At the beginning of the Second World War, the Swedish Prime Minister, Per-Albin Hansson, re-assuringly stated that “Sweden is well prepared for a war”. When the forces of nazi Germany took Denmark, the Swedish army, at night, drove jeeps with heavy logs along the coastal road which the Germans could view from Denmark. The jeeps had their lights on while driving one direction and then they drove back with their lights turned off. Then they went back the same way once more with the lights on.
This was to make the Germans believe that it would be much more difficult and costly to try to conquer Sweden than it had been to besiege Denmark. Nowadays, people in Sweden, sometimes when they hear a big lie coming from officials, say okay “We are well prepared!”. A funny story tells of the Prime Minister of Denmark calling his counterpart in Sweden, asking to borrow tanks, because the Germans were crossing the border: “OK, no problem, do you want one, two or all three of them?”
We are in a similar situation now, globally, in which politicians and business people in high positions, environmentalists, journalists, and engineers try to re-assure us that we are well prepared to take on the challenge of transforming energy systems. As soon as energy prices increase to a level high enough, there will be a wave of investments that will clear away our dependence on fossil fuels.
Similar to Swedes and Germans at the beginning of the war, most of us are happy to go along with this, paying little attention to what it will really take in terms of investment, technology development and large scale change of systems and habits to reduce our dependence on oil.
“We are well prepared!” will hardly become a joke in the future. This is because the enemy back then were human beings who could be scared by a false statement. The enemy in the energy transformation will be technology and large scale systems. There will be a need for us all to develop and implement new techynology, and change behavior and other patterns in our lives. We can fool ourselves for some more time, but then we will have to face the facts, and the challenge will become tougher as we procrastinate, since we will have less time at our disposal for the change.
Monday, September 07, 2009 by Mats Larsson