Friday, February 21, 2020


Climate crisis denier types seem to have a real difficulty wrapping their heads around the concept of technological transition. Whenever you criticize the use of fossil fuels, some genius in their own mind pipes up with “So you want to turn off the taps, how are you going to travel, heat your house, etc har de har har.” Bringing up transition usually the silences them, but I suspect not in a good way, they have simply gone into deep passive-mode denial. Others will merely scoff, “Oh, that will be a long time in the future, no green energy future yet, we still gotta keep the oil flowing for many years.” Not really, transitions can be very quick, as you will see.

I have deliberately chosen the auto industry as the example of transition, since that industry required a massive amount of public infrastructural costs, as compared with other quick transitions, such as the digital camera and the home computer. The green transition, like the transition to the auto will require huge pubic expenditure. (With the digital camera, it took only five years from the introduction of the device to the obliteration of the film camera, and ten years for the home computer)

In 1905 12,000 autos were sold in the USA. The machine was a toy for the rich. By 1920, a mere fifteen years later, 1,500,000 autos were produced. It had gone from a toy, to an essential part of life for many people. Only five years later, in 1925, 3,600,000 were built, and now just about everyone who wanted a car had one. TWENTY YEARS!

It is important to ascertain the tipping point in the introduction of the automobile, for this truly shows how quickly a transition might occur. By 1910, 130,000 autos were made, but four years later in 1914, the figure had leapt to 410,000. This year is the tipping point, for hereafter production rose to over a million and continued to rapidly increase until the Great Depression killed car sales.

!905 to 1914 is only NINE years. It's like nine years ago it is still the 19th Century with horses and oxen and bang you are in the 20th with cars, trucks and buses everywhere. So where are we in terms of green energy, electric cars and such? We are certainly beyond “our 1905” but are we near the tipping point? Or have we reached it already? To answer that would require research into the state of these industries, for which I do not have the expertise. So hopefully someone more knowledgeable than myself can provide us with the answer. Whatever the result, change can come about very rapidly and that is cause for hope.


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