My Friend and fellow Valkyrie rider/Biker Trash Gunnie, Paladin, had a very insightful post about how the free market, in times past, have determined the course that technology took.
Did you know, for example, that at the turn of the century (1900) 40% of registered vehicles on the road where actually steam powered? Would you believe that 38% of all vehicles were actually electric cars? Only a paltry 22% were the gasoline fueled internal combustion engine vehicles that dominate the road today. Most land speed records of the day were held by Steam or Electric vehicles. Between the two, they completely dominated the personal and commercial light transportation industry, leaving gas engine cars/trucks literally in the dust.
I’m not arguing with anything he posted and, it’s a very good piece, so, by all means, head on over there and read the whole thing. I’ll wait.
Although his overall point is very valid and he supports it well historically, I think he misses one very important aspect of this.
Back at the turn of the century, when steam and electric automobiles ruled the roads, they were luxury items that only the rich could afford. Your every day Joe did not generally have the mobility and leisure afforded those who had the money to purchase an automobile…and the overall quality of life in the nation was pretty spartan.
In addition to winning the technology battle between steam/electric/gasoline fueled automobiles, the improved technologies that made the Internal Combustion Engine king of the road…which included improvements in the automobiles and engines themselves, as well as in Mr. Ford’s manufacturing techniques…also had the effect of bringing the purchase of an automobile within reach of the average citizen, not just the wealthy.
This dramatically increased the mobility and productivity of the average citizen, opened markets up to businesses that were otherwise difficult to reach, and played a significant part in the rapid increase in the standard of living that led to the “roaring 20’s”.
The importance of that is this: The environmentalists who are pushing “green energy” are not only subsidizing their pet projects with our money, bu they are actively working to increase the costs of using the traditional (read “efficient and affordable”) energy sources to the point that “green” technologies can compete.
This is the exact opposite of what happened at the turn of the 20th century. Instead of increasing efficiencies and decreasing costs, they are decreasing efficiencies and increasing costs.
By the exact same mechanism that the free markets increased the standard of living throughout the 20th century, moving into the 21st century, these artificially induced market forces will inevitably and without fail, decrease the standard of living of the average American.
As bad as that is, the important thing to remember is: That’s the entire point of the exercise.
The “true believer” environmentalists would like nothing quite so much as to see society reduced to living in caves and subsisting on berries and nuts.
It isn’t merely a matter of, as Paladin’s conclusion alludes, average people not having the freedom to choose what sort of energy they would like to use, based on effeciency and cost.
It’s a matter of the only forms of energy that the average citizen can afford being ELIMINATED. Being returned to the days where convenient transportation and other energy needs are priced beyond the reach of the average person and become luxuries only afforded the rich.
I enjoy my little forays into growing my own food and I have no problem with living within a few miles of where I work…but I do those things because I choose to do so.
If the environmentalists get their way, we’ll all be doing them and because we have to just to survive.
It doesn’t matter if Paladin, or I or anyone else, refuses to give up our gasoline powered vehicles. If there’s no gas to put in them to keep them running, or if the gas that is available is so expensive that we can’t afford to buy it, they’ll be about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.