Where would you place your biggest bets? On the past or on the future? Most of us instinctively want to choose the future, even though the future is always full of things we don’t know or understand yet.
Sometimes the damage done by past technologies makes a dramatic choice for the future an easy one. The global warming caused by the internal combustion engine has been recognized and a rapid switchover to electric vehicles will define the next thirty years.
Our guest Ivan Penn reported for the New York Times less than two months ago on one consequence of that imminent move to electric vehicles, the need for lithium, cobalt and nickel for the vehicles’ batteries, the global race to extract and market those minerals. The rush to lithium is creating another, much harder “past-or-future?” choice for the Biden Administration: license old-fashioned ugly surface mining of lithium in America, or give preference to the newer, allegedly cleaner, brining technology. Interests in California, Nevada, Oregon, Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina and North Dakota are hanging on Biden’s decision.
Then, there’s the question of the power meant to recharge all those electric vehicle batteries, and every other electric appliance. Again, do you bet on the past or the future? In power generation as well as vehicle fuel, fossil fuels are being pushed into the past, while the global future is mainly to be based on energy from the wind and the sun. Again, this is a choice all but taken, obvious and thus relatively easy.
And again, the future course being set, it leads to other high-value choices. After you’ve harnessed wind and sun and harvested its energy, how do you get it to people’s electric plugs and sockets? Ivan Penn found the Times front page again with his report with Clifford Krauss on some upcoming federal decisions that could shape how you power up and whom you pay for the electricity.
Ivan Penn is a Los Angeles-based reporter covering alternative energy. Before coming to The Times in 2018 he covered utility and energy issues for nearly eight years at The Tampa Bay Times and then The Los Angeles Times.
He also worked at The Miami Herald and The Baltimore Sun, where he was an investigative reporter and covered government, politics and criminal justice. A native of Washington, Mr. Penn grew up in Maryland and graduated from the University of Maryland.