The Emperor's New Hydrogen Economy
the Title of the Book
Last updated 2006.11.12
I have been surprised by how many questions I have received
about the title of the book and its meaning. So here is an
explanation for those looking for deeper meanings.
The title, The Emperor's New Hydrogen Economy, is a play
on words on the Hans
Christian Andersen fairy tale, The
Emperor's New Clothes. Read the story for yourself, so you
don't have to take my word for the following interpretations.
translation of story)
The premise is a fairy tale, therefore there is no actual
emperor. Those that feel the United States is acting like an
imperial power (see American
Empire), or that the current President is taking on powers
reminiscent of kings of old have drawn their own conclusions.
The meaning I was seeking was the parallel between all the fine
words praising the never-quite-real hydrogen economy today, and
the non-existent clothes of the fairy tale. I think there is also
a parallel between the idea that those that would not praise the
non-existent clothes in the fairy tale would be deemed unfit for
their office, and the inability to get research grants in the
energy field today unless one swears fealty to the hydrogen
mirage. Perhaps this is why it has taken someone who makes their
livelihood outside the field to raise the issue in a public way.
No doubt someone will also draw an unflattering parallel
between the child of the fairy tale and me in the current
scenario. So be it.
“Out of the unconscious lips of babes and sucklings are
Mark Twain "Which Was the Dream?"
Or to bring us back to the original fairy tale, this snippet
from a Hans Christian Andersen biography:
“We come to The Emperor's New Clothes, published in 1837.
It is about a vain ruler, who cared only about his clothes. He was
told by two crooks that they could make the most beautiful clothes
from a special, invisible material. The emperor sent two subjects
to inspect the cloth, but they were too scared to admit they
couldn't see it. He had his clothes made from the non-existent
cloth and one day paraded through the town. The townfolk naturally
applauded the new outfit. Finally, a child noted that the emperor
had nothing on. The whole crowd began to shout that he had nothing
on. The emperor understood that they were right, but did not admit
“After this tale was popularized, the expression
"The emperor has no clothes" came to symbolize shallow,
superficial pretensions. The notion of "truth from the mouths
of babes" is also employed here. “
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