Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Bit of Green Sanity from Thomas Friedman

I'm often a few days behind on what's going on. And would likely remain that way most of the time if it weren't for that handy "most popular emailed stories" list on the New York Times email that I get daily. Lo and behold, today's most popular is about "Portland Restaurants," and for once it means Portland, Maine not Portland, Oregon! It's great to read about Portland's food scene, and even to read about "my" farmer, Chris Cavendish of Fishbowl Farm, in the Times!

But I actually didn't read that story until I went back to check on Thomas L. Friedman's latest op-ed piece called "Have a Nice Day". And I wouldn't have looked at the list at all today if I hadn't been reading about the death (and life) of Mary Travers. Hearing about her death last night via a text message from Bekah caused a sad tug on the household. Not only did David and I grow up with the music and songs of Peter, Paul, and Mary (and David once fitted Mary's large feet into shoes when he worked at L. L. Bean long ago!), but Bekah and Anna also heard their share of their children's album.

I guess this is how it often goes, with both reading and writing and blogging and maybe with life! You start out one place and end up in another. Which brings me back to Friedman's "Have a Nice Day"--about visiting a thriving California factory that makes machines that make solar panels. A positive, hopeful, financially viable, good-for-the-planet enterprise with one sad note: of the 14 solar panel factories that this company has built around the world, not one of them is in the United States. Not one. Most are in Germany, and China is coming right along behind Germany.

Read Friedman's piece if you want to know the reasons why it hasn't yet made sense for someone to build one of those solar panel factories right here. If you don't want to read it yourself, I'll say simply that it has to do largely with government policies and regulations, or rather, the lack of the kinds of policies that have been put in place in Germany, and now China, supporting such factories, which (need I point out?) would created all kinds of real "green jobs".

As Friedman says: "So right now, our federal and state subsidies for installing solar systems are largely paying for the cost of importing solar panels made in China, by Chinese workers, using hi-tech manufacturing equipment invented in America."

Hmmm. Kinda makes me feel hopeful and like I want to break something all at the same time.

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