Recently, I read a news article that called the Chevy Volt one of “America’s top 12 damaged brands,” citing the January recall of nearly 8,000 vehicles as the cause of irrevocable damage to the brand- and to the idea of an electric car ever being a mainstream reality. Between the demise of Solyndra and the Volt’s unfortunate issues, it hasn’t been a great PR year for energy innovation.
Most of the time, objections to new and more environmentally friendly technologies, they’re variations of the same tune: that’s a clever idea, but it won’t really work. There’s always an “expert” saying a new technology has fatal flaws, that it’s not cost – effective, or that it simply won’t ever be ready for the real world and the “free” market. The cost of production is too high, and the payoff is too small.
There’s lots of folks out there who say we’ve been working on renewable energy for so long, that quite frankly,they’re an impossible fantasy. Here’s some food for thought on the subject of “what the experts have to say about your great new idea.”
Consider the following quotation, taken from the U.S. Congressional Record, 1875:
“The dangers are obvious. Stores of gasoline in the hands of people interested primarily in profit would constitute a fire and explosive hazard of the first rank. Horseless carriages propelled by gasoline might attain speeds of 14 or even 20 miles per hour. The menace to our people of vehicles of this type hurtling through our streets and along our roads and poisoning the atmosphere would call for prompt legislative action even if the military and economic implications were not so overwhelming… [T]he cost of producing [gasoline] is far beyond the financial capacity of private industry… In addition the development of this new power may displace the use of horses, which would wreck our agriculture.”
(As you can see, Congress has ALWAYS been super forward thinking.)
Or take this example, from an internal memo circulated at Western Union in 1878:
“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a practical form of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us. ”
And, if you’re still not convinced, here’s whatScientific Americanhad to say about the automobile on January 2, 1909:
“That the automobile has practically reached the limit of its development is suggested by the fact that during the past year no improvements of a radical nature have been introduced.”
Also to be found on the distinguished list of innovations that were called impossible by the experts? Personal computers, cellular telephones, anesthesia, heart transplant surgeries, high speed trains, steam-powered ships, nuclear power, airplanes, and electricity.