AGAINST THE GREAT RESET: 'Green Energy and the Future of Transportation'

For the next four weeks, The Pipeline is presenting the remaining excerpts from each of the essays contained in Against the Great Reset: 18 Theses Contra the New World Order, which was published on October 18 by Bombardier Books and distributed by Simon and Schuster, and available now at the links. 



Excerpt from "Green Energy and the Future of Transportation" by Salvatore Babones

At Railworld Wildlife Haven in Peterborough, a two-hour drive north of London, you can find the last remaining RTV 31 Tracked Hovercraft, Britain’s 1973 concept for the railroad of the future. The RTV 31 was supposed to revolutionize train travel by levitating trains on a frictionless cushion of air. Propulsion was to be supplied by a then-revolutionary linear induction motor. But Britain was not alone in the race to the future. Nipping at its heels, France proffered the hovering Aérotrain, powered by a giant rear propeller. The United States countered with its own hovertrain prototype driven by no fewer than three jet aircraft engines—American exceptionalism in a nutshell.

The British project was managed by the National Physical Laboratory, the French one by an aircraft engineering company, and the American entry (inevitably) by a defense contractor. That explains the three different propulsion systems. But only one thing explains the near-contemporaneous explosion of interest in hovertrain technology across all three countries: government funding. The German, Italian, and Brazilian governments also had plans to sponsor their own national champion hovertrains before the bubble burst. But burst it did, and by the mid-1970s, the hovertrain was history.

Not all government-backed technology projects turn into boondoggles, and certainly examples can be found where governments have made sound investments in new technologies that turned out to be transformative. The hovertrain craze may now sound as silly as the gravity-negating “cavorite,” that propels H. G. Wells’s astronauts to the moon, but there is a legitimate role for government to play in twenty-first century technology development. When multiple governments invest in different approaches to meeting the same social needs, the result can even be something like a competitive marketplace. And when democratic governments make full use of the myriad talents of their own citizens through openly competitive processes, innovation flourishes.

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But the more distant technology planning is from the ground level of individual people dealing with the daily challenge of economic survival, the more likely it is that out-of-touch government bureaucrats (often working in collusion with self- interested corporate leaders) will deliver economically impractical solutions. When a single technological approach is imposed by government fiat, catastrophic failure is almost assured. We live in a world of profound uncertainty even about the present, never mind the future. Without a crystal ball to tell us which technologies ultimately will succeed and which will fail, diversity in experimentation is the key to discovering the technologies of the future.

As Charles Darwin recognized decades before Friedrich Hayek was born, natural selection is a much more powerful mechanism for adaptation to an uncertain world than intelligent design. At any point in time, the number of possible technological futures is infinite, and those infinite possibilities only compound as time moves forward. Even the most intelligent, dedicated, well-informed planner can only guess which future to plan for, and the probability that such a planner will hit on just the right future is essentially zero. The same is true for planning by private individuals, but when several billion private individuals plan for the same future, some of them are bound to get it right.

Although most individuals may underperform professional planners, the scattershot approach leaves society as a whole better prepared to engage with whatever future emerges. This is not so much the wisdom of crowds as the luck of the draw. To see it in action, open your bottom drawer or check your top shelves to count how many disused electronic devices you own. At every stage of technological development, many more prototypes are developed, many more products are discontinued, than the small number of successful models that continue to evolve past their first iterations. Like the fossil record, technology development is a scrap heap of evolutionary dead ends.

Transportation technology is no exception to this general rule. Bicycles, trains, automobiles, and airplanes all emerged out of cutthroat evolutionary competition. Look at early history of any of these transportation systems, and you see a wild cacophony of competing designs. The public infrastructure and regulatory environment for each of them lagged far behind product development. Cyclists called forth paved roads; railroad operators called forth rights of way; car owners called forth traffic rules; airlines called forth airports. To the planning mentality, it seems irrational to allow people to fly before building airports for them to fly from and to, but in reality, the flights came first and the airports followed.

