A quick glance at the history of human civilisation in the 20th century and we are left with no bigger catalyst for progress than oil. With it, we developed technology and industrialisation that far surpassed anything human achievements had previously accomplished. Progress is doubly helped and hindered by one main factor – profit. Without profit we would have no real incentive. However, profit has also single-handedly thrown us into a mire of amorality that is truly astonishing in its short-sightedness and destructive capabilities.
With technology pushing our consumer culture to new heights daily, it’s easy to forget about the fundamental structure that underpins our society – namely transport. Without transport for food, civilians and goods we are hurled back into the dark ages, with nothing but a memory of the extravagance of our current way of living. So important is this one factor, that documentaries such as Chris Paine’s ‘Who Killed the Electric Car?’ not being followed to the point of action, defies both understanding and concience for all humankind.
In ‘Who Killed the Electric Car?’ we witness the systematic killing off of electric vehicles in America by the oil lobbies and automobile industries (namely General Motors). Initially dismissing the work done by S. David Freeman, Alan Cocconi and John R. Dabels, GM (backed by moral stalwarts Exxol Mobil) then made steps to produce the worlds first commercial electric car – the EV1. While witnissing the advertising and production campaign (with legal stipulations surrounding terms and conditions of manufacture based on supply and demand) one becomes aware of the crafty manipulation that went on to make absolutely sure electric vehicles were a disaster – allowing oil to remain the No.1 commodity driving America (and also the rest of the world).
When 2003 came about, the first plausible hydrogen technology ensured EV’s were consigned to the scrapheap. Unsurprisingly, hydrogen technology (while still being far superior to oil) remains a technologically complex, intense manufacturing and production process. This guarantees automobile and petroleum companies can patent and protect the next generation of automobiles – something which was not possible with electric cars.
Some ‘limitations’ pointed out with EV’s were range – supposedly the available battery technology only enabled a range of about 60 miles per charge. While most motorists would prefer more, the Bureau of transport statistics showed the average distance most motorists drove was around 29 miles per day, meaning the available technology would have been sufficient for most city commuters. The story unfolds further as inventor Stan Ovshinsky’s battery technology (enabling a range of 200 miles or more per charge) showed promise of the future of electric cars. GM purchased controlling shares in his company – suppressing any chance of the technology and use of the patent.
The more intelligent businessman understands the folly of producing a product which will generate no additional revenue once it is sold. The more ruthless businessman will buy this kind of technology and bury it deep – preventing any threat to their own revenue stream. Of course, in this instance, we prevent any consumer from getting a ‘free ride’.
How sad that, once again, capitalism allows this unethical practice to take place and we are without the means to stop it – the law is on the side of big business.
The consequences of this – the continued exploitation of oil-rich countries and with it war, the destruction of our natural resources and pollution of our planet – not to mention the loss of oil as a future commodity (who knows when we might need it for something really important?) is a tragic statement of the human race and a disgrace. We should be ashamed for not doing more to stop it.