The Norman Transcript

Commerce

November 17, 2006

'Future readiness' is key for business, author writes

McClatchy Newspapers

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.

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