It’s the same situation today with autonomous (self-driving) cars. In 2021, there are already a million of so autonomous vehicles (AVs) driving with some degree of self-driving capacity, whether the planners are ready for them or not. Nearly all of them are battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), so in effect there are a million high-capacity batteries capable of driving themselves, among roughly ten million BEVs total. Both figures are growing rapidly, well in advance of government programs to equip roads for automation or even provide charging points.

Like other transportation technologies before them, AVs and other BEVs are calling into existence a whole new technological ecosystem, or technosystem, to serve the needs of their users. Those needs can’t be known in advance with any degree of certainty, but some general features seem inevitable. The AV-BEV technosystem will be decentralized and distributed like the internet, not centrally administered and controlled like high-speed rail. It will be capital light, not capital intensive. It will reconfigure the electrical grid even more than it reshapes the road network. It will have profound environmental implications. It will be almost entirely unplanned. And we must ensure that it remains free from technocratic control.

If there’s one organization that wants to plan our collective future, it’s the WEF. The WEF describes itself as “the” (not “an”) “International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.” Founded in 1971 by the engineer turned economist Klaus Schwab, it has developed into a statist behemoth dedicated to the promotion of its own brand of “stakeholder capitalism,” and its reports are written from the viewpoint of a very narrow class of capitalist stakeholders: management consultants, investment bankers, professional directors, and the serving politicians who aspire to join them when they leave office. Notably absent from the WEF’s vision of stakeholder capitalism are entrepreneurs, small businesses, the self-employed, and ordinary consumers.

Famous for attracting some three thousand CEOs, heads of government, and celebrity intellectuals to its annual January conference in Davos, Switzerland, the WEF likes to think big. Schwab’s 2020 book COVID-19: The Great Reset (coauthored with WEF alumnus Thierry Malleret) describes even the “micro” level of stakeholder capitalism as consisting of industries and companies, rather than families and individuals. When Schwab does consider human beings, he focuses on their personal morality and mental health without so much as an inkling that individuals could actually possess economic initiative...

Next week: an excerpt from "The Anti-Industrial Revolution," by Martin Hutchinson

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Hailing

London is filled with Americans. Nearly everywhere I turn I hear them as they shuttle between Harrods and Fortnum’s. I think they booked when the pound was down but frankly it’s nice to hear chatter that doesn’t involve a litany of complaints about the royal family when we are all clearly counting on King Charles to be the green-king he is poised to be. They do, however, ask about the future of Harry and Andrew—as if we know more than they can read in their papers. But the main thing I am noticing… they are taking up all the ride-hailing cars (Uber and Lyft). My wait time has increased exponentially, which has me grumbling on occasion.

‘Take my car!’ Daddy’s voice boomed from his study when he heard me complaining to my app, ‘You seem to think it’s a Zipcar anyway’, he muttered in half voice.

It’s not that often that I take his car! But of course he’s frustrated with me as I have a car, (and a house and a charging station) all set up in California but I just don’t feel like being there at the moment. Too scary, too depressing. So I called back, ‘Uber is an electric fleet, Daddy!’ Which elicited no response. Hmm.

Waiting for me back home in L.A.

I went outside to wait for my ride which wasn’t an electric one by the way. I looked up to see Daddy waving from his front-facing window. The car also wasn’t cool per my app settings either. Or quiet. In fact he had the windows open and some music playing. And he was on the phone. Then some small chat about where to take me (he wasn’t quite sure) and so he pulled over while three electric black cabs zoomed past.

I sorted the driver out, asked him to pull up the windows and sank back into my seat to research further. Seems one third of all London taxis are now electric, to only 13 percent of Uber’s fleet. More than double. Ugh! As I kept scrolling it became clear that asking to close the windows didn’t also clue the driver in to turning on the AC. Much in the same way that taking a job as a driver didn’t clue him in to the use of deodorant, so I quickly asked him to re-open the windows with me taking responsibility and apologising—so very British of me.

