Thomas Edison? Elbert Hubbard? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: The famous inventor Thomas Edison supposedly foresaw the potential of solar energy more than one hundred years ago. He wanted to replace the burning of fuels with the collection of natural energy from the sun, wind, and tides.
Did Edison really express this viewpoint? Would you please explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: In 1910 influential publisher Elbert Hubbard printed an interview with Thomas Edison in his journal “The Fra”. Edison believed that burning wood and coal was shortsighted, and he was excited by a vision of collecting and storing what is now called renewable energy. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1
This scheme of combustion in order to get power makes me sick to think of—it is so wasteful. It is just the old, foolish Prometheus idea, and the father of Prometheus was a baboon.
“When we learn how to store electricity, we will cease being apes ourselves; until then we are tailless orang-outangs. You see, we should utilize natural forces and thus get all of our power. Sunshine is a form of energy, and the winds and the tides are manifestations of energy. Do we use them?
“Oh, no; we burn up wood and coal, as renters burn up the front fence for fuel. We live like squatters, not as if we owned the property.
“There must surely come a time when heat and power will be stored in unlimited quantities in every community, all gathered by natural forces. Electricity ought to be as cheap as oxygen, for it can not be destroyed.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.