Cash-strapped CA pays $75K to hear Tom Friedman give speech you can get for free online

The SF Chronicle reports:

Judging by the $75,000 speaking fee it paid to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has plenty of green to burn even in these lean times.

The agency, which gets its money from business permits and federal and state sources, booked the Pulitzer Prize-winning pundit to appear this past week at its big climate summit in downtown Oakland’s Fox Theater, attended by 500 invited bureaucrats.

In addition to Friedman’s speaking fee, the air board picked up his tab for a night at the Claremont Resort.

Air district spokeswoman Lisa Fasano put the summit cost at $200,000 – or about $400 per participant.

Fasano said the idea was to bring together managers and planners to “spark even greater movement” in the effort to reduce the Bay Area’s greenhouse-gas footprint.

Friedman spent about two hours with the group, including answering questions and autographing copies of his latest book, “Hot, Flat and Crowded” – in which he argues that a national strategy of “geo-Greenism” is needed to save the planet from global warming and to make the country more productive.

As for reports that Friedman’s talk was almost identical to a speech he gave in November in Florida at a National League of Cities confab – which is available online for free? “That very likely may be,” Fasano said. “But this certainly is much more moving and inspirational to see and hear in person.”

For that price, we hope so.

I’ve not been able to find a copy of the speech online, but here’s a link to video from that Florida conference (via Nevada County Watch).

To channel liberals when they “catch” conservatives “wasting” money on things like war funding, “Just how many children’s mouths could that $75,000 have fed?”

Another burning question: How did Friedman get there? Did he fly coach on a commerical airliner, or private jumbo jet? If he drove, was it in a hybrid vehicle? Or did he take a bicycle? Inquring minds want to know. :-?

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