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Thomas Edison to Henry Ford: Forget Electric Cars (Revisited)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- August 8, 2009

[Editor note: This post from February 19th is reprinted and expanded upon given the Obama Administration’s release of $2 billion this week for electric car components built in the U.S]

The wisdom of the ages applies to energy. The smartest-guys-in-the-room approach to energy transformation by DOE secretary Stephen Chu, based on a false premise of the unsustainability of hydrocarbon energy, should note such history. The silver bullets that he is looking for have a long, failed history for good reason.

Take for example the electric car, a perennially bad idea for receiving taxpayer subsidies. Below, produced verbatim, is an eye-witness account of a conversation between the father of electricity and the father of the automobile that took place some 113 years ago.

This conversation, dated as August 1896 by the eyewitness Samuel Insull (1859–1938), himself considered the father of the modern electricity industry, is recounted in his autobiography, The Memoirs of Samuel Insull (full cite at end):


“He asked me no end of details,” to use Mr.