From the Famously Failed Prediction Files: “Nobody Will Be Using Coal in 2017”

Watts Up With That?

Guest post by David Middleton


  • In the midst of a coal shortage in 1917, one writer predicted that solar energy would replace coal by 2017.
  • Coal is still very much in use, but perhaps his premonition was just a few decades short of the target. Solar power is growing at such a rate that we won’t have to wait another 100 years for the prediction to come true.


In the course of a century, people made a lot of predictions about the future of technology.

Some were right—like H.G. Wells who, in 1903, described metal-hulled warships on land that could be considered the precursor to military tanks today; or George Orwell’s vision of 1984 (written in 1949), where the world was monitored by an interconnected web of security cameras; even John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar, who wrote his version of 2010 back in 1969, and…

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