Archive for May 2011
Thomas Friedman delivered an eloquent and insightful address on both energy policy and the uprisings in the Middle East. He happened to be in Cairo nine days before the uprisings in Tahrir Square and witnessed what he called “the most fascinating story he has covered in 20 years”. Here are some of my most interesting takeaways from his talk:
The Middle East Revolutions
- The tiger (i.e. the spririt, the demands, and desires for freedom by those in the Middle East) has been let out of its cage. The tiger is going to spread and the tiger is not going back into its cage.
- The people who led the revolution—and the broader social class—are smart, but disorganized. The most important element will be whether they can rise out of the chaos into a cohesive, middle, centrist party.
- Before, the Middle East was wholesale with countries having to only come to peace with leaders. Now, it’s retail, with countries (most notably Israel) having to come to terms with 80,000,000 Egyptians.
- Our lives are digital, but politics is still analog. It’s still in your face. The Egyptian riots may have been spawned by Twitter and Facebook, but they were effective because a million people stood in Tahrir Square. Blogging can be like launching a mortar…into outer space!
- The two most brutal and uncontrollable forces on the planet are Mother Nature and the market. By ignoring the deficit and budget as well as by ignoring energy policy, we are tempting fate.
- Higher food prices lead to higher instability which leads to higher oil prices. This leads to higher food prices, which leads to higher instability, which leads to higher oil prices. And on and on and on. What if this could be higher prices lead to higher standards which leads to more investment in innovation?
- Before 9/11, the gasoline prices were at $1.69. Now, they are around $4.69. We could have leveled a tax on gasoline then and used the revenue to invest in R&D, or we could give Middle East dictators a 150% raise. The price uncertainty also drives away investors who have trouble investing when prices are low.