by Jed Rothwell

from Infinite-Energy Website





Part 1

Revolutionary Technology

Originally Published January-February, 1997

in Infinite Energy Magazine Issue #12



The heavy hydrogen in the seas can drive all our machines, heat all our cities, for as far ahead as we can imagine. If, as is perfectly possible, we are short of energy two generations from now, it will be through our own incompetence.


We will be like Stone Age men freezing to death on top of a coal bed...

"In this inconceivably enormous universe, we can never run out of energy or matter. But we can all too easily run out of brains."
— Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future, Harper & Row, 1963, chapter 12, "Ages of Plenty"

"All the energy we can possibly ever use for free. Enough energy, if we wanted to draw on it, to melt all Earth into a big drop of impure liquid iron, and still never miss the energy so used. All the energy we could ever use, forever and forever and forever."
— Isaac Asimov, "The Last Question," Science Fiction Quarterly, November 1956, a description of a space-based solar energy collector

"Historians will look back on 1973 as the year the era of cheap energy ended and Americans began to confront the illusion that unlimited energy would always be available. It was also the year we realized that cheap, abundant energy was the all-pervasive factor in making the United States' success story the adventure of the ages. For the United States, it would mark a turning point - a new maturation and awareness of the bitter truth: we had overshot and were making an overdraft on our own, and the world's, resources."
— Stewart Udall, Charles Conconi, David Osterhout, The Energy Balloon, McGraw-Hill 1974

Energy is the most abundant resource in the universe.


The sun produces 3.8 x 1026 watts,1,2 enough to vaporize the earth in about a half-day. The energy crisis is caused by ignorance, not by any natural shortage.

I do not see the energy crisis as a purely moral issue. I disagree with the Spartan philosophy advocated by Udall, former President Carter and Vice President Gore. The energy crisis is a technical problem that should have been fixed decades ago. Americans do not use too much energy.


The problem is that our energy sources are inefficient, expensive, dangerous and polluting. It does not have to be that way. Energy is a moral issue only in the sense that energy shortages cause terrible suffering in the third world. This cannot be fixed by taking fossil fuel away from Americans and Europeans and giving it to people in Africa and India. We would not be willing to part with it, and they cannot pay to transport it, store it, or use it effectively.


There should be no need to conserve energy. There should be no need to pollute the air or blight the landscape with high tension power lines, or windmills or solar collectors. Even so-called "green" energy technology is destructive. Hydroelectric dams ruin the ecology, threaten to flood vast areas in Canada, and destroy ancient artifacts in China and Egypt.

With pollution-free energy, the only limit to our use of energy will be the capacity of the atmosphere to radiate waste heat from machines into space without excessively heating the surroundings.


Cold fusion will not only eliminate pollution, it will also reduce this waste heat. Today's electric generators are about 30% efficient. Internal combustion automobile engines are only 15 to 19% efficient.3 Carnot efficiency is poor because the engines have to pump through copious amounts of air to keep the gasoline burning.


Cold fusion does not require oxygen, so a heat engine will be able to extract more heat from the working fluid. Internal combustion engines are also inefficient because they cannot stop. When the vehicle stops, they idle, wasting energy. At low speeds they are inefficient.4 Other heat engines can store up energy when the vehicle is not moving.


Steam and electric engines are efficient across a broad range of operating speeds.

Pollution is misplaced resources. We need mercury, but not in our water supply. We want ozone in the upper atmosphere, not at ground level where automobile engines produce it. No law of nature dictates that our energy sources must produce pollution. Fossil fuel sources always produce carbon dioxide, which might lead to global warming.


Other sources, like wind and solar energy, produce very little pollution: only the solid waste of used solar panels and worn out windmills. Cold fusion energy will produce less junked equipment than solar or wind, because it is highly concentrated. There will be less solid waste when the machinery wears out.


Under some conditions cold fusion will create tritium waste, but I expect these conditions can be avoided, and the danger of tritium eliminated. In that case, the only measurable reaction by-products from cold fusion will be tiny amounts of helium, and probably small levels of metal transmutations in the cathodes.


These may include more precious metals than unwanted, dangerous elements. In any case, the cathodes will be inside permanently sealed heat cells, in engine blocks, impervious to all but the most severe accident. Some U.S. spacecraft employ thermoelectric generators powered by fissioning uranium oxide. In one case, a rocket went out of control and was detonated on launch.


Divers found the thermoelectric generator on the ocean floor in perfect condition. It was installed in a replacement satellite and launched into space.5


How Much Heavy Water?

Cold fusion with palladium requires heavy water (deuterium oxide).


Cold fusion with nickel appears to work as well with ordinary water as with heavy water. I expect nickel will become the dominant cathode material, in which case the fuel cost will be as close to zero as any fuel imaginable.


Even heavy water fuel would be cheap. Heavy water costs about $1000 per kilogram retail, even though it is ubiquitous (it is 1 part in 6000 in every drop of water on earth). It is expensive because a lot of energy is required to separate it from ordinary water, and because demand is limited, so new separation technologies have not been developed.6 But you get a fantastic amount of energy out of a fusion reaction.


Even at $1000 per kilogram, heavy water would be thousands of times cheaper than oil. In a heavy water cold fusion economy, a fraction of a percent of the fuel would have to be recycled to keep the heavy water separation plants working, whereas today 7% of oil goes to refinery use and loss.7 There are some indications that the cathode metal itself plays a role in the reaction. It may be transmuted, in which case it would be used up. A cold fusion reactor may require new metal from time to time, the way a fission reactor requires new uranium.


Palladium and nickel are cheaper than uranium, and all three produce energy cheaper than oil does.

How much heavy water would it take to run the world economy, and what byproducts would it produce? Let us assume that cold fusion works like plasma fusion (hot fusion), converting deuterium into helium and releasing energy.


Actually, it is probably more complicated than hot fusion, but broadly speaking it releases energy on the same scale, with roughly the same amount of fuel, and it does produce helium. Worldwide annual production of all fuels, converted to an equivalent mass of oil, equals approximately 6.8x1013 kilograms of oil.8,9


This produces 2.7x1015 megajoules (at 40 megajoules per kilogram). A kilogram of heavy water contains 200 grams of deuterium. Converted to helium in a d-d fusion reaction, this produces 1.2x108 megajoules, with 1.3 grams of matter annihilated.10


Thus, present world energy needs could be met with 2.3x107 kg of heavy water, or ~24,000 metric tons. Actually, as I pointed out above, Carnot efficiency is likely to improve with cold fusion, so less fuel will be needed. Byproducts would include 18,800 tons of free oxygen and 4,700 tons of helium.


Thirty tons of mass would be annihilated, the same amount we lose today with chemical fuel, which also obeys Einstein's mass-energy equivalence law. To put it another way, a kilogram of heavy water has as much potential energy as 2.9 million kilograms of oil.


The earth has ~2x1013 metric tons of heavy water,11 enough to last 851 million years at this rate, and there is plenty more in Rings of Saturn and elsewhere in the solar system.


