Morici: A Time for Optimism and Some Yankee Pragmatism
The U.S. economy is in renaissance. The wrenching recession and halting recovery have masked a major restructuring ignited by technology and good-old- fashioned market forces.
Typewriters and toys have become a powerful competitive advantage.
The modern office and consumer technology industries -- which began with programmable typewriters, clumsy dedicated word processes and TV-set ping pong -- have blossomed into enormously powerful and highly portable computers, smartphones and more specialized devices for industrial automation and supply chain management. These promote transparency in pricing, accelerate the movement of goods and services, and make nearly anyone (who would like to be) a global purveyor of ideas and services.
Teenagers can become millionaires because the traditional barriers to developing and commercializing new ideas, including access to up-to-date know-how and capital, have been greatly reduced or removed. Also, the commercial applications of new technologies are quicker and dramatically more scalable, at much lower cost, beyond the imagination of entrepreneurs 50 years ago.
The fracking revolution has unleashed a new bounty of natural gas. It won't fully free us from dependence on foreign oil, but it has some potential to substantially reduce that dependence and instigate dramatic new growth in heavy industry including metals, petrochemicals, fertilizer, durable goods, and fuels.
America still imports, net of exports, about 6.8 million barrels of oil a day, much of it from the volatile Middle East and other unstable places around the world.
Emerging compressed and liquefied gas technologies -- many already in trial use -- have the potential to replace about two to three million barrels a day in big-city taxi and fleet transportation, rail transportation, intercoastal marine and Great Lakes shipping, and inter-city trucking on the East and West Coasts and within the industrial Middle West. Extending those technologies to even limited personal automotive use could slice oil imports by nearly half.
Beneath the rubble of the recession, U.S. manufacturers, which already enjoyed the highest productivity in world, have widened that gap. They have created smart factories that have converted the abovementioned technologies into automated material handling and supply chain management to dramatically decrease labor use.