New technologies related to energy production and infrastructure are now exploding in a good way. For example, Oilprice.com reported in December that a 5,000% increase in hydrogen production is expected in the next five years, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported a month earlier that “the cost of renewables is now on par with natural gas.”
Although the biggest reason to cheer has to do with the imperative to address climate change, many people do not understand how significant all this news is with respect to another important matter: The new technologies will bring steady employment increases and good, long, meaningful careers for many people while also stimulating the economy.
Addressing climate change and good jobs are not the only benefits, but some additional opportunities may never be realized unless the public organizes and educates enough of the people in their communities and counties to stop the historically excessive influence of large corporations as they seek to dominate these new technological opportunities in a way that disproportionately benefits the wealthiest investors. This only furthers the wealth gap that is already wider than the oceans.
This is not to say there should be no role for larger corporations, but smaller communities, in particular, need to step up their games if they want to maximize the benefits. In cities, citizen groups already are organizing to ensure the technologies are implemented in a way that benefits everyone equitably.
Here’s where CTOs come in: The new technologies are numerous, obviously technical, and definitely not one-size-fits-all. Although it would not be unreasonable for some communities and counties to actually establish that exact job description for someone in management, the functions of a CTO should, at a minimum, be evident in the activities of management and citizen groups in order to tailor the technologies to fit the demographics, natural resources, human resources, etc., unique to each location.
Important additional benefits include a prosperous and stable local economy less vulnerable to wide economic downturns, a stable and resilient electrical grid that keeps working locally during disasters, and an adequate supply of strategically produced and located hydrogen for non-fixed equipment such as farm tractors, large vehicles, and large movable equipment.
Large corporations will want to make it easy for politicians to look smart when talking about these matters, so citizens should be able to identify politicians who fail to do independent research. Politics should not be demonized, because it is how communities can democratically put into motion the plans that best meet their needs. Nor should large corporations be demonized, because some of the largest components of our infrastructure will need their capabilities.
Only an educated and organized citizenry will know how to make sure its communities and counties maximize the benefits. It is time for communities to organize, educate themselves, and engage in healthy politics.
Peter Truitt of Danbury, Wisconsin, is retired after a career involving product design, project management, and quality assurance. He wrote this for the News Tribune.