What it Will Take for Cold Fusion to Succeed

Three conditions must be met for cold fusion to succeed in every energy sector:

  1. Cold fusion devices must be made safe and nonpolluting. Most scientists believe that before this can happen we must understand the physics of the reaction. Others say there are gaps in our theoretical understanding of related technologies like catalysis, yet we can make safe, effective catalytic processes.

  2. Cold fusion generators, motors, heaters and other devices must have high power density, so they can be roughly as compact as competing motors. Data from some experiments shows that high power density can be achieved. In a few cases power density has been better than a conventional nuclear fission reactor. This kind of performance must become routine in all experiments.

  3. It should be possible to build a wide range of devices from thermoelectric pacemaker batteries, to automobile engines, to marine and aerospace engines.

If condition one is not met, the technological revolution will be canceled. Without two and three it might be incomplete. We might end up with large, centralized cold fusion power reactors that make cheap energy.


This will gradually reduce pollution, after electric automobiles are introduced.

Perhaps other over-unity devices like magnetic motors or the Correa device will pan out. Some of these would be superior to metal-lattice cold fusion (the Pons-Fleischmann effect). They would eliminate the need for heat engines and thermoelectric chips, thus reducing waste heat even more than cold fusion, especially when coupled with heat pumps. The broad technological and economic impact of these machines would be similar to that of cold fusion.

Before cold fusion can be commercialized, today's best, precious few laboratory prototypes must be made available to thousands of labs. Sustained boiling reactions have only been seen in one or two labs. They must be produced on demand, in any lab.


Today, Edmund Storms spends months laboriously testing palladium samples to winnow out the ones that are likely to work.12


That process must be automated. Ways must be found to fabricate cathodes that always meet his most stringent standards, and then the standards must be raised. Today, cold fusion experimental results are inconsistent. Heat flares up and gutters out, like flames from green, wet firewood. When we learn to control the reaction, we will scale up the type of cold fusion we want.


We will not scale up the uncontrolled, on-again, off-again heat, or tritium production.


Once we learn how to build this new kind of fire, we will make only clean, hot reactions, just as we only build clean, properly vented, smoke-free coal fires.


The Big Four

All machines use energy.


Even a needle pulling thread uses energy provided by you. Nearly every machine on earth can be improved with cold fusion, but four categories are critical. Their performance depends on efficient energy consumption, and they consume more fuel than all others combined.


They are:

  1. Automobiles, trucks, railroad locomotives

  2. Space heating and other furnaces

  3. Electric generators

  4. Farms

If cold fusion energy can be used in these four categories, it will replace almost all of the energy used by mankind, and it will reduce air and water pollution drastically. If it turns out that cold fusion can only be used for large electric generators, then it will gradually replace other energy sources. We will use electric space heaters and heat pumps. Automobiles will use batteries, or energy derived from electricity, such as hydrogen from electrolysis.

These four have the largest impact on the environment, and they consume most of the world's energy. Other critical machines like airplanes use a lot of fuel, but there are relatively few of them, so they consume only a small percent of the world supply. The issue is complicated by some machines like blast furnaces and railroad locomotives, because some use electricity and some burn fossil fuel directly.


Machines like televisions, telephones, computers and x-ray machines use little energy. Cold fusion may improve their portability and reliability, but this will contribute little to conservation. The Energy Star computer standards have made laudable contributions to conservation, but things like electric motors and lighting consume much more energy than computers.


Electric motors consume 50% of electricity. Lighting consumes 20% directly, and another 5% in air conditioning to remove waste heat from the light fixtures.13

The fourth "machine" on the list is the farm. Few people think of a field of lettuce as a solar energy powered production line, but that is one way to look at it. (Clarke described it that way years ago; he thought of everything.)


A farm is an outdoor factory, like an oil refinery. Putting a farm outdoors has one big advantage: free energy, the light and heat from the sun.


Unfortunately, it has many disadvantages. You get too much light and heat, or not enough. Things go catastrophically wrong. Insects and rodents eat the food. Crops must compete with weeds, and fight bacteria. Floods wash away seeds and fertilizer, and cause mildew. Farms suffer from droughts. Crops are reduced when it does not freeze hard enough in the winter, or wiped out when it freezes too late in the spring...


With cold fusion, we can eliminate these problems by bringing food production inside. This will save an immense amount of land, it will reduce water pollution, and it will let us grow unlimited amounts of cheap, organic, wholesome, natural, clean, fresh food. This will be one of the biggest bonuses of cold fusion. It is discussed in detail below.

Cold fusion is ideal for heating and electric power generation. It might provide both from a cogenerator.


In summer, you would let 70% or 80% of the heat go into the atmosphere, wasted, as you do today with your automobile.

Takes Getting Used To

Martin Fleischmann once said that cold fusion is like an old bicycle: you have to get used to it before you can believe it.


The ramifications of cold fusion also take time to sink in. It is surprising how many experts overlook them at first. I have discussed cold fusion with petroleum experts several times. They begin by saying that it will not matter in the long run if the market for oil fuel dwindles away, because oil has many other uses as an industrial raw material for things like plastic.


At present, 19% of oil is used in non-energy applications, but experts say that the market will grow in the future.

Clarke has said that in the future oil will be too valuable to burn. Hal Puthoff said that in a meeting, the presidents of Pennzoil, Texaco, Marathon, Coastal, and other oil companies told him they would welcome zero-cost energy.


He paraphrased them:

"When we take our precious resource out of the ground to make nylons, plastics, drugs, etc., we don't use up much and we have a large profit margin. When we take it out of the ground to power automobiles and heat people's homes, it's like heating your home by burning van Goghs and Picassos. Please take this burden off our industry. And, by the way, let us buy some to make our refineries more efficient."

With all due respect, I think they were kidding him.


I cannot believe these executives would be so sanguine at the prospect of losing 81% of their business. They get the same amount of money per barrel whether people burn the stuff or make nylon out of it. Why should they care what the customer does? In any case, I think they are wrong. They will lose 100% of their market. Oil will be worth nothing.


I have asked experts:

"Could you synthesize oil from raw materials? If I gave you carbon and water, could you make any hydrocarbon petrochemical you like?"

They say yes, but it would take fantastic amounts of energy.


It would be the most uneconomical chemical plant on earth. It does not occur to them, at first, that this would not be the case if energy costs nothing. I believe it will eventually be safer, more convenient and cheaper to synthesize petrochemicals at the plastics factory where they are needed, rather than digging them out of the ground and transporting them over great distances.

As engineers find novel ways to use zero-cost energy they will soon come up with machines which it would be crazy to manufacture today. When a core technology changes or drops in price, it blossoms unpredictably. When computers became cheap in the 1980s, they were used in toys, fuel injection controllers, spreadsheets, word processors, e-mail, video cameras, and thousands of other ways nobody imagined earlier. It would have been absurd to develop such things for mainframe or minicomputers.


