TCS Daily


'Source of Material Civilization'

By William A. Levinson - October 1, 2002 12:00 AM

Priests of ancient and medieval religions could, by invoking the higher power, extract payments for forgiveness of sins, invoke holy wars ("God wills it") and even compel the practice of human sacrifice. Charlatans, demagogues, and mountebanks can still herd the uneducated masses into acting against their own interests.

The medieval Church and the wizard Merlin symbolized this obscurant and reactionary element in Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court." At first, the technical merits of the Yankee's innovations overwhelmed Merlin's posturing. "And Brer Merlin? His stock was flat again. Somehow, every time the magic of folderol tried conclusions with the magic of science, the magic of folderol got left."

The problem was that folderol won in the end. Those with vested interests in the status quo convinced most Arthurian Britons to oppose the forces of science. The Yankee learned the truth from his trusted assistant:

Clarence: "Did you think you had educated the superstition out of those people?"

Hank Morgan: "I certainly did think it."

Clarence: "Well, then, you may unthink it."

We similarly thought Kyoto dead in early 2001. Like a vampire in a bad late-night movie, however, it keeps returning to life because the masses' scientific illiteracy renders them susceptible to manipulation by today's high priests and cult leaders.

For example, California's voters recently allowed their state to back-door implement Kyoto through carbon dioxide regulations. This underscores the need to deprogram the masses belonging to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction cult. We know what's wrong with Kyoto but only by using ten-second sound bites or their equivalents effectively can we assure that the magic of folderol does indeed "get left."

In the meantime, we can at least rewrite the bad late-night movie to have a happy ending. Kyotoists are chanting for legislation that will promote unemployment and poverty, including their own. Their cries reach Dearborn, Michigan. The ground rumbles and splits as Henry Ford, the mortal enemy of poverty and unemployment, rises from his grave in righteous anger. He will not rest until Kyoto dies for good. Exposure to the full light of day is a good way to kill a vampire, and helping the masses understand Kyoto's economic effects is the best way to do this.

Ford is the great grandfather of the Ford auto company's current chairman William Clay Ford who has taken great pains to fashion a "green" image for his company. But he would do well to read some of his great grandfather's earlier writings. Henry Ford wrote in Today and Tomorrow (1926):

The location of a new plant is largely determined by the cost of its power and the price at which it may make and ship goods to a given territory...

Our civilization - such as it is - rests on cheap and convenient power... The source of material civilization is developed power.

As an example, profitable aluminum manufacture depends on inexpensive energy. Bauxite is, in fact, shipped from Australian mines to Scandinavian countries with abundant hydropower. During California's year-2000 energy shortages, aluminum plants actually shut down and resold electricity for which they had long-term contracts. California's shortsighted energy policies therefore turned value-adding manufacturers into non-value-adding middlemen.

Other states were meanwhile soliciting California's employers to relocate. If the United States is irresponsible enough to regulate carbon dioxide, countries like China that are not subject to any of Kyoto's provisions will be happy to offer cheap energy with no pollution controls whatsoever. This will move the smokestacks, all their carbon dioxide, and the jobs underneath the smokestacks offshore. There is nothing about the three-letter phrase "ship jobs offshore" that the American worker does not understand, and it needs to be repeated more frequently.

Kyotoists complain that Americans, with four or five percent of the world's population, use 25 to 30 percent of its energy. Damn straight, thumbs up, and right on, USA! Ford said that the poorest Americans, even tramps who were "poor by profession," could not imagine the poverty of Old World peasants

...because we use so much developed power in this country that even the most ingeniously indolent cannot escape its effects. And at that we are using only a small fraction of the power we ought to use...

One point stands out above all others. This country uses many times more developed power per head than does any other country. We use far more in our factories - which is significant and easily comprehended
- (Ford, 1926, Today and Tomorrow).

Ford, who found all forms of waste offensive, would have liked energy-saving techniques like insulation, overdrive transmissions, and aerodynamic streamlining of vehicles. The fuel cell, which bypasses the built-in inefficiencies of thermal power cycles by transforming chemical energy directly into electricity, also would have appealed to him. The sacrifice of jobs, national security, and national affluence on the altar of a pseudoreligion like Kyoto would have appalled him.

William A. Levinson is the principal of Levinson Productivity Systems, P.C. in Wilkes-Barre PA (www.ct-yankee.com). He is the author of Henry Ford's Lean Vision: Enduring Principles from the First Ford Motor Plant (Productivity Press), and principal author or editor of several other books on manufacturing, quality, and productivity.
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