My destination was one of those labyrinthine sections of London which requires knowing where it is in order to reach it by car. I got dropped off where it clearly wasn’t.  With ankle straps cutting in on both of my legs and a permanent scuff on my new Mach & Mach heels I wasn’t in the best of moods for anyone’s art showing.

‘Looks like you need a drink’ the gallery girl said, and led me over to a group already sipping on champagne. ‘You missed the artist’ I was told by a gentleman who looked as though he had raided Gianni Agnelli’s closet.

‘Oh…well my driver…’ I said.

‘Driver? Sack him’, the gentleman said.

‘Well, he’s not exactly my… I mean, I took an Uber’, I said. 

‘Uber? WHY?’ he shot back.

‘Why?? Because I was hoping to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and…’ 

‘My dear… they are the mob! They pushed in, breaking every rule and once they got a market share—well THEN they said the people need us, and we have to stay’.

Waves of the future?

I hadn’t been prepared to defend Uber as 'not the mob'.  Environmental arguments I could make… this was something else. I made my way to the other end of the gallery and when I saw people slipping out for dinner I did the same.

I walked a couple of blocks to where I thought an Uber could find me but two drivers cancelled so I gave up and walked to Cecconi’s. It was mobbed. Not unlike their restaurant in West Hollywood but of course there, they knew me. I put on my best California accent but it was lost on the Italian hostess. Finally I just explained that I didn’t have a reservation, that I was a regular in West Hollywood, where we don’t walk except when hiking and certainly not in braided silver sandals, and would she please let me order a plate of pasta at the bar. She did, and I rewarded her with a Hollywood-style tip.

I was tired when finally I returned home and I didn’t have time to read so many conflicting facts so I asked Daddy to help me make the case for carbon pricing. ‘The conflict is that you are trying to make an argument for the wrong side’, he said.

'My SIDE is the environment, as you very well know, and therefore I have to be in favour of carbon pricing’. 

‘I see’, he said, ‘And there may be a time you can do that but at the moment… decarbonisation is a costly goal. And one nobody wants to pay for’.

‘I thought of that’, I said, ‘so instead of high visibility projects, we subsidise private sector, grant concessions, offer tax rebates… it’s a win-win'.

‘Uh, no Jennifer, it’s a lose-lose. You offer spreading the pain so that everyone pays. You can impose whatever you wish but the public still pays a price—whether in higher taxes, lower amenities, or a degraded environment, which is what you have now—congestion fees, higher fares, lesser service, and roads clogged up with ride-hails’.

‘It sounds bad—but then we just need more regulation.’

‘You HAD regulation—you had regulated black cabs, but then Uber bucked regulations, and now you have a choice of something that is not more affordable, or safer, or greener. And once they put the black cabs out of business do you imagine they will work cheaper out of the goodness of their hearts?’

‘So what now?’ I asked.

‘Well China has a plan. They are regulating their ride-hail services by taking over their apps… they erase out-of-favor companies from their maps, they lock dissidents from their cars, they control all routes… And voila! It’s a green choice!’


‘No matter… your plan is to tax people for not using mass transit, correct? So you’ll end up subsidising something that no one uses. Kind of like the bike lanes we have now.’

All this, plus Covid-free!

I was defeated. I knew the bike lanes were leading to more congestion and more pollution. And ride-hailing was proving to be worse for the environment than driving one’s own car. I opened my laptop to see if the cabbies union had an argument. Nada. Why was this?  Seems their union argued against them… claiming ‘drivers matter’ (as in all drivers matter) which meant a larger pool of members, more power in numbers, and as for the mob comment… they really had muscled in. I was nowhere.

I emerged from my pensive funk when I heard my father putting ice in the drinks trolley. ‘G&T?’ he asked.

‘Yes, please, and question… what to do? I’ve got nothing’.

‘Actually you’ve got another Greenpeace—'

‘—whom I abandoned because they were doing more harm than good'.


The penny dropped. 'So the black cab is my cause?’

‘Well', he said, raising a glass, 'there’s always organised crime’.