Only a millionaire could have run a computer game on a mainframe computer.


The New Imitates the Old at First...

The first automobiles looked like horseless carriages.


The first cold fusion powered automobiles will look like today's models. They will have the same kind of body, tires, controls and electronics. Years ago, automobiles came in many different shapes and sizes. Because of safety regulations and aerodynamics, they all look about the same now. The cold fusion car will look the same externally. Under the hood it will have a smaller engine that develops more power.


There will be no exhaust pipe or muffler, no pollution controls, no gas tank or fuel gauge. A car will come with a permanent supply of fuel built in: a cupful of water. This water may have to be changed out annually to reduce contamination. Or it may last for years, like the acid in an automobile battery. During the lifetime of the car, only a tiny fraction of the water will be used up.


The rest will be disposed of when the car engine is scrapped. Although heavy water is toxic when drunk in large quantities, when it is mixed with ordinary water it rapidly disperses to its natural concentration (1 part in 6000). It is hygroscopic. When exposed to air it absorbs ordinary water and gradually returns to the natural concentration.

The first cold fusion generators will also look like today's models.


The designer will take out the coal-fired boiler, put in a cold fusion heated boiler, and leave the steam turbine and other components unchanged as much as possible. Engineers prefer tried-and-true designs; they only innovate when they have to. Space heaters will attach to the same hot air ducts or radiators. They will be subject to the same safety and installation laws. Electric generators will be connected to the fuse box where the power company line now comes.

New technology often starts out as a one-for-one replacement for the old.


New materials are sometimes literally interwoven with the old, like the iron in 19th century wooden ships:

Early practice was to have an iron part similar to every wooden part... Many shipowners were prejudiced against iron, and so before it could be fully adopted there was an interim phase of the composite ship, in which iron framing and tie plates were used with wood planking and decking...14

New technology often starts out imitating older forms, even when it would work better if it did not.


Early Chinese clay pots were modeled to look like woven baskets. The first plastic household objects and furniture were made to look like wood, wicker, and other traditional materials. In the 1960s plastic chairs began to look like plastic. Years ago I saw a demonstration of a word processor designed to look like a typewriter.


New text appeared only on the bottom line of the screen, the cursor did not move around. To change a line you had to "roll" the text down, like an imaginary sheet of paper. With great ingenuity, the limitations of the old technology were imposed on the new. The salesman explained that this would make secretaries feel at home with the machine.


Electric power plant control rooms have unnecessarily large controls built like old-fashioned J-handle ("pistol-grip") switches to press small electric contacts. In older plants these controls had to be large because they were mechanically connected to the equipment they actuated.


An official study concluded that this was one of the contributing factors to the Three Mile Island accident.

"Valuable control space is wasted ­ and other controls are put out of the operators' reach ­ by the failure to scale down control size."15

New technology can cause social change, or it can prop up obsolescent technology and social customs.


Antebellum slavery in the U.S. was declining until Eli Whitney introduced the cotton gin, making cotton more competitive with other fibers. Many observers feel that modern Japanese orthography is too difficult for the average reader.16


For a while it appeared to be in decline. People forget how to write the more complex characters. They substitute syllabary (kana) instead. Young people watch television and read comic books with simplified writing, instead of reading novels and newspapers. But the boom in low cost word processors has turned the situation around, at least temporarily.


People's ability to write characters by hand is probably at an all-time postwar low, but everyone can churn them out with word processors that are as cheap as electronic typewriters in the U.S. The machines are so addictive some people write grocery lists with them.

With cold fusion, people will try to prolong the life of obsolescent machines. They may succeed in some cases. Sailing ships achieved a final, short-lived heyday in the 1860s, forty years after the first steamship crossed the Atlantic. This success was due to improved marine engineering and to the use of steam tugboats, which allowed large, unwieldy wooden sailing ships to dock, maneuver in tight channels, and reach the open sea before setting sail.


Steam engines first prolonged the age of sail, then slowly brought it to an end. People will try to prop up the electric power companies with cold fusion, by developing large, central power generators with cold fusion in place of coal or fission.


In the long run they will fail, for five reasons:

  1. Large, central generators are good because they are fuel efficient. Over the life of the equipment, the fuel costs more than the machinery. With cold fusion the fuel cost will be zero with any generator, of any size or efficiency. There are no economies of scale.

  2. The power companies have to pay for transmission grid: the network of high tension power lines, poles, transformers, the computer monitoring. This cost will be eliminated with decentralized generators.

  3. Central generators are complex, dangerous machines, because they are optimized to be efficient. Home generators will be optimized to be maintenance free instead. They will trade off efficiency (which will no longer matter) for low maintenance.

  4. Central generators are maintained by experts to keep pollution at a minimum. This will not be an issue with cold fusion.

  5. The equipment cost of central generators is cheaper per capita. With central generating, you share capacity, and you only use it when you need it. Large factories use electricity at night at lower rates, when extra capacity is available. This is true, but it will be irrelevant to the consumer. The economics will change, making it cheaper for a homeowner to purchase all of the generating capacity he needs, rather than sharing equipment.

Let us look closer at some of these points.


A hurricane can cause millions of dollars in damage to the power distribution network, and black out whole cities for days. Skilled crews of highly paid workers maintain the network and repair damage. Eight percent of electricity is lost in transmission across the network.17


With cold fusion there will be no network to maintain, and no economic losses from massive power failures. Individual generators will break occasionally, as do refrigerators, water heaters and furnaces today.

Electric generators are complex, dangerous machines that require constant attention by experts, and frequent scheduled maintenance. Power company engineers say that an ordinary person could not maintain such a complicated machine in his basement. This is like saying that a person could never manage an IBM 360 mainframe computer in his den. A personal computer is nothing like a 1965 mainframe.


Home generators will not be scaled-down power plants. They will be based on simpler designs. They will be fully automatic and maintenance-free for long periods of time. Eventually, they will have no moving parts, like the thermoelectric generators used in spacecraft, which work reliably for decades without maintenance. Central generators will also evolve into maintenance free machines, but they will lag, just as mainframe computers have never been as easy to use and maintain as small computers.

Central generators must be kept at peak performance and closely monitored to reduce air pollution to the lowest possible level.


A million distributed gas or oil cogenerators would be the responsibility of a million householders. People would neglect them, just as they neglect automobiles. The cogenerators would produce more pollution than a central generator generating an equivalent amount of electricity. But a cold fusion generator will produce no pollution, no matter how much the homeowner neglects it.

Central power generators are cheaper per capita.


It would cost thousands of dollars to install enough generating capacity in your house to meet peak demands. With central generating, you share capacity. Large customers use electricity at night at lower rates. With individual generators, every house, shopping mall, and factory would waste most generator capacity most hours of the day. This is true but irrelevant to the consumer.


We waste the unused capacity of our automobiles when we leave them parked most hours of the day.


We could take a train or taxicab instead, which would conserve equipment, but it would waste our time, which is more valuable. The homeowner will find it more economical to purchase generating equipment and leave it idle most of the day, rather than renting a smaller share of a central generator.


