Cheap Energy

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Writes Scott Weisman:

Lew, awesome interview. Regarding nuclear, a really good answer is that the design’s largely derived from small military designs. There are other reactor designs that, in a truly free market for nuclear power, would probably get a lot more research money directed at them. Like the thorium cycle reactor.

And cold fusion, despite the endless mocking, looks like it probably is something real and possibly even economically justifiable (but doesn’t get the research interest it probably would in a really free market).

This doesn’t even take into account the massive amount of oil just the US military uses, that alone dwarfs countries. And oil is priced at the margin.

My guess is that minus government interference in energy production, energy prices would probably indeed fall off a cliff. But energy equals freedom. Imagine the inhospitable, and otherwise barren, vast wastelands around the world that could support even small-scale local agriculture if the energy inputs were cheap enough.

Keep prices high, and you feed festering problems that lead to endless strife and conflict. The people making these life-and-death (mostly death it seems) decisions clearly have no problem calling for inflicting death and misery to tens of millions (or more) people. They even act it out, over and over, and get millions of people to support the wars too.

So why not energy? It’s easy to keep energy expensive. Monopolize research dollars. Bet the farm on absurd projects that have ever diminishing promise (Tokamak anyone?) and let promising ideas languish (thorium reactors) or even mock and demean them as impossible (cold fusion). Incite wars in oil rich regions (profiting military industry at the same time!). Concoct absurd ideas like AGW/CC and lay the blame squarely on the one byproduct that you can’t get rid of in hydrocarbon energy production (CO2 of course), that is otherwise completely harmless, and actually extremely beneficial to agriculture.

Cheap energy is literally liberating. Imagine implications and possibilities of 1cent per kWh of electric power (or its equivalent). That’s not so cheap to be outrageous either. Even stupid projects like the Concorde look more interesting. Privately funded space exploration. Not to say filling basic needs like food and water.

Expensive energy is the number one way to keep restless people oppressed.

8:41 am on February 12, 2012