THE CONSEQUENCES OF CLEAN COLD FUSION
Copyright © 1989 by Martin L. Buchanan. Permission to reproduce this entire article in free publications or postings is granted.
This posting predicts the economic, political, and social consequences of clean cold fusion. It predicts dates for particular consequences and gives free investment advice.
This article refers to a Fleischmann-Pons fusion reactor as a "Puff" reactor (Pons/Utah/Fleischmann/fusion). The associated process is the Puff process.
1. The Puff process works as claimed. 2. The amount of ionizing radiation produced can be made
low enough that use in vehicles, homes, and offices is practical.
PREDICTION #1: RAPID DEVELOPMENT
Puff experiments can and will be done by garage shop operations. The Puff process will be well-characterized in a few months. Experimental Puff engines will be constructed this year. An experimental Puff vehicle will be constructed by the end of '89.
By the end of 1990 there will be working prototypes of Puff cars, trucks, light aircraft, and home heating/electrical plants.
PREDICTION #2: POLITICAL OPPOSITION THAT FAILS
Threatened economic interests will wage fierce battles to restrict use of Puff technology. The first U.S. battles will be in federal regulatory agencies and then the Congress:
* Appeals for the federal government to restrict experimentation
and access to deuterium and certain metals.
* Proposed federal laws that would forbid the use of Puff in
vehicles or homes, or that would impose such stringent radiation limits that shielding makes Puff impractical.
Supporting restrictions will be oil companies, electric utilities, some environmentalists, and Congress-critters from oil- and coal-producing states. Opposing restrictions will be auto manufacturers, airplane manufacturers, general business lobbies, businesses with high energy costs, and advocates of the free market, such as the Libertarian Party. The public will decide with a deluge of mail and phone calls supporting Puff 10:1.
When the battle to forbid Puff fails in Congress, there will be these new federal legislative ideas:
* Federal tax/license fees on Puff reactors to reduce the
deficit and fund the new Federal Fusion Administration.
* Federal taxes on Puff inputs such as deuterium, heavy water,
and certain metals.
* Transition assistance from taxpayers for certain impacted
industries and workers.
* Billions for cold fusion research so that we stay ahead of
the Japanese. There will be hundreds of grant proposals from unemployed Tokamak jockeys.
The battle will also move to state and local governments where state laws and local ordinances banning Puff, regulating Puff, or requiring licenses will be fought. Some short-lived ordinances will be passed in places like Cambridge, Mass. or Berkeley, CA. Licensing could become commonplace. However, bans or radiation restrictions beyond what health requires will eventually be repealed.
PREDICTION #3: F/P PATENT GRANTED AND UPHELD
Fleischmann and Pons will be granted a broad patent covering all use of cold fusion in a metal lattice to generate energy. The University of Utah and probably the University of Southampton will share in the largess.
The patent-holders will license the patent on very generous terms, seeking a one-time payment for each Puff built in proportion to its power output. For example, a $.001/W capacity (tenth of a cent per Watt = $1.00 per Kilowatt capacity) license fee could generate a revenue stream of billions of dollars per year within a few years.
The universities, the inventors, and the inventors' heirs will be among the richest institutions and persons in the world as we enter the 21st century.
PREDICTION #4: SCHEDULE
1989 Process characterized.
Experimental Puff engine and vehicle.
1990 Forecasters dub the new decade "The Fusing Nineties."
Working prototypes of Puff cars, trucks, light aircraft, home heating plants, and home electrical plants.
1991 Auto companies introduce Puff models. Puff vehicle
prices are initially high but drop rapidly.
Puff hot water heater on the market.
1992 Portable computer appears powered by Puff and
Puff home electrical power system on the market.
1993 Light aircraft manufacturers introduce Puff models.
First large Puff ship puts to sea.
1994 First Puff central power station with more than
100M Watts capacity.
First Boeing Puff 797F ("F" for fusion) enters commercial service.
1995 Puff-powered ion-electric rocket deployed in
orbit (for orbital transfers, not surface to orbit).
PREDICTION #5: INVESTMENTS
These investments will benefit:
Companies involved in extracting heavy water or in building new heavy water plants.
