FOCUS ON MANUFACTURING
THE ERA OF
As global competition makes some commodities scarcer,
engineers will be challenged to find new solutions. By John G. Voeller
or more than 100 years, the United States
has been the world’s largest industrial
power. Over that period, we consumed a
plurality and sometimes even a majority
of the world’s resources.
Thanks to outstanding science and engineering, we could extract and process
natural resources to make almost any type of product at a reasonable cost. If we needed a commodity,
a device, or specialized knowledge, we felt confident
that we could find, buy, or negotiate for it. Sometimes, the price was high, but if we were willing to
pay, we could get it.
We have never really had to confront a situation where
another country on this planet could consume as much
as the United States. Today, we face that situation in
spades. The economies of many developing countries
have begun to take off, but China and also India are
special cases. Both have enormous populations, very
large workforces of educated professionals, fast-grow-
ing economies, and voracious appetites for resources.
John G. Voeller is senior vice president, chief knowledge
officer, and chief technology officer for Black & Veatch. He
has served as a consultant to the Department of Homeland
Security and other federal agencies since 2002. He was
an ASME White House Fellow in the Office of Science and
Technology Policy of the Executive Office of the President
from 2003 to 2008.