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1914 Ford electric car prototype
Ford engineer Fred Allison test drives second experimental electric car powered by Edison nickel iron battery at Henry's Highland Park farm in the summer of 1914. Photo courtesy of Edwin Black.

A 'Black' History of Our Oil Addiction

MP3 audio interview with Edwin Black, author of Internal Combustion on the electric car conspiracy.

By Bill Moore

Thomas Edison had spent $3.5 million between 1903 and 1910 (equivalent to $71 million today) perfecting his nickel iron battery. He claimed it was half the weight of lead acid and had twice the energy density. His electric cars were demonstrably superior to the competition that were powered at the time by what we today know as Exide batteries, then controlled by a group of cartels. Those cartels sought to monopolize all forms of automotive transportation from bicycles to automobiles, gasoline and electric.

Just as Edison and Henry Ford were about to go into business together to offer a low cost electric car comparable to the Model T, a suspicious fire destroyed nearly all of Edison's West Orange, New Jersey research facility, curiously bypassing areas where the most flammable chemicals had been stored. Within months World War I would engulf Europe and eventually America and the dream of the electric car would fade into obscurity, a curious, forgotten footnote of history.

It would be Edwin Black, a best selling author whose works include IBM and the Holocaust, Banking on Baghdad and War Against the Week, who would exhume the forgotten footnote and the overlooked collaboration between Edison and Ford in his 2006 investigative history into the conspiracy to kill the electric car nearly a century ago.

Black, who is as outspoken and unapologetic as his books, makes no bones about what attracted him to this story of turn of the 19th century avarice and corruption.

"Petro-terrorism".

He defines petro-terrorism as a movement whose intention is to "breakdown our society based on our addiction to oil." And while this particular form of coercion may seem like a relatively new phenomenon of the age of oil, Black asserts in Internal Combustion that it's as old as history, beginning with kingly control of the forests to monopolistic control of coal mines to today's modern oil cartels. The control of energy has been, in his words, the pursuit of monarchs, monopolists and manipulators from time immemorial.

Black takes pains to point out that his focus as an author is on exposing the grimy underbelly of society from IBM, Ford and General Motor's involvement in the rise of the Nazi Third Reich to the eugenics movement of early 20th century.

"I have a history of investigating genocide, oppression, corporate misconduct and governmental corruption", he emphasized.

For him the never-solved, long-ignored fire in West Orange only serves to underscore his view that some conspiracies are quite real and in the case of the destruction of Edison's laboratory, the linchpin of a concerted effort to destroy the inventor's reputation in order to keep his battery off the market, while crushing Henry Ford at the same time.

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