There are two reasons:

  1. As noted above, you do not have to pay for your share of the power distribution network when the entire generator fits in your house.

  2. A homeowner can take advantage of the new technology and begin pocketing the savings immediately; the power company cannot.

Homeowners will leapfrog the power companies because they do not have an installed base of equipment.


Assume a cold fusion co-generator costs the same as a gas-fired one: $8,500.18 Assume it lasts 15 years and saves $200 per month on average, offsetting both gas and electric bills. It would pay for itself in three and half years, and save an additional $27,500 before it wears out. That is $1800 per year over the life of the machine, a 22% return on investment. (It is 28% if you factor in the money you would have to spend for a furnace anyway.)


The power company cannot offer you the same savings because it cannot scrap its installed base of equipment overnight. Massive power generators take years to plan, approve, and install. A household appliance can be replaced in a week, on a whim. The decision is made by a homeowner without hearings or committees.

Electric companies have survived with large scale equipment, planning, overhead, complexity, and the burden of paying expert management because these things serve useful purposes. They enhance efficiency and reliability, and reduce pollution. They reduce cost.


These advantages will disappear with cold fusion.


Revolutionary Products

Automobiles and electric generators will come first. Other machines will soon take advantage of unlimited energy.


Many could be made today but they would not be economically practical. Others would be impossible. Here are some of my favorite possibilities. Many are borrowed from Clarke's Profiles of the Future. Some of these will require breakthroughs in other areas, like thermoelectric chips and spacecraft propulsion.


Cold fusion will act as a spur to these breakthroughs.


It will enable rapid development of these other machines, the way steam locomotives spurred the development of air brakes.

...Portable computers, telephone repeaters, cellular phones, aircraft black box recorders and other electronic devices that operate continuously for decades without recharging, with thermoelectric batteries.

…New forms of aircraft with much larger payloads. These might be hovercraft, vertical take off and landing (VTOL) airplanes, or possibly airships (zeppelins). Airplanes and helicopters will have unlimited range. Spacecraft will carry larger payloads, but range will still be limited by the need to carry propellant.

…Small, pilotless, propeller driven drone aircraft that fly thousands of meters high and circle around a small area, staying in same position for months. They will carry TV, radio and telephone repeaters, like geostationary satellites. They will cover less area than satellites. This might be an advantage for cellular telephone applications. They could be used far north or south of the equator, or even over the North Pole. In northern Canada and Alaska geostationary satellites are too low on the horizon for good reception.

…Cold fusion transport will culminate with the invention of the ultimate liberation machine: a cost effective, reusable space rocket that will allow us to fly to the Moon as cheaply as we fly from New York to Tokyo today.

…Powerful new digging engines will take advantage of the improved power density and portability, and the ability to operate without oxygen. Another invention may be perfected: the thin film diamond coated cutting blade. Together they would make vast underground construction easier and cheaper on earth and, later, on the moon.

…Food factories, described below.

…Improved, low-cost desalinization and distillation of water will make the deserts of the world bloom, transforming the Sahara and the Gobi into forest or productive farmland competing with the food factories.

...Improved extraction of metals from ore. Clarke points out that in conjunction with large scale desalination projects, we might extract useful elements from sea water.19 He notes that a cubic mile of seawater (4 billion tons) contains 30 million tons of elements other than water, including 18 million tons of magnesium and 20 tons of gold.

Unfortunately, there are many potential military applications for cold fusion, which are discussed below.

...Medical applications include a cold fusion powered pacemaker that lasts for decades. Self powered prosthetic limbs and devices to assist muscles weakened by disease might become possible. Perhaps, if other problems can be overcome, a sealed, self-powered artificial heart might become possible.


Portable monitors and intravenous pumps will become safer, smaller and more reliable, there will no longer be any fear of battery power running down. Microscopic, implantable monitors might be developed. Toxic chemical compounds can be destroyed by exposing them to high temperatures molten metal in a sealed container, which prevents the harmful emissions of conventional methods.


A "superfund" toxic waste site could be converted into its base elements. This does not solve the problem of toxic elements, like arsenic, but it eliminates compounds made of nontoxic elements, organic chemicals, sewage, and medical waste.


This approach is being pioneered by Molten Metals Technology, Inc., a $313 million company in Massachusetts.20


...Improved recycling of materials, to reduce landfill needs.


Transportation consumes 24% of world energy output, most of it in cars and trucks.


The pace of progress in the development of automobile engines has been slow over the last fifty years. Manufacturers spent years developing diesel engines and rotary engines, only to abandon them later. General Motors spent approximately $300 million developing the rotary engine in the 1970s, but it never sold a single one.21


Cold fusion will not allow a long product development schedule. After people realize it is real, every manufacturer will have to work feverishly to bring fusion trucks and cars to market, or soon face bankruptcy.

There will be a period of experimentation with compact steam turbines, thermoelectric engines, Stirling engines, and a variety of other external combustion style heat engines.

Long distance trucks and railroad trains will be the first important transportation market for cold fusion. Trucks consume thousands of dollars each year on fuel. In a few years, any trucking company that still buys diesel fuel will go out of business.

Cold fusion automobiles will be popular, although there will not be as strong an economic incentive to buy a car as there will be with trucks. In a few years people will consider a gasoline powered car an obsolete, smelly nuisance. As gasoline cars wear out, they will be replaced with cold fusion powered ones.

Cold fusion cars will be large and heavy like expensive U.S. models. There will be no reason to make them lightweight. Consumers prefer heavier cars, because they handle better, they are quieter inside, and safer in an accident. Cold fusion cars will be cheaper to manufacture than gas powered models. They will have simple, steel bodies, which are easier to recycle.


Designers will jettison antipollution devices; expensive lightweight aluminum and plastic body parts; expensive energy efficient oil pumps and air conditioners; and aerodynamic, molded light fixtures that are expensive to replace after an accident. They will dispense with the fuel tank, exhaust and muffler.


They will cancel research to meet miles-per-gallon and pollution control standards.

Cars will be equipped with a solid state thermoelectric air conditioner/heaters, which the driver will leave running when the car is parked. Fusion powered vans will be equipped with energy intensive devices like refrigerators. Cars and vans will have heavy duty alternating current power outlets under the dashboard. People go for that kind of thing.

In California, the antipollution laws will be amended to ban gasoline cars. Atlanta, New York and other large cities will follow. Once a quarter of the cars on the road are fusion powered, gas stations will begin going out of business in droves, because they operate on thin margins. In the oil price shocks of the 1970s, when consumption dropped a few percent, many gasoline stations went out of business. It will become more and more inconvenient to own a gasoline car.


They will soon go out of production, and spare parts will become hard to find.


New Aircraft

The biggest safety threat in an air accident is fire, from burning fuel.


