Modern economic globalization would be impossible without our ability to move billions of tonnes of raw materials and finished goods among the continents and to fly at speeds approaching the speed of sound. These realities were made possible by the interaction of economic and technical factors. Much has been written about their organizational and political underpinnings (ranging from the role of multinational corporations to the history of free trade agreements), but much less on the history of the two prime movers that made these realities possible. Neither steam engines, nor gasoline-fuelled engines could have accomplished comparable feats. Diesel engines made ocean shipping the cheapest mode of long-distance transport and without gas turbines there would be no fast, inexpensive, mass-scale intercontinental travel. This paper examines the history, advances, benefits and costs of the two prime movers.
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