general, though they found them somewhat aggressive.
“He made very bold claims on what Yale should do, and we should really follow them,” said Betsy Scherzer ’07.
Other students agree that changes can be made both inside and outside of the Yale bubble but questioned the pace at which that might happen.
“Energy efficiency advancements can happen, and they should happen,” Eisen said. “Because of our financial resources, our university can move faster toward it than the general population, but that doesn’t mean we’re moving fast enough.”
But some are not convinced that a campus-wide campaign is necessary.
“Students shouldn’t have to go to President Levin,” Harrison Marks ’10 said. “You don’t need an organized effort to save energy and can do it individually. Turn the lights off when you leave. Ride a bike instead of taking a car. Work by candlelight, I guess.”