Industrial mass production on the basis of cheap raw material and fossil fuels,
which has evolved as the economic Leitbild of the 20th century has reached its
critical limits. The environmental impacts of fossil fuels are threatening both
the environment and further economic development. Changes in the energy and
resource base of the economy have been the drivers of productivity: Coal in the
first Industrial Revolution at the end of the 18th century and Oil at the beginning
of the 20th century. These shifts in fuel base of industry were linked to mutually
enforcing technical, social and political innovations.
There are indications that we are at the advent of another change in the energy
base. The recent strong growth of renewable energies and eco-efficient technologies
are the most visible manifestations of an upheaval. What are the implications
for societies and for the steering of such radical change? Industrial
transformations of this kind cause a re-valuation of capital, professional skills
and redistribution of wealth among sectors and regions. This is reflected in political
resistance against such transformations.
In our essay we analyse the opportunities for a political steering of industrial
transformation. The large economic regions of the world are compared regarding
their abilities to take a leading role on this. The technological competences,
the availability of capital, the abilities to compensate social disruptions, the
openness for innovation and the ambitions in environmental policies provide a
good position for Europe in shaping the next phase of industrialisation.
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