Saving Energy and Selling Cars

President Obama has finally put climate change on the national agenda. Some say he’s attempting too much, and some say he’s attempting too little. I say that, however you slice it, some effort is better than no effort. It’s important to acknowledge when you’re moving in the right direction. That doesn’t dispel the gloomier parts of the picture, but good news is good news and we should take it where we can find it.

Here, for example, is a list of Cleantech Milestones Worth Celebrating as compiled by Greentech Media. You read these things, and you have to wonder: Is it real, or is it hype? But I am seeing some of these things with my own eyes. I’m a believer. I use LED lightbulbs in my house. Friends of mine have installed solar panels on their roofs. I know several people with electric cars. Something is actually happening.


My friend Seth recently bought a Tesla. It’s a nice car! The Tesla story is a good example of how hard it is to change things in the real world. Tesla wants to sell you a car directly, which is to say, without using a car dealership. It turns out that in most states this is illegal. And why is it illegal? It’s illegal for ancient historical reasons that no longer make sense except for one thing: there are now entrenched interests, car dealers, who will bitterly oppose any change to the old laws. In North Carolina they are even passing new laws to prevent Tesla from selling you a car. Consider how ludicrous the argument is: the noble car dealers are protecting you, the helpless consumer, from the claws of the manufacturers.

It’s the most depressing kind of self-interested protectionism masquerading as a public service. I wish Tesla luck. In the spirit of green tech, I suppose we shouldn’t talk about tilting at windmills. Perhaps instead we should speak of windmills tilting at oil rigs.

One thought on “Saving Energy and Selling Cars”

  1. I like the image of windmills tilting at oil rigs…

    Planet Money had a nice podcast a few months ago going into the history of the byzantine business model and protections local car dealers enjoy. There are laws at the local and state level that need to be toppled. Tesla is working hard to defeat them at the state level. I’m not convinced their cars are that innovative, but if they can break the dealer model they will have pulled off something dramatically innovative.

    the podcast

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