Cold fusion will eliminate this. If a damaged cold fusion aircraft can crash land intact, it will not explode. The biggest performance limitation for an airplane is the distance it can fly on one tank of fuel. On a long distance flight the fuel can weigh as much as the payload. A cold fusion airplane could fly around the world on a cup of heavy water.


The weight of the fuel can be replaced with payload.

Airplanes suffer from two related problems: they carry a small payload and they have to keep moving or they crash. Jumbo jets carry up to 500 people. Boeing is now floating a proposal for a 1,000 passenger airplane. Nobody has seriously considered building anything larger than that. The first ocean liner large enough to comfortably accommodate more than 2,000 passengers was the Great Eastern, launched in 1858.


Conventional airplanes will probably never carry more than 1,000 passengers because of the second limitation: they cannot slow down, or stop and hover in the air. So they need runways, and they must remain kilometers apart in the air for safety.


The bigger the airplane, the longer the runway it needs, and the more stress it puts on the runway and landing gear. An airplane with the capacity of the Great Eastern would require a gigantic runway, longer and wider than we can afford to build near most cities. But, a giant aircraft that can hover does not need a runway. It can land gently, near the terminal. Several tires strike the ground simultaneously, which puts no excessive strain on the concrete or landing gear.


When air traffic is congested, the aircraft can slow down or even stop and wait high above the airport in a fixed position close to other stopped aircraft, like cars waiting at a traffic light. Airplanes waiting to land will not need to orbit in giant circles, with a gap of several miles between them.


This will make the air traffic controller's job easier. So would multiple, decentralized airports and direct landing of freight in factories, shopping malls, and trucking yards. Traffic will no longer come through the bottleneck of one large airport.

Three kinds of large aircraft can hover:

1. A hovercraft, also known as air-cushion vehicle (ACV), or ground-effect machine.
2. An airship; a zeppelin.
3. A vertical takeoff and landing airplane (VTOL), like the Harrier jump jet fighter.

Hovercraft and airships have trouble competing commercially because they are slower than airplanes.


This is a problem on many routes for passengers, but it is not so important for air freight. They are faster and more flexible than ships. Hovercraft are widely used by the military, which likes them because they fly over water, sand, marshes, barbed wire or mine fields with equal ease, a meter or more up in the air. The U.S. Navy has a large fleet of armored hovercraft landing craft.

Gigantic rigid hot-air lift airships are zeppelins that use hot air instead of hydrogen or helium gas. They might use a combination of hot air and helium. Modern designs are described in the book The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed.22,23


Airships could transport thousands of tons of freight or raw materials from continent to continent. A large one might have the capacity of an ocean freighter. It could fly a hundred tanks and soldiers halfway around the world in a few days. It would not require an airport to land, just an open space.


An airship might hover over uneven ground or a strip mine while loading ore.

Unless an anti-gravity machine is possible, airships are likely to remain the quietest form of air transport. Hydrogen-filled airships like the Hindenburg were dangerous, but helium and hot air ships are safe.


Changes to Infrastructure

Pollution free transport and access to massive amounts of energy will gradually change the appearance of our cities, buildings, factories and highways.

In Japan, tracts of level, open land are rare, and small, steep mountains are common. There are many tunnels along highways and railways. With cold fusion powered robot excavating machines, the country will begin to look like Swiss cheese. Eight lane highways might be built underground, four north lanes on the top level, four south lanes below that. The biggest problem will be to dispose of the excavated dirt and rock.


The Japanese do this by filling in the ocean and Tokyo bay. They leveled off small mountains outside Osaka to build the new international airport. Eventually, excavation might get so cheap that factories and warehouses are built underground, and tall buildings have as many floors underground as they do above ground. Large underground shopping malls that seem to stretch for miles are already found around most major urban railway stations in Japan.


Underground construction has a big advantage in Japan. It is impervious to earthquakes. People in the BART subway stations barely felt the 1989 San Francisco earthquake.

Automobile tunnels and underground factories will be easier to engineer because ventilation will no longer be a major problem. Oil burning vehicles will be prohibited from the tunnels because they would asphyxiate passengers, just as a diesel railroad locomotive would in a tunnel designed for electric trains. Oil burning cars will also be prohibited because they are dangerous: they sometimes explode in accidents.


Fusion cars might smolder after a severe accident, but they will not explode.

The tunnels will be shielded from the weather. Driving conditions in them will always be optimum. The roads in them will never have to be torn up to install sewers or power lines, because these will be run in separate, smaller tunnels, closer to the surface. Sensors and cameras will be added to catch speeders, as well as antennae for radio, television and cellular telephones.


Since the tunnels will be protected from weather, and the vehicles will not pollute, the high tech equipment will last longer than it would on old fashioned surface roads. These roads will be well suited to fully automated, self driving, computerized automobiles.

Highway congestion will be relieved by increased use of aircraft. Many of the trucks on the highways are already being replaced with airplanes, with the growth of overnight delivery services. Cold fusion will make air transport much cheaper. As noted above, if VTOL aircraft can be perfected, goods can be shipped directly from factories to grocery stores and shopping malls in VTOL craft, that land in the parking lot or on the roofs of the buildings.

I cannot envision a conventional aircraft or hovercraft capable of landing in an urban neighborhood.


A flying moving van would make too much wind and commotion. For that, we will need something like a silent, antigravity machine ­ if such a thing is possible. Cold fusion powered airplane engines will probably be quieter than conventional engines, but as long as we use jets of air to push aircraft, they will not be suitable for densely populated neighborhoods. In rural and wilderness areas in places like Alaska, private family airplanes are common.


Their use will increase as cold fusion, better air traffic control, and global positioning satellites combine to make them safer and easier to fly.


Military Applications

Cold fusion will play a crucial role in future military technology, even if it can only be used for prosaic items like the motors and electric power supplies used in civilian consumer applications.


Many crucial military technologies originated as ordinary civilian technologies, for example, railroads played a crucial role in the U.S. Civil War and in the First World War.


In Crusade in Europe,24 Eisenhower wrote:

...four other pieces of equipment that most senior officers came to regard as among the most vital to our success in Africa and Europe were the bulldozer, the jeep, the 2fi ton truck, and the C-47 [DC-3] airplane. Curiously, none of these is designed for combat.

Many other civilian technologies played crucial roles in World War II, including high octane gasoline, radio, and penicillin.

High performance cold fusion engines in helicopters, tanks and trucks will change the nature of these weapons. This will extend the operating range indefinitely. If the pilot and copilot could stay awake long enough, a cold fusion-powered helicopter could take off anywhere on earth and fly anywhere else, nonstop. It could fly at top speed, which is about 400 km/hr (250 mph) for today's helicopters.


There is no need for a "cruising speed" to reduce fuel consumption. Ships, tanks, helicopters, and transport aircraft will go for months without refueling, just as fission powered aircraft carriers and submarines do today. One of the biggest headaches in tank warfare is logistics and fuel resupply. The Allied invasion of Europe was stalled in the fall of 1944 partly because of fuel shortages.


