Who paved the roads?

Professor Tony Seba of Stanford University is a great leader, visionary, speaker, and business expert. He often starts his talks with two successive public domain images to illustrate technological and business disruption. These are shown below.

One is a photograph of Fifth Avenue in New York City on Easter morning in 1900. The second is a photograph from almost the same place on Easter morning in 1913. Professor Seba’s point, and in part mine, is that in one, transportation by the relatively wealthy is dominated by horse-and-buggy. In the second, a mere 14 years later, it is dominated by the automobile.



My point and question relate to the complaint of some, who apparently ignore or disregard the tremendous subsidies provided to fossil fuels via tax incentives, direct subsidies, permissions to drill on public lands, and giving their distribution networks the power of eminent domain, that zero Carbon energy, principally wind and solar, are unfair competitors because they are being heavily subsidized by governments, local governments, state governments, and federal governments.

To that point and complaint, I refer to these pictures and note that the road in 1913 is paved, in contrast with the dirt road of 1900. My question is Who built and paid for the paved road?

The people who owned the cars were relatively wealthy, and were not in the majority. They did not pay for the paved roads out of their own pockets. The paved roads were key to the spread of the automobile, because the rough, bumpy roads literally shook early models apart. So, in order for automobiles to spread, something had to be done about roads, and that was expensive. Facts are, governments did something about it. In this case, it was New York City.

But note this was done in the same span of time that the automobile was adopted, obsolescing the horse-and-buggy, and changing forever the way that a City, like New York, would think about transport.

And, to my mind, there is no different between that and the subsidies given to wind, solar energy, and energy storage.

About ecoquant

See https://wordpress.com/view/667-per-cm.net/ Retired data scientist and statistician. Now working projects in quantitative ecology and, specifically, phenology of Bryophyta and technical methods for their study.
This entry was posted in adaptation, Anthropocene, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, BNEF, Carbon Worshipers, clean disruption, CleanTechnica, climate business, climate disruption, climate economics, decentralized electric power generation, decentralized energy, demand-side solutions, destructive economic development, disruption, distributed generation, economics, electricity markets, energy, energy reduction, energy storage, energy utilities, feed-in tariff, fossil fuel divestment, Gaylord Nelson, global warming, green tech, grid defection, Hyper Anthropocene, ILSR, investment in wind and solar energy, ISO-NE, Joseph Schumpeter, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, local generation, marginal energy sources, Mark Jacobson, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, meteorology, microgrids, Minsky moment, planning, public utility commissions, PUCs, rate of return regulation, rationality, reason, reasonableness, regime shifts, regulatory capture, resiliency, risk, Sankey diagram, solar democracy, solar domination, solar energy, solar power, Stanford University, stranded assets, supply chains, sustainability, the energy of the people, the green century, the right to know, the value of financial assets, Tony Seba, wind energy, wind power, zero carbon. Bookmark the permalink.

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