The Politics of Energy

Published in Atlantis Rising magazine No.16, 1999
by Jeane Manning

It’s a high-concept story, to use the language of Hollywood: Inventor wants to save the world from ecocide – from choking on oil fumes, roasting under greenhouse gases or being poisoned by nuclear waste. However, oil merchants, nuclear power lobbies and fuel-tax-supported governments don’t want inventor to get the help needed to develop and mass market his Fuel-less Energy invention. At least not while they’re raking in the money and looking for untapped customers in the Third World.

Variations on this story are occurring in real life in various parts of the world. If the mass media were reporting it, the public would take notice. Ever since a Hebrew named David faced up to the Philistines’ champion killer, the public has relished the drama of Underdog vs. Giant. Today, for example, the media report every nuance of Microsoft-as-Goliath tactics, while smaller software companies prepare technological slingshots and the United States government takes a few shots using anti-monopoly laws.

The little-known battle waged by energy researchers and inventors has higher stakes than Bill Gates and his industry could ever create. At stake is the right of independent innovators to compete on a level playing field — in a multi-trillion-dollar game dominated by giant fossil-fuel companies. (Today the field is not level. Revolutionary new energy inventions are denied patents, and their researchers in most cases are denied funding while billions of dollars go to development of harmful energy technologies. Adding further insults, most “experts” deny approval for non-conventional energy research, thus discouraging investors who may have funded the independent innovator who has depleted his or her own resources. Then the media quote the old-paradigm experts and ignore or ridicule the anamolous discoveries. To survive these rebuffs, individual researchers need strength.)

Also at stake is the big picture – will humanity move from dirty energy technologies to nonpolluting inventions fast enough to ease climate-change catastrophes, or before an earthquake somewhere creates nuclear havoc? As well as weather-havoc penalties if the clean-energy warriors lose their battle, the stakes include major prizes if they win. We could reclaim a living planet. Oil wars would become history.

FUTURISTS PREDICT RESISTANCE OVERCOME

If not the mass media, then who is watching this drama? John L. Petersen of the Arlington Institute, for one. He writes future-oriented reports that the highest levels of American government have used for strategic planning. In his new book, Out of the Blue, he writes about “Wild Cards and Other Big Future Surprises: How to Anticipate and Respond to Profound Change”. A wild card is a major surprise high-impact event with a scope and speed of change that challenges human capabilities to the extreme. In his list of potential wild cards, Petersen’s impact index gives a high rating to “energy revolution”. In this scenario, a near-future scientific breakthrough makes our traditional energy sources obsolete. “Cold Fusion and Zero-Point Energy – commercial generators that require no ‘fuel’ in order to produce heat and electricity – become a reality.” Early indicators include the 1995 announcement of the Patterson Power Cell, and many other experiments that sporadically give more power output than input.

Petersen lists the vast implications of an energy revolution. Improvements to the ecosystem could be rapid and vast. Japan could have energy independence. Decentralization of the control of energy would affect society. However, he says, there could be much opposition to an energy revolution.

Other relevant wild cards graphically presented in his book are these possibilities:

  • massive lengthy disruption of the national electrical supply
  • room-temperature superconductivity arrives
  • fuel cells replace internal combustion engines
  • cold fusion is embraced by a developing country

Sir Arthur Clarke is another futurist who shares Petersen’s prediction that an energy revolution could begin before the year 2000. In the June 5, 1998, issue of Science, Clarke writes about cold fusion. “Now I have little doubt that anomalous energy is being produced by several devices….The literature on the subject is now enormous, and my confidence that ‘new energy’ is real slowly climbed….and has now reached the 99% level.”

Clarke quotes a fellow scientist, also a former skeptic of cold fusion, who says the problem now is too many conflicting theories. However, there is now strong evidence for the energetic reactions in certain materials at low temperature.

Brushing aside the problem of conflicting theories on cold fusion, Clarke reminds us that the steam engine was around for a long time before anyone explained exactly how it works. The challenge, he says, is to see which of the competing inventions is most reliable. “My guess is that large-scale industrial application will begin around the turn of the century – at which point one can imagine the end of the fossil-fuel-nuclear age……”

Sifting through the “enormous literature” mentioned by the knighted futurist is the task taken on by individuals with Internet websites, and by editors of new publications – notably Hal Fox of New Energy News and Dr. Eugene Mallove of Infinite Energy magazine. Both editors have a lot to say, passionately, about the politics of energy. For example, Hal Fox writes “….the resistance of the majority of the scientific community to accept new scientific experiments, models and theories:

  • slows down scientific progress
  • denies employment to highly-qualified scientists, for failure to abide by accepted dogma
  • denies funds for dissident research
  • denies publication of new discoveries in some prestigious journals.”

These denials “have delayed the development of several discoveries in the new-energy area….”
Fox emphasizes.

Mallove also writes about academic politics. He told participants at the International Conference on Cold Fusion this year, “We know that the pathway before us leads ultimately to the end of the Fossil Fuel Age and the end of ‘business as usual’ by the Scientific Establishment – ignoring and disparaging data that does not fit preconceived ‘theories of everything’ in physics.”

Both men focus more attention on the good news, however. Fox is gleefully experimenting with “plasma-injected transmutation” devices that hold promise for cleaning up radioactive waste, and Mallove delights in finding yet another under-publicized invention that is close to being marketable, such as a water-based cavitation device which appears to put out significantly more energy than is needed to power it – putting out at the million-kilowatt level.

ENERGY REVOLUTION – WHO AND WHAT

The lone inventors who are making breakthroughs to a new paradigm – not merely improvements to today’s energy technologies – come from every corner of the planet.

For example, Paramahamsa Tewari of India is a nuclear physicist who in his spare time builds an innovative magnetic power generator, about the size of a kitchen stove. He calls it the Space Power Generator because it taps into the energy that surrounds us. Earlier this year a test engineer from Colorado, Toby Grotz, packed up a case of highly accurate test instruments and travelled to India to test Tewari’s machine. It does put out more power than goes into it from any battery. The next step for Tewari is to “close the loop” – feed back some of its output power to run the machine, so it becomes a stand-alone system.

Although there’s a capital cost for the apparatus involved in new energy inventions, there is no cost for fuel, whether the source of power is sunlight, ocean currents (Blue Energy Canada), atmospheric air movement (efficient windmills using new super-efficient generators), or the energetic background “zero-point fluctuations of the vacuum” that are present everywhere, in and around us or in outer space. Even polluted water has been used as a source of energy in recent inventions, with no harmful byproducts.

Meanwhile, planetary citizens “fight brush fires” to save local ecologies without knowing about the revolutionary inventions. Use of the wrong energy technologies causes most of their headaches. For example, the Yadana Pipeline through Burma into Thailand is plowing ruthlessly through rainforests, displacing villages of indigenous protestors. In Germany, nearly 10,000 demonstrators tried to blockade a train carrying high-level nuclear waste this spring. Then there was activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, murdered in Nigeria where he protested against the messes created by Shell Oil. Sometimes citizens do put out the brush fires – hill people around the Narmada River in India at least delayed the building of a massive dam which would displace their homes. But their efforts may be better spent in persuading governments to investigate the new inventions for clean sources of power.

GUARDING THE SEAT OF POWER

Oil consortiums are at the helm of the world’s economy and would want to stay there. Companies such as British Petroleum, Shell and ARCO are buying solar-powered equipment factories in order to be in the forefront as a warming world shifts to renewable energy technologies. But are they pushing the accelerator for that shift or touching the brakes?

On May 13, 1990, news services carried a report on the oil lobby’s use of studies on prehistoric climate changes. “The American Petroleum Institute is apparently coordinating a plan to persuade the public that global warming is based on shaky science.” Philip Clapp, president of National Environmental Trust, added, “This is exactly what the tobacco industry did for years – push industry-funded junk science to convince the public that there was no connection between smoking and cancer.” Based on internal memos obtained by NET, the U.S. oil industry planned to

  • Spend $5 million over two years to set up a global climate science data center to persuade media, legislators and the public that it is an objective source of information
  • “Identify, recruit and train” a core group of previously-independent scientists and hand-pick other scientists “whose research in this field supports our position’
  • Set up a new group to put industry information in the hands of school children and their teachers, under the name Science Education Task Group
  • Give out grant money….for “research contracts that may be deemed appropriate.”

The oil lobby’s strategy apparently worked; many people will tell you that global warming is an unproven theory and not to worry about climate change. However, internationally the insurance industry is finding that it is too expensive to pay for the increasing evidence of weather disasters, and the industry, especially in Europe and Japan, wants to withdraw its investments from the oil patch and instead invest in renewable energy.

Despite the touted “million solar roofs” initiative, the US government isn’t making any drastic changes. Its Climate Change Initiative will subsidize “remedies that have been tried before, with no remarkable results” as science writer Marsha Freeman puts it. She says the older variety of renewable energy technologies – wind, geothermal, biomass, small-scale hydro – can’t compete in the marketplace, and says the money would be better spent on “the technologies for the next century that, rather than being a drain on the economy, would increase its efficiency and productivity…..” The federal government not only ignores “new energy technologies” when passing out the dollars; it still spends about $25 billion yearly to subsidize fossil fuels.

Some scientists that I met recently think their government should also stop paying for the billion-dollar hot fusion program, because it is an industrial research project to benefit the power industry. And the utility companies don’t want hot fusion! Taxpayers pay the bill because the hot fusion research community spends money freely to perpetuate itself by lobbying Congress.

The US Department of Energy (DoE) is not totally ignoring new energy technologies these days. An Assistant Secretary at the DoE, Robert W. Gee, recently wrote a letter to William Thomas of Washington DC. In public hearings Thomas had asked if the DoE is investigating “zero-point energy” science. Surprisingly, Gee said that DoE scientists and others have done so, and are “still in the stage of demonstrating scientific feasability. Thus far results show that there is a net residual energy even at the absolute zero temperature, under vacuum conditions.” Eight patents have been issued on zero-point energy, Gee said, “including one issued to the Air Force Rocket Propulsion Laboratory.” “Presently, scientific feasability studies are in the beginning stages and the development of a technology for energy production from ZPE may be decades away.”

Why “decades away”? New-energy researchers such as Wingate Lambertson, Ph.D say it would take only a fraction of that time if they had funding for serious team efforts. They have already demonstrated sporadic successes, and need help in engineering their inventions into reliable products for the marketplace.

YOUTH CONFRONTS ENERGY CHALLENGE

Who could mobilize public support for low-cost clean energy technologies that would provide abundant power everywhere day and night? I expect the answer is that people of common sense will take leadership soon. Apathy ruled during the recent “cocooning” trend while it was fashionable to curl up in our homes and turn our backs on the dangerous outer world. As we approach the new millenium, however, a “de-cocooning” is seen in North America at the same time that a new idealism is emerging, according to The Trends Journal. “The de-cocooning trend is being propelled by a new generation of acitivist young adults, nature-loving youngsters and a new wave of immigrants.” According to The Trends’ research, young activists – mostly college students and teenagers – are rediscovering that the young generation has a responsibility to do its part to make the world a better place.

Trends Journal speaks of a coming class of Global Age hippies who criticize cocooning as an “ostrich response” – an unacceptable escapism that ignores society’s needs.

On the surface, today’s emerging activists don’t resemble the ‘sixties protestors who refused to go to war (whether or not they knew that the Viet Nam war was about oil). In the late 1990’s, environmentally-concerned youth are tackling issues in their own way.

To quote consumer advocate Ralph Nader, “It is time to bring the citizens’ agenda into the 21st century, so that it can keep pace with the corporate agenda. We must create new democratic mechanisms by which citizens can make their will felt, and regain control of what they already own.”

Outside of Hollywood films, no inventor, scientist, editor, student or researcher can save the world single-handedly.

The Coming Energy Revolution, Jeane Manning, 1996, Avery Publishing Group NY.

Out of the Blue, by John L. Petersen, 1997, The Arlington Institute, 2101 Crystal Plaza Arcade, Suite 136, Arlington VA 22202.

Vancouver Sun May 13, 1990 “Prehistoric Climate Changes Studied”
The Trends Journal (winter 97)

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