The German tank armies were stopped in the Battle of the Bulge when they ran out of gas. Fuel, fuel depots, and transporting fuel were a tremendous logistical headache during the recent Gulf War. A cold fusion-powered tank will run until the treads fall off without refueling. Armored hovercraft tanks would have unlimited range.

Jet and ramjet aircraft will fly at many times the speed of sound for as long as the crew have food and water.


Cold fusion will not give rockets infinite operating range, because rockets must carry propellant. Cold fusion can extend the range of rocket powered space vehicles by lifting them high into the atmosphere with conventional turbine motors. A rocket-plane might leave the atmosphere, cruise through space, and re-enter at will.


With a cold fusion-powered rocket, water might be the best propellant, because it cannot explode. It would be expelled as superheated steam. Today's rockets use explosive chemical fuel, which serves as both fuel and propellant.

At the time of the First World War, capital ships were converted from coal to oil. A ship can be retrofitted with a new type of engine, an airplane cannot, because aircraft design is too closely tied to engine performance. The billions of dollars now being spent to build a new generation of kerosene powered fighter airplanes will be wasted. The machines will be scrapped soon after they are manufactured.


Small cold fusion cruise missiles will have unlimited range and endurance. With Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) navigation, they will take off from any spot on earth and fly anywhere else.


They can search for a target for days, or months. They will weave up and down the landscape, loitering, waiting for a truck, train or convoy to pass, or above the sea waiting for a ship. They might circle around a target indefinitely, waiting to attack on command, or keeping tabs on it, reporting its position back to headquarters.


Pilotless propeller aircraft could also carry cameras for mapping, reconnaissance, and spying. An autonomous cold fusion torpedo will be similar to a cruise missile. You could launch it anywhere. It could cross an ocean and cruise around an enemy coast waiting for a ship to come along, and then attack it.

Another potential use for long range torpedoes is based upon an idea that has been proposed by many scientists including Freeman Dyson.25


They have suggested that a kind of "mechanical limpet mine" or "suckerfish" could be used to keep track of nuclear submarines. These small, robot devices clamp onto the bottoms of passing submarines and continually report their position back to headquarters.


The sailors in the submarine or surface ship might realize the limpet was attached. According to the late Admiral Sir Anthony Griffin, experts in the Royal Navy are trained to dive under ships stopped in mid-ocean and remove such mines.26


In wartime this would be a hazardous undertaking for both the diver and the ship, which would be vulnerable to attack. Cold fusion makes the limpet idea easier to implement, and more effective. It would be difficult to remove one or two such mines; imagine trying to remove a hundred of them with cold fusion power supplies and computers programmed to detect divers and scuttle away from them to a new spot on the hull. The limpet might not need to attach itself. It might swim along next to the hull.

A torpedo-like cold fusion drone submarine might be equipped with spy gear and radios instead of a warhead. In peacetime, it might be programmed to loiter around in international waters outside an enemy submarine port. When a submarine passes by to take up patrol, the drone would tag along after it, getting as close as possible. It would keep tabs on the submarine throughout the entire mission. It would record sounds and signals emanating from the submarine.


A school of drones might follow a submarine, reporting its position, speed, and bearing every ten minutes back to headquarters. One of the problems with the limpet scheme is that you cannot easily broadcast a radio message from underwater. However, if you had a school of a hundred tag along torpedoes, several of them could be assigned to stack up in a column above the submarine, each staying in contact with the one below it.


The top one would dart to the surface every ten minutes to broadcast a report via satellite, and then return to join the school. A hundred drones would cost a lot of money, but nowhere near as much as the manned submarine they are assigned to follow. They would be programmed to cross the ocean and return home for maintenance at regular intervals, in relays.


This constant surveillance would render the submarine useless.


A submarine's only advantage is its ability to hide. Surrounded by drones, it would be as "visible" as any surface ship is to radar and satellite. If the enemy knows precisely where a submarine is, where it is headed, and what the captain said to the first mate a half-hour ago, it might as well be a surface ship or a shore installation under satellite reconnaissance. A nuclear missile submarine is a deterrent only because its location is secret.

If a war seemed imminent, a dozen members of the tag along school might be armed with warheads. When war is declared, they could be ordered to attack the submarine. Armed tag along torpedoes could be assigned to follow every aircraft carrier, cruiser, and other ship in an enemy fleet.


Even if a dozen were assigned to follow one ship, they would still be cheaper to build and maintain than the smallest seagoing manned vessel.


Nuclear Weapons

Most experts say it is unlikely that a cold fusion powered nuclear bomb can be built.


Let us hope they are right.


Cold fusion devices are cheap. If a cold fusion bomb is possible, someone might be able to mass produce thousands of devices the size of shoe boxes, each with the power of the Hiroshima bomb, costing a thousand dollars apiece. They would be undetectable. They might become as common as Stinger Missiles, which are reportedly available in the third world weapons bazaars.


It is cold comfort, but terrorists have never used a Stinger Missile against defenseless civilian aircraft. They have, however, put a powerful bomb in the World Trade Center. If they had acquired a small thermonuclear fusion bomb from the arsenal of the former Soviet Union, the result would have been unthinkable.

Cold fusion appears to be limited to slow, relatively low power reactions, which require an intact metal lattice. Cold fusion is not a chain reaction, like fission. When one hydrogen atom undergoes a cold fusion reaction, it does not directly trigger another atom. It will raise the temperature unless you remove the heat, which can spur the reaction.


There are some indications that if you let a cell overheat, the reaction can quickly increase to high levels until the metal melts. This would destroy the lattice and instantly quench the reaction. It does not seem to be a practical way to make a bomb.

Pons and Fleischmann reported that a meltdown might have occurred. This is not alarming. A practical cold fusion motor or engine could be designed to prevent this from happening. It would have safety devices, radiators, and emergency valves to prevent overheating, just like any other heat engine. Conventional engines can overheat or go out of control.


Automobile engines catch on fire; overheat. Helicopter engines can lose lubricant and explode. Perhaps on rare occasions cold fusion engines will go out of control and perhaps even melt down. Before these engines come into widespread use, it will be necessary to test them by deliberately disabling safety features to find out what happens during a catastrophe.

Although a bomb is not a likely threat, cold fusion can be used to generate tritium, which is dangerous.


Furthermore, it is an essential ingredient for a thermonuclear hydrogen bomb. You cannot make a bomb without tritium, and you cannot make tritium without a massive, expensive reactor. The only U.S. facility capable of making it is the Savannah River Plant, which has been shut down indefinitely. The half-life of tritium is 12.3 years.


If the Savannah River plant is shut down permanently, the U.S. supply of tritium will fall by half every 12.3 years. For a while, old tritium can be scavenged out of decommissioned warheads, which are in oversupply thanks to the arms reductions treaties. Eventually, the natural decline will begin automatically squeezing down the number of warheads, unless a replacement for the Savannah River plant is built.


Some policy makers have welcomed this as a mechanism for automatic scheduled arms reductions. It is difficult to hide a massive tritium reactor facility from satellite reconnaissance. If the Russians, Chinese and others agree to shut down their tritium production, we can be certain they will have to throw away half of their remaining warheads every 12.3 years. Cold fusion may disrupt this automatic arms reduction scheme.


Occasionally, cold fusion reactions generate copious amounts of tritium.


Most create no measurable amounts of tritium at all. Nobody knows why yet. We will have to find out before cold fusion generators and automobiles can be built. Some set of physical laws govern tritium production. Once we understand those laws, or, at least, once we establish reliable empirical means of prediction, it should be possible to ensure tritium-free heat production. Unfortunately, this means it will also be possible to enhance tritium production, although nobody can predict to what extent.


A third world country might be able to construct a small, hidden, cut-rate version of the Savannah River plant.


Food Factories

The main reason people grow food in fields outside is that solar energy is free.


If we can get as much light and heat indoors, at zero cost, we can do much better growing things indoors. Outdoor farms suffer from a long list of problems like drought, floods, erosion, insects, storms, and so on. "Outside" is a terrible place for a production line ­ which is what a row of corn really is. You would not think of producing shoes, potato chips, or computer chips in an open field. It is not a good place to produce food either.


Farmers sometimes lose half of their crops to frost, drought, or insects. In any other industry this would be considered disastrous performance. An auto plant, a computer chip or a potato chip factory that lost half of its annual output because of a late frost would face bankruptcy. Farms are subject to the whims of nature, so we are forced to accept large losses, unpredictability, and overall low efficiency.


Sunlight is the only pollution-free, zero cost source of energy abundant enough to grow food for everyone on earth.

A food factory is a large scale indoor farm. It is like a greenhouse. Experimental food factories already exist. The Yomiuri newspaper reports that hydroponically grown produce is popular in Japan.27


People like it because it is "totally pesticide free."


There are no insects in the factory, so no need for pesticides. Factory grown food is "more natural;" it ought to appeal to people who want organic, pesticide-free diets, once they get over the shock of that idea. During the spring and summer factory grown vegetables are about 50% more expensive than field grown ones, but in winter they are 30 to 40% cheaper.


Food factories make economic sense in Japan, where land prices and strawberries are expensive. They would be even more economically attractive if the electricity was free. In Iceland, food factories are warmed by volcanic hot springs, another zero-cost source of energy, like the sun, or cold fusion. In the Netherlands, flowers worth $1.8 billion per year are grown hydroponically in greenhouses.


Flowers are grown, cut, packaged, auctioned, and air shipped to cities all over the world from a gigantic indoor complex the size of 100 football fields. Rose bushes grow "for four years without touching soil" in water filled with an ideal mixture of fertilizer and plant food. Computers control levels of light and nutrients to meet peak demand on Mother's Day and at other times of the year.28


A company in Massachusetts grows 900,000 striped bass in an aquiculture factory on an acre of land.29 The fish are healthier and better tasting than fish grown in the wild, or in aquiculture ponds. The machines produce a rapid current, forcing the fish to swim vigorously twenty miles per day, which improves the flavor of the meat. The fish grow to market size in nine months, half the time it usually takes.


The water discharged by the factory "exceeds numerous drinking water standards," according to state environmental officials.

The factories double as storage warehouses. The robots in a tomato factory will plant a thousand bushels every week, and vary light and temperature to create artificial growing seasons on each floor. The tomatoes will ripen in stages throughout the year. They will be shipped to stores a few miles from the building. They would not require elaborate packaging or preservation. They will arrive at the stores within hours of peak ripeness.

Food factories can be located near population centers, or possibly beneath large cities. In the distant future, a fully automated food farm might be located directly under a grocery store.


Produce would never be shipped more than a few hundred meters, straight up, and no fruit or vegetable would be less than perfectly vine ripe. Alternatively, it might be more economical to build the factories in out-of-the way locations where land is cheap: deserts, inaccessible mountain ranges, or the moon. Perhaps robot driven VTOL aircraft and spacecraft will ship garbage from cities to the food factories, and bring back produce.

Food factories are not biotechnological factories. They are not the factories depicted in science fiction, which take in garbage and synthesize food hours later.


In a food factory, food is grown from seeds and livestock, like a conventional farm. The production line throughput is one to six months. Factories producing automobiles and consumer goods generally move products from start to finish in days or weeks, so they require less floor space than food factories. Food factories have large inventories and slow production lines. We have always had some kinds of food factories, including breweries and cheese factories.


Some take months to produce a batch of goods.


Some take years.


Food Factories and Famine

A few thousand large food factories in the third world would stabilize supplies and banish the threat of famine.


The factories would not need enough capacity to feed the entire population. They would stop incipient famines by stabilizing supplies. Most famines are not caused by the weather or by natural disasters, because these are limited in geographic scope. In an organized society, relief supplies can always be shipped in. Famine is caused by economics, politics, war, or poor government planning.


Famines are triggered when a bad harvest or a war disrupts the food supply. People panic, and hoard food. Prices shoot up, and the famine begins. Sometimes, as people starve, unsold food rots in warehouses. It is too expensive for poor people. Chaos disrupts transportation. If the people can be assured that adequate emergency supplies exist in food factories, panic will not set in, prices will remain stable, and famine will be averted.

A million large food factories in the third world would bankrupt the third-world farmers, causing widespread social disruption.


It would reduce U.S. exports of food, hurting our balance of payments. Once the factories are developed, I cannot imagine why they would not become increasingly cheap, gradually supplanting outdoor farms and disrupting agricultural employment worldwide.


No human can work as cheaply as a robot.

Food Factories in the Future

Food factories will eventually make farms obsolete.


They take up a fraction of the land of farms they replace, because crops in them can be grown in shelves one or two meters apart. Suppose a food factory covers 100 hectares (250 acres), like a shopping mall or a large office park. It is 25 stories high (80 meters), and grows vegetables on 40 layers of shelves two meters apart.


That gives it about as much growing area as a 4,000 hectare farm. There is no winter in the building, and according to the Yomiuri article, it takes about a month to grow a head of lettuce, roughly half the time needed by field-grown lettuce, so the growing season is at least four times longer than a regular farm. There are no insects in the building, no deer, few rodents, no weeds, drought, or floods, and there is always the right amount of light and fertilizer, so little food is lost to spoilage. Automation is much easier.


There are no rocks, hills or irregular areas, so robots can process the crops. Robots cannot work in the hills of Pennsylvania or the paddies of Japan. Overall, the 100 hectare facility is at least as efficient as a 16,000 hectare (40,000 acre) farm.

The total land area of the U.S. is ~917 million hectares. Forty seven percent, ~430 million hectares, are used for agriculture, including ~161 million hectares for crops.30 The other 269 million hectares are used for livestock, including arid land not suitable for crops.


Roughly a quarter of U.S. food is exported. Someday this agricultural land might be crammed into an area thousands of times smaller in giant complexes of buildings hundreds of stories high nestled in the Rocky Mountains, on the moon, or in some other location where land is cheap. Or, you could cover the five boroughs of New York City (800 square kilometers; 80,000 hectares) with buildings as tall as the World Trade Center towers (411 meters), which would produce as much food as ~66 million hectares of crop land, enough to feed about half the U.S. population.

As old fashioned two dimensional outdoor farms become obsolete, a tremendous amount of land will be freed up. It will be used for houses, or reforested and returned to nature. Agriculture is the most destructive industry on earth. It causes deforestation and erosion. It depends on pesticides and fertilizer.


Monocultured crops reduce genetic diversity. The sooner farms are replaced by compact enclosed factories, the better it will be for the ecology.

People may object to food factories, regarding them as dehumanized or unnatural. Farms and greenhouses look unnatural to me, but they are inviting places. It will be spring year-round in part of the food factory, with blossoms, honeybees, and bright artificial sunlight. Food factories in the far north will do a lively business during the winter hosting people hungry for a touch of spring, summer or fall, or all three the same afternoon.


Acres of grass and trees might be set aside as a park, with artificial brooks and real fish.

In the distant future, indoor farms may be supplanted by food synthesizers. This will require new discoveries and new biotechnology.


Cold fusion is likely to come into widespread industrial use long before these technologies can be applied radically, or traditional agriculture done away with altogether.


The Dangers of Cold Fusion

There are legitimate concerns about the dangers of cold fusion.


They fall into two categories: radiation, and long term environmental threats from the irresponsible use of cheap energy.

Some scientists believe that cold fusion is not fusion per se, it is zero-point energy, or shrinking hydrogen atom "super-chemistry," or some other exotic phenomenon. Even if one of these hypotheses turns out to be correct, there is no denying that cold fusion includes a nuclear component. Cold fusion produces helium and transmutes cathode metals. Occasionally it produces tritium.


Autoradiographs show that some used cathodes are radioactive. Perhaps these nuclear transmutations are a side-effect of zero point energy, or perhaps the "conventional" cold fusion nuclear theories are correct and the transmutations are the sole source of energy.


Either way, nuclear reactions and radiation are inherently dangerous, and must be treated with respect. It would be foolish to treat a cold fusion cell like a solar cell or some other source of energy with no possible side effects.


A cold fusion engine will not be as dangerous as an internal combustion engine, which requires explosive fuel and produces deadly carbon monoxide. But it may require some shielding, and possibly a radiation alarm that could trigger an emergency cutoff switch - unless the process could be tuned and certified not to produce ionizing radiation.


A fully developed theory to explain the cold fusion reaction might give us pinpoint control, and it would give us increased confidence that cold fusion motors cannot produce large, uncontrolled bursts of radiation under any circumstances.

Some people fear there may be a hidden, long term threat to the health of people who work in close proximity to cold fusion reactors. So far, nobody has detected dangerous levels of x-rays or other emissions from a cold fusion cell.


The autoradiographs prove that cold fusion does produce low levels of radioactivity, but the levels are so low that scientists have difficulty detecting them with sensitive instruments. Compared to the radiation from televisions and the natural background of radiation from space, radon and other sources, cold fusion radiation seems likely to remain so low as to be nearly undetectable.


Still, cold fusion might conceivably produce some unknown form of radiation or some other deleterious effect. We will have to make sure this is not the case, by exposing rats and other laboratory animals to unshielded cold fusion reactors, and by carefully monitoring the health of the first group of people who work with the reactors every day.

When cold fusion was announced in 1989, A. Lovins, J. Rifkin and others said they hoped it is not real because mankind would do great harm with such a powerful tool.31

People compare cold fusion to giving a baby a machine gun. I do not understand this logic. We can easily destroy the earth with the technology we already have. We do not need cold fusion, nuclear bombs or any advanced technology. We are using fire, our oldest technology, to destroy the rain forests. The ancient Chinese, Greeks and Romans deforested large areas and turned productive crop land into desert.


The destructive side effects of technology in 2000 BC were as bad as they are today.

Cold fusion could become a powerful force for evil. Used unwisely, or with malice, it could exacerbate social problems ranging from boom boxes to unemployment and environmental destruction. But that is true of every technology. Unless it can be used to make cheap nuclear bombs, cold fusion will not threaten our future any more than fire or automobiles already do.


If people act irresponsibly, and laws are not established to protect the ecosystem, we will end up destroying the earth no matter what tools we use. Our only hope is that people will act wisely, and they will treasure and protect nature. That job will be far easier with nonpolluting cold fusion.


We can use this wonderful new tool to eliminate pollution and clean up the earth if we choose to, or we can destroy everything with it. It is up to us. Our destiny has always been up to us.



1. A. C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future, (Bantam, 1972) p.144

2. R. Levine, "Sun," Microsoft Encarta, 1996 edition; 3.8x1033 ergs/sec
3. Hydrogen Program Plan FY 1993 - FY 1997, US Department of Energy, NREL, June 1992, Appendix A
4. An internal combustion engine can be combined with a generator and battery to solve this problem. This is how diesel - electric railroad locomotive works. This also allows effective regenerative braking. An experimental automobile works on similar principles. See: A. Pollack, "Toyota to Sell Hybrid-Power Car in Japan," New York Times March 26, 1997"
5. Interview with NASA scientist, National Public Radio, november 23, 1996
6. Private communication, R. Machachek, Product Manager - Heavy Water, Ontario Hydro
7. Refinery use and loss account for 11 million barrels per day out of 59 million total production. See: G. Davis, "Energy for Planet Earth," Scientific American, September 1990, p. 59
8. G. Davis, ibid.
9. R. Stobaugh, D. Yergin, "Energy Supply, World," Microsoft Encarta, 1996 Edition
10. Sources: R. Petrasso, Nature, 350, (1991), 661; private communication R. Heeter, PPPL, and B. Merriman, UCSD
11. A. C. Clarke, ibid, p. 1555
12. E. Storms, "How to Produce the Pons-Fleischmann Effect," Fusion Technology, March 1996
13. A. Fickett, "Efficient Use of Electricity," Scientific American, September 1990, p. 66, citing and EPRI study
14. W. Baker, "The Hull," The Lore of Ships, (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963) p. 19
15. D. Ford, Three Mile Island, (Penguin Books, 1982), p. 115
16. J. M. Unger, The Fifth Generation Fallacy, (Oxford University Press, 1987)
17. Hydrogen Program Plan FY 1993 - FY 1997, US Department of Energy, NREL, June 1992, Appendix A
18. Price quote from Inelligen Energy Systems, Inc., 98 South Street, Hopkinton MA 01748
19. A. C. Clarke, ibid, p. 148-149
20. Http:// S. Florman, Blaming Technology, (St. Martin's Press, 1981), p. 15
21. S. Florman, Blaming Technology, (St. Martin's Press, 1981), p. 15
22. J. McPhee, The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed, (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1981), originally published in the