My Company routinely reviews more than 600 new product ideas, concepts, prototypes and models during most years. During a soft economy, such as today's, we see even more as people become more desperate to chase a dream. Pursuit of the “American Dream" almost always involves entrepreneurial activity.
During this business cycle we have been inundated with a slew of energy related offerings. Fuel enhancement products, internal combustion engine accessories, a replacement for the catalytic converter, a device that guarantees 50 miles per gallon fuel efficiency for any size car, and many more equally sure to succeed products are being shopped. Of course, these types of technology enhancements are rarely successful. They are usually only reality in the mind of the beholder. The required demonstration of product performance is always near perfection, just a bit more time, money or research is required to make the contraption commercially viable.
While most of these “inventions" are of the goofy sort, we do take a good bit of satisfaction that so much creativity and effort are being thrown at what is obviously one of the world's key issues: the future availability of energy. Despite a raft of political types whining that we can never be energy independent, the amount of industry being deployed by the average American inventor to address the problem is quite encouraging. The native optimism of Americans that any problem can be solved puts a lie to the negativity being sold by a wide swath of the political left, the environmental activists and the always present “Luddites" seeking to return us to hunter/gatherer ways.
One of our presidential aspirants loves to chant the mantra “Yes We Can!"
I agree, “Yes We Can!" We can be energy independent if the sorghum sipping, brie munching, sandal wearing, tree house living dreamers and schemers for a world without industry get out of the way. That a vocal minority of zealots, with fanatical religious zeal have bottled up the pursuit of American energy independence is amazing. Why have we allowed this to happen?
The world is full of tens of millions of cars, trucks, locomotives, boats and airplanes that ALL operate on fossil fuels. That we will simply toss all of these assets overnight and replace them with twig sipping jungle juice green machinery is ridiculous. We need all forms of energy to be developed and commercially made viable. Solar, wind, flora and fauna of all types offer great potential. However, despite years of research and subsidies they are not currently feasible for more than a tiny fraction of our energy requirements. Even then, there are unwanted by-products to their implementation (Ethanol is exhibit 1).
We need, and we have, vast stores of fossil fuels. Oil, coal, nuclear, tar shale and natural gas are known to exist in huge quantities in our offshore waters and inside our borders. Hopefully the entrepreneurial class that we work with will produce a 21st Century Thomas Edison and an alternative, clean, cheap, unlimited energy source will be discovered and exploited for the benefit of all. Until that occurs, we need to use every resource we have and be open to current geo-political realities that make energy independence so important.
We absolutely need to become more fuel-efficient. And yet, even if all cars got 60 miles per gallon of fuel, we would still need access to sources of fossil fuel. Batteries might, and almost surely will become perfected that provide the mobility, endurance and cost effectiveness that is required for modern transport. But they are not yet available! These batteries, when market ready, will require huge amounts of added supplies of electricity. This will entail more power plants. These plants run on coal-or nuclear power. They will need to be built and fueled by these sources of energy.
I live in an area of the country where wind is highly irregular and sun even more so. Wind and sun are free, but if not available on a regular basis they are not to be counted on for more that a fraction of our energy needs. In areas of the country where wind and solar are more viable they are NIMBY'ed (Not in My Back Yard), often by the same people so vocal about “living green".
Major energy producing companies are spending billions of dollars seeking answers, alternative and enhanced reclamation techniques, to access more sources of energy. They have a vested interest to do so. That is great news. Their profit motive insures that the every stone will be overturned as they seek to solve this crucial dilemma that faces all of us.
They believe they can, that is why they put their capital and corporate resources at risk. Inventors and entrepreneurs of all stripes believe they can solve the problem as well. Many members of the public, based on readily available data, believe that we can be energy independent. They want us to pursue every avenue available to insure future generations enjoy prosperity, freedom and mobility as we have.
It is only the glass half-empty crowd, bureaucrats and politicians that never solve problems, that say we can't become free of imported energy. It will take a coming together, a new Manhattan Project, with all sides freshly open to all sources of supply and sources that might be deemed less preferable than a utopian “Nirvana-esque" solution. Green is good. Fossil fuels are essential. New technologies are desirable and being researched. We must aggressively seek answers from all of these options, even the ones that some might deem less than desirable.
Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.
After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B. A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.
Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. (http://www.duquesamarketing.com ) has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.