Discover what our energy past tells us about our energy future.
Renowned energy pundit Peter Tertzakian weaves tales from our energy past with his own research and expertise to help you understand our current energy landscape and plan for the future. Full of insight, humour and thought-provoking wisdom, these stories are essential listening for anybody interested in what powers our world — because the business of energy is everybody's business.
The quintessential energyphile, Peter Tertzakian has devoted his career to energy. He is the Executive Director of ARC Energy Research Institute and the creator of Energyphile, an innovative project that offers a whole new way to think about energy. To find out more, visit energyphile.org.
Reinventing the Wheel
In an era of transition, companies must change. People must change. McLaughlin was a rare breed of company: one that faced radical disruption in its industry and, instead of denying it, embraced it — to great success. The industry was carriage making, and McLaughlin was at the top of that game. But when the automobile started gaining in popularity, one of the sons in this family company knew they needed to change lanes. The carriage-maker became automaker and, ultimately, General Motors Canada. This is the ultimate story of a corporate pivot and adaptation to new realities. To see the art for this story, visit energyphile.org/reinventing.
This is a cautionary tale about arrogance in the energy business. When a 1914 dictionary dropped coal from its definition of “fuel,” the Standard Oil Bulletin gloated that coal was an “also-ran.” But cheap energy is tough to displace, and hubris is ill-advised. Over a century later, coal still reigns in the energy mix of most countries. Never count out the "also-rans."
To see the dictionary and the Standard Oil Bulletin in this story, visit energyphile.org/hubris.
The Investor Visit
A 1915 photograph of individuals visiting a drilling rig gets energy economist Peter Tertzakian wondering who they are and what brought them there. The result is this story of Graeme, a savvy investor visiting his oil investment, a rig that he quickly discerns is on its way to obsolescence. Impervious to the gushing promises of a fast-talking broker and slick oil company CEO, Graeme imparts investment wisdom and business lessons that still stand the test of time.
To see the photograph and other art for the story, visit energyphile.org/investorvisit.
The Great Aha
In 1914, Ed Tucker, a once-staunch stagecoach driver, sees the light and buys a Ford Model T, never to look back. This story shows how swift adoption of a revolutionary new innovation happens when the benefits of that new technology are compellingly evident — and meet human needs head-on. It’s why electric vehicles haven’t taken over the world as swiftly as people thought they would — they simply aren’t the no-brainer the Model T was.
To see the art in the story, visit energyphile.org/aha.
Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk. All titans of innovation. But also masters of showcasing their innovations. You may not have heard of Max Valier, but he too is an example of the bravado, vision and wild ideas required to alter the course of history. While everybody else was talking combustion engines in the early 20th century, Max was working with rockets. This early pioneer of rocket-powered travel — whose demonstrations in the 1930s brought people in droves to the racetrack — inspired the next generation of scientists and engineers.
To see the art in this story, visit energyphile.org/rocket.
When Stoke Stokes
In 1947 England, George sends his daughter a postcard featuring smoke-belching factories. “It isn’t quite as bad as this,” he assured her. Why was such an image glorified? Who on earth would put it on a postcard in the first place? The answer lies in our changing definition of prosperity. In post–World War II England, such an environmentally egregious sight signified industrial fortitude. Now of course, our values have changed and, with them, our visual indicators of prosperity.
To see this postcard and other similar industrial-themed postcards, visit energyphile.org/stoke.