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Clashing Waves of Change Evident in Current Energy, Transport Policy Battles

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In Revolutionary Wealth, renowned futurists the Tofflers–Alvin and Heidi–continue their exploration of how “knowledge-intensive” technological, socio-economic and political change is fundamentally redefining the nature of wealth and how it’s created. As it sweeps across the globe, this “Third Wave” is altering deep fundamental aspects of societies while clashing up against previous First (agrarian) and Second (industrial) Wave analogs, they write.

In a sweeping, insightful survey and analysis, the Tofflers, as always, give readers much to ponder. The U.S. has been blazing the “Third Wave” trail since the end of W.W. II. Though more subtle, evidence of the clashing of these waves is nonetheless as prevalent in the U.S. as it is in rapidly developing countries, they point out.

More to the point for this blog and its readers, the Tofflers zoom in on illustrations of this in three key, basic sectors of the American economy and society: energy policy and transportation, corporate regulation, and education.

With multi-billion dollar federal stimulus programs in infrastructure moving ahead and with the Obama administration deciding to open up more offshore areas to oil exploration, an excerpt of the Tofflers’ observations on U.S. energy policy and transportation seems particularly salient:

“Industrial America was built on the back of cheap fossil fuels and an immense infrastructure for distributing energy around the country,” they write.

“The United States is rushing to build an advanced knowledge-based economy but remains saddled with an industrial-age legacy energy system politically defended by some of the world’s biggest and most influential corporations against a growing, growling public demand for fundamental change in the system.”

The Tofflers also highlight the clash of Second and Third Wave interests in transportation. Successfully beating back a 1998 push by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation to invest public funds in a Third Wave- oriented “intelligent transportation” plan was yet more evidence that…

“the U.S. transportation system, on which most business enterprises directly or indirectly depend, is still gridlocked by a politically powerful triad of oil companies, car manufacturers and often corrupt highway construction firms.”

The Obama administration and Congress continue to prop up financial and housing markets even as they attempt to come to grips and formulate energy, transportation, corporate regulatory and education policies that will provide the framework for America’s future. They could benefit a great deal by reading, or re-reading, Revolutionary Wealth, or any of the Tofflers’ books for that matter, as could we all.

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