Bill Clinton, in an appearance on the Daily Show, framed the current financial crisis as the result of a faulty energy policy.
The tremendous capital in the financial system had to flow someplace, he said, and there appeared to be no better investments than in real estate, creating a bubble that -- when it popped -- brought down huge financial institutions.
The Internet bubble, which blew up and blew out under Clinton's watch, created new innovations and technology, even if its popping ultimately caused a recession. It didn't cause a financial collapse.
Many economists argue that bubbles are useful -- if the bubble forms around at a new technology. Yes, many investments don't pay off for individual investors, or even most investors. But the frenzy of investments creates an environment conducive to experimentation, competition and innovation.
If the right energy policies had been in place, the money invested in housing, Clinton argues, would have flowed into a renewable and alternative energy technology bubble that could have by now paid real dividends in cleaner air, the reduced threat of global warming and a decreasing reliance on foreign oil, with all the unsavory political and national security entanglements it entails.
This was hardly the only provocative statement to come out of Clinton's trip to New York for the annual Clinton Global Initiative conference. Al Gore made waves this week when he suggested that young people should engage in civil disobedience to stop the construction of new coal-fired power plants -- something British campaigners were exonerated for recently with the help of testimony from NASA climatologist James Hansen. The essential argument: The threat to the earth posed by burning coal is greater than the threat of civil disobedience.
Here's what he had to say (along with a healthy dose of politics, of course:)
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