November 16, 2007
Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - Zoom
"The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone, and the Oil Age could well end long before the world runs out of oil." That statement pretty much sums up the argument made in Zoom, and ironically, it was not made by an environmentalist, but by former Saudi oil minister Sheik Yamani. Having built our economy on the internal combustion engine, which burns carbon-heavy fuel and emits harmful greenhouse gases, we are now facing a dilemma in our country. But, we are a nation of drivers, and not only would we not want to give up our cars, it would be impossible to do so considering the miles we are conditioned to traverse. This new book by two correspondents for The Economist suggests that a change of course is a must.
Their premise is simple enough. "Oil is the Problem. Cars are the solution." That may sound odd at first (big oil in Texas and the "big three" auto makers of Detroit have been so linked for the past century that they now seem inseparable), but it seems painfully obvious when you've finished the book. Zoom looks at the current state of affairs in Detroit, Texas, and Washington, and prescribes steps needed to move us toward the car of the future. A car that is healthier for us, better for business, and cleaner for the environment. They believe two separate approaches are needed:
Both top-down public policies and bottom-up marketplace innovations must play a role in propelling the world to the post-petroleum age of carbon-free cars. On the policy front, it looks like Washington politicians may finally be shamed into serious action by the clamor in states and cities for action on global warming, a real budding grassroots revolution. As for those marketplace innovations, will the dinosaurs of the car and oil industries finally learn to dance? Or will it be an unruly and disruptive bunch of upstarts, entrepreneurs, and innovators that leads the effort...?
Toyota surpassed GM earlier this year as the world's top auto seller, in part by addressing this need for a new approach, and is now forcing American auto makers to look at a world beyond petroleum. If Detroit wants to remain relevant and viable, the big three must come out of their entrenched positions and address the concerns of consumers and challenges of innovation. The authors believe that what they call the "Great Awakening" of American consumers will lead to a demand for change, "promising a clean-energy revolution even bigger than the telecommunications and Internet revolutions," and that belief--and this book--are infectious.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.