Mining companies extracting the metals used, such as Palladium.
Vehicle manufacturers including auto-makers, airplane-makers, ship-builders, truck-builders, and locomotive-builders.
Companies that build electric generating plants; they have the expertise to build Puff-based plants.
Companies that can manufacture cheap and very sensitive radiation detectors.
Companies that can build cheap Puff-based desalination plants.
Energy-intensive industries, such as aluminum companies
Real estate and retail businesses around the University of Utah and possibly the University of Southampton.
These investments will suffer in the long run:
Fossil fuel (oil and coal) extracting, refining, distributing, and retailing.
The preexisting nuclear energy industry (based on fission).
Companies manufacturing solar-electric, hydro-electric, and wind-electric equipment.
Parts manufacturers and anything related to internal combustion engines. This includes tuneup shops, vehicle repair shops, and so on.
Electric utilities and natural gas utilities. Electric utilities won't disappear but will be under price pressure due to home or business direct generation of power from their own Puff plants.
PREDICTION #6: GEOPOLITICAL CONSEQUENCES
Economies based on fossil-fuel extraction will decline in relative wealth (though their absolute wealth may be greater in a more abundant world) and in relative power: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, the Persian Gulf states, Brunei, Mexico, Venezuela, Texas, Louisiana, Alaska, West Virginia. Those economies with large financial reserves and small populations, such as Saudi Arabia, will do much better than those with large populations and no financial reserves, such as Mexico. (Note that the list of affected areas does not pretend to be complete.) A diverse economy such as Texas will handle the transition much better than a one-product economy.
Japan and the U.S. will be stronger, eventually freed from any dependence on imported fossil fuels (total dependence in Japan's case), and with market-oriented cultures that will quickly take advantage of these new developments. The same will be true of Korea and Taiwan.
The growing economic pie/increased abundance made possible by Puff technology will aid the process of perestroika/glasnost/ restructuring in the communist nations, from the Soviet Union to Eastern Europe to China.
PREDICTION #7: MACROECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES
Puff will fuel an economic boom as the world replaces a large part of its capital stock. Of course some investments and areas will fare poorly in the transition.
PREDICTION #8: POLITICAL AND CULTURAL CONSEQUENCES
Puff will result in:
* More positive attitudes towards science and technology
* More young people interested in science and technology
* More positive attitudes towards markets, freedom, and
classical liberal/libertarian ideas
* More openness to entrepreneurs, crackpots, and others
with new ideas
* More skepticism about the value of government-funded
* Less "zero-sum" thinking = less trade protectionism
and less anti-immigration sentiment
PREDICTION #9: CONTINUED INNOVATION
Puff will lead us to a new understanding of nuclear processes. This new understanding and the innovative efforts of thousands of engineers and scientists will overcome initial Puff limitations if physically possible. Some possible innovations include:
* Desktop deuterium factory. Someone will build a miniaturized
device to separate heavy water or deuterium from water.
* Air-powered Puff plant. An advanced Puff plant may take water
vapor out of the air and extract the deuterons that it needs to power itself.
* Cold fusion-powered Earth to orbit rocket. The initial Puff
has relatively low operating temperatures, because the palladium lattice must be solid. Presently unknown cold fusion techniques may allow much higher power densities and operating temperatures. Such a rocket could use plain water for its reaction mass if a high-enough exhaust velocity is achieved.
* Miniaturized Puff plants. For example, a Puff-powered artificial
PREDICTION #10: OPENING THE HIGH FRONTIER
Even without direct cold fusion surface to orbit rockets, cold fusion will help open the high frontier of space in these ways:
* Low power costs for laser launching or launch loops or LINAC
(linear-accelerator)-assisted launching or antimatter production if antimatter is used for energy storage on such vehicles (see Forward's "Mirror Matter" book).
* Unbounded power for ion drive ships in space.
* It *may* be profitable to mine the Moon or asteroids for
* With a wealthier global civilization on Earth and much lower
space travel costs, millions of people will be able to afford space travel for pleasure.
I'll close with a final prediction: within 30 years, you will be able to buy a personal spaceship that will take you and your family to the Moon and back. Its price will be under one million 1989 dollars.