AOH :: FUSION43.TXT|
Cold Fusion: New Profits in a Cool Test Tube?
From: email@example.com (Matt Rhodes)
Subject: Re: Consequences of Clean Cold Fusion
Summary: Excerpt from Boston Globe article, no tech content
Keywords: predictions, economics, politics, investments, consequences
Date: 23 Apr 89 16:18:16 GMT
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org (Matt Rhodes)
Organization: MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Lexington MA
An article on cold fusion appeared in Sunday, April 23 Boston
Globe's **BUSINESS** section. This article contained no technical
content but had one or two interesting facts. I am excerpting a
some of it here. These excerpts appear without permission. All
bracketed text is my own commentary
HEADLINE: "COLD FUSION: NEW PROFITS IN A COOL TEST TUBE?"
by Frederic M. Biddle, Globe Staff
Far-thinking decision-makers nationwide from mulitnational oil
companies to the US Department of Energy - are beginning to ponder
the commercial possibilities of a rash of recent experiments that
may have produced energy from room-temperature fusion.
And to many fusion and energy specialists, any talk of commercial-
ization of the process remains so premature as to teeter on the absurd.
"Imagine you were in the airline industry, and all of a sudden somebody
comes along and tells you the world is about to go antigravity," says
Robert McCrory, a professor and director of the laboratory for Laser
Energenics at the University of Rochester. "Well, this makes about as
much sense, actually."
[Dr. McCrory may not be a disinterested party, however. Despite the
above statement the rest of the article is spent discussing possibility of
"If it is real, it has the ability to replace all energy," says
Frank Graham, a consultant to the US Committee for Energy Awareness.
Already, the first tenative steps have been taken toward determining
the commercial future of the biggest, newest "maybe" in science. The
Massachusetts Institute of Technology has applied for patents on an
unspecified technology based on theories of Peter L. Hagelstein... Brigham
Young University and the University of Utah...have also applied, on the
possibility that a broad commercial patent might someday be worth billions
And at the world's biggest producer of nuclear-power generators,
Westinghouse Electric Corp., a top planner has guardedly described a
scenario for a "switch" toward developing cold fusion technology.
Harnessing fusion energy for everyday use, however, would be another
....The nation currently draws nearly 80 percent of its electricity
from coal, natural gas, oil, and other fuels and the other 20 percent
from nuclear fission.
<Text stating: Fossil fuel supply limited, Nuclear has a bad name>
"We got burned on the total experience of fission, and that might
make us a little slow to catch on to fusion," Mills <of the Edison Electric
Institute> says, "But in the end, the real question that sells a technology
always is, 'What's the cost?'"
[Seems like a great time to write your congressman in favor of pollution
taxes!! The real economic cost of fossil fuel usage must be reflected in
the producers costs if we expect them to make an intelligent decision on
the alternative sources of power]
The Electric Power Research Institute, an industry trade group, has
helped finance two of the cold fusion experiments annouced so far. And
Westinghose Electric Corp. ... has signed an agreement with the University
of Utah for access to its cold-fusion research. Westinghouse said it will
evaluate Utah's patent applications while searching for commercial appli-
cations for its fusion experiment.
Two-thirds of the world's oil is used to power moving vehicles, and
part of the remainder is used to make petroleum-based products, such as
plastics. Even if fusion were to become a commercially viable energy source,
it would not pose an immediate threat to the oil industry, many in the
"There's no way you're going to be putting those things on airplanes
and cars," said one chief scientist for one of the world's biggest oil
Other researchers say that may be a short-sighted view.
In the 1950's, fission scientists produced highly efficient fission
jet engines - the problem was, the engines emitted dangerous amounts of
radioactivity that could be contained only with prohibitively heavy shields.
Fusion engines, theoretically no less powerful, might get around the
Fusion has been sufficiently tempting that most of the nation's oil
companies have spent tens of millions on research over the years. In the
1950's and 1960's, many oil companies thought they might someday harness
fusion to power their refineries. A lack of progress killed the research.
But many say that the sheer resources of the oil industry make it better
poised to exploit fusion technology than any other business sector.
Ironically, the most immediate economic effect of cold fusion technology
could be felt in the fusion research financed by the federal government - a
$500 million-a-year effort that, after more than $8 billion overall, has so
far produced no result that would make fusion commercially attractive.
"It would certainly have to be re-evaluated," says Stephen O. Deane,
president of Fusion Power Associates, a fusion trade group and think tank.
"It might be that [cold] fusion will be good for power plants and we will
have to figure out what else our research is good for. When the automobile
came along, the horse-and-buggy makers had to scramble."
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