I have always admired people who have a bold dream to make the world a better place, and the resolve to stick with it when few others seem to be on the same page.
Such a man was Charles Nelson Pogue, a Winnipegger who died in 1985. In the 1930’s he patented a carburetor that supposedly enabled a car to get 200 miles per gallon of gas. The idea never went anywhere, and there were many stories suggesting that Mr. Pogue was bought off by the oil industry who obviously wanted no part of such a gadget.
A current example is another Winnipegger named Barry Prentice. He is a transportation expert, based at the University of Manitoba. For more than a decade, he has been the most prominent promoter of airships as a more efficient and economic way of moving goods to remote locations.
First Nations in northern Manitoba have now given Dr. Prentice renewed hope. Their communities are supplied using winter ice roads, but Prentice insists that airships could do the job for as much as 40% less.
Acceptance has been slow, in part because of some very bad history. The image of the Hindenberg crashing in flames at Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937 is a scary vision that’s hard to erase. It was filled with highly flammable hydrogen, but the science has come a long way in 75 years. Hydrogen might still be used in airships today, but it can be safely contained in sealed units.
It’s time for governments to step up with some major investment dollars, but that’s easier said than done. Six months ago, the Commons Transport Committee recommended that funding be made available for a pilot project, but nothing much has happened since then.
Here’s hoping that Barry Prentice sticks with his dream, and doesn’t suffer the fate of Charles Pogue.
I’m Roger Currie