Cars fueled solely by hydrogen can be made today. Futurist James Canton rode in one in spring 2005 after fulfilling a speaking engagement at Albany NanoTech on the campus of the State University of New York at Albany.
"It handled beautifully, accelerated smartly, and rode smoothly. Other than not making noise and belching black, environmentally unfriendly exhaust, it was indistinguishable from the countless utilitarian compacts zipping alongside me," Canton wrote.
There was only one problem with that car. It cost $1.2 million. But Canton, chairman and CEO of the San Francisco-based Institute of Global Futures, predicts that the price will soon come down to a level where nearly everyone can afford one.
Automakers, governments, utilities and oil and gas companies are pouring billions into hydrogen research, he points out, because of accelerating global demand for oil and dwindling oil reserves.
"I forecast that more than $10 billion will be needed and spent on hydrogen research over the next 10 to 15 years worldwide. This will lead to a mass-market set of innovations, similar to the innovations that first launched the modern auto, train, and shipping industries. By 2035, or even sooner, hydrogen will be a viable alternative to oil and gas, meeting as much as 35 percent of our energy needs," Canton says.
It could happen sooner if hydrogen research were given the priority it merits, Canton writes.
"If the Iraq war costs the U.S. between $599 billion and $1 trillion, and we were to invest half of that in hydrogen, we would see dramatic breakthroughs in energy -- fast," Canton writes.
Canton unequivocally asserts that the oil era is approaching its end and that the information age has evolved into the innovation age.
Only those individuals, businesses and governments that achieve "future readiness" soon enough to take advantage of tremendous opportunities presented by the scientific and technological breakthroughs will become commercially viable in the short term.
In addition to energy breakthroughs, Canton focuses on numerous innovations that could help meet the needs of a growing global population in such areas as health and medicine, manufacturing, communications, transportation, security, entertainment, media and education.
Canton's list of the top nine jobs in the 2015 work force suggest how dramatically the way life is changing. Those include neuro-medical techs, personal security techs, organ cloners, biofuture therapists and quantum scientists.
His 2020 top job list includes knowledge-management advisers; nano-bio entrepreneurs; artists, poets and writers; on-demand supply-chain designers; and global headhunters.
The future that Canton writes about is no distant science-fiction world, he says. It is near-term and credible, based on research and development that already is under way. His objective is to alert America to what needs to be done to make it ready and able to meet the twin challenges of innovation and globalization.
He sees globalization as a positive. But he stresses the need for this country to dramatically improve its education system in order to have the kind of skilled and knowledgeable work force that will be required to compete in the 21st-century international economic arena.
Canton sees the falling birthrate among Americans as a problem and calls for policies that encourage immigration and promote diversity in the workplace. He predicts that by 2015 there could be 14 million more jobs in this country than there will be workers to fill them. By 2020, he says, new entrants to the work force will be dominated by women and minorities, particularly Hispanic Americans.
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