With oil creeping towards $200 a barrel, one solution-oriented, but slightly romantic Frenchman named Jean-Marie Massaud is bringing back the zeppelin. It's fitting that the land of Jules Verne and Le Cinéma should produce such a fantastical response to the global oil crisis. But despite obvious disadvantages, reviving the majestic craft might be a resourceful change of pace.
Airships operate on helium (aside: one professor foresees a Russian monopolization of the resource in thirty years) and afford a slower, lower, and thus more picturesque journey than planes. Just last year, the German company Zeppelin-Reederei transported twelve thousand sightseers across southern Germany; even the French postal service sees a future for transporting mail via the free-drift technology.
Massaud justifies his own Manned Cloud, a 690-foot whale-shaped dirigible with a luxurious, built-in hotel, with this quixotic quote: "The large whales made a choice in evolution to live in harmony with their environment. They are symbols of life in harmony with nature."
Better still is a developer's response to one of Massaud's earlier proposed projects: "You French, you're all Communists!" We suppose it really is the 1930s again.
UPDATE:Speaking of the 1930s, the disproportionate circumstances during the Depression-lots of corn, little money-led farm relief advocates to formulate a somewhat outlandish hypothesis: using corn for ethanol.