8. Electric Cars: Another favorite of conspiracy nuts. Detroit killed the electric car in the 1990s, the theory goes, because the auto industry was afraid consumers would flock to overpriced, inefficient cars that would regularly need battery replacement. The bastards. They’re probably inside Tesla Motors and Think conducting sabotage: That’s the real reason that company is having problems.
But electric cars, and their death, go waaay back. Detroit Electric made all electric cars from 1907 to 1939. In 1917, an all-electric Detroit might cost you anywhere from $1,775 to $2,375. It could go 60 to 100 miles on a charge and get all the way up to 25 miles an hour. "No other bridal present means so much, expresses so perfectly what you mean to say," one ad read. Huzzah! Plummeting gas prices, however, made gas cars more popular. Then the 1929 stock market crash killed it. Hmmm. Declining gas prices and stock market problems. Uh-oh.
9. Biodiesel: What was the first fuel used by Rudolf Diesel? Peanut oil. Fast-forward several decades. Now you can fill up on the sludge in the dumpster behind Carl’s Jr.
10. Hemp: This one’s a tribute to all my stoner acquaintances in high school that yammered on about how George Washington grew hemp. That was right before they tried to explain the artwork on "Eat a Peach" by the Allman Brothers. The fast growing weed is a natural for eco-clothing. Still trying to confirm that "Wizard of Oz"/ "Dark Side of the Moon" thing though. I know it definitely doesn’t work with "It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World."
11. Zinc Batteries: Thomas Edison, the prolific American inventor, tried to make rechargeable batteries out of zinc oxide. The formula, however, was never quite right. The batteries would die after a few charges. Now, companies like PowerGenix, ZPower andPowerAir have tinkered with the chemical formula to give zinc batteries a longer life. And, unlike lithium-ion batteries, they won’t randomly explode.
12. Plasma Lights: Another Edison connection here. Edison favored lights with a filament. Nikolai Tesla, noted eccentric genius who is belatedly proven right, favored heating up gases in a bulb to create and plasma and hence light. Edison won, and that’s why we have inefficient filament bulbs everywhere. Luxim and Eden Park, however, have come up with lights following the Tesla model. Luxim’s bulbs are in TVs and will soon be sold for outdoor lighting. It looks like a Tic Tac. Eden Park will soon release some lights that look like small flat TVs.
13. Tidal Power: Tidal power prototypes have been planted in New York, and many will go into the water off the coast of the U.K. and Ireland over the next few years. But one of the first tidal plants dates back 900 years. The Eling Tide Mill is still active.
14. Thin Clients. Not as old, but still mounting a comeback. Wyse and others have promoted thin clients as a cheap, more manageable alternative to the desktop for years. It didn’t sweep the nation and most corporate workers still have PCs. The thin-client mantra, however, is finally sinking in with the rise in power costs. NComputing, only a few years old, has already installed over one million of its sub-$100 desktops. Wyse is also seeing an increase in sales.
15. Geothermal Cooling: In the 1830s, Lord Kelvin began to record ground temperatures. He discovered that a few feet below the surface they remain relatively constant throughout the year. Then in the 1940s, Robert Webber tinkered with the concept and came up with the first geothermal heat pumps. Throughout most of the U.S., the temperature of the ground about five feet below the surface remains roughly constant throughout the year: 45 degrees to 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the northern parts of the country and 50 degrees to 70 degrees in the south. Pipes that bring that air in during the summer provide cooling (as well as heating in the winter).
Although geo cooling has been growing in popularity, it’s still not as popular as evaporative cooling, first engineered by the Egyptians.
16. Tribal Warfare, Malaria, Limited Life Spans: Again. Never out of style, but definitely on the comeback. The food riots earlier this year are likely only the beginning over a competition over resources. Disease will also spread with the onset of global warming.
But more people are growing their own produce too and trying to get the rest of their food in a 100-mile radius, so it’s not a complete downer.