I knew that this was going to be a strange week, because it started off weird. This happens when people, who are paid decent money for the sharpness of their brains, say something outrageous in a very public way. In graphic terms, this is like encountering a Burger King drive through when climbing rocks in the beautiful Yellowstone Park.
So, Dieter Zetsche, the boss of Mercedes-Benz was very clear and said this: “we’re going all in, it’s starting right now.” The venue was the worldwide premiere of Mercedes EQC in Stockholm, the first in series of battery-powered models.
The car joins the Porsche Taycan, Audi E-tron and Jaguar I-Pace in putting pressure on Tesla. The Audi E-tron will be launched later this month in San Francisco, Tesla’s backyard and the center of the tech community. Audi (as the entire VW concern) is developing electric cars with vigor, trying to shake the image tainted by the emission scandal. And right off the bat the Germans are ahead of Tesla’s technologically - BMW is already selling a car with wireless charging capability: the 530e hybrid has been available in Germany since May.
There is, however, one issue about electric mobility that is rarely mentioned – that the concept really consists of switching the emissions from trucks and cars to power plants. The perceived solution is to produce electricity by other means than fossil fuels, so-called alt energy. This will only happen on a mostly limited basis if at all.
Electric cars are not the solution, they’re a distraction from the real issue which is the fact that the world will, at some point, run out of cheap oil. This will put brakes on globalization – supply lines that stretch 10,000 miles will no longer be feasible and many business models will be exposed as flawed. A good example is Amazon – they do great damage to the big box retail industry, and I don’t feel sorry, but at the core of their model is the idea that every single purchase requires a truck or van trip to the buyer. This will be exposed for what it is, nonsense. And Amazon is not capable of making any money even with oil and gas being cheap – their posted profits are in the range of statistical error.
Life will become more local again, and somebody asked me the other day if this would bother me.
And I said this, quoting a great song again: “I got the house on the hills, I ain't got time for the bills, I got the girl of my dreams, I think she's finer then real, so no.”
From the Swiss perspective one can always tell that something worrisome is going on in the world when the franc is strengthening. It has exceeded analysts’ predictions so far this year.
The issue this time is that the contagion is global – the emerging markets crisis, EU bond markets and the US mad hunt to impeach Trump. The people who want him out so badly don’t seem to ask one simple question – who comes next? Americans will not accept another career politician like Obama or Clinton. Whoever replaces Trump will be perceived as a puppet of the establishment. This could become very ugly fast.
For the first time in recent history the capital has nowhere to go. Sure, Switzerland is a safe haven but the markets here are not deep enough, one needs US for that. I have the feeling that events are escalating, but maybe I am just thinking too much. I should stop and go back to staring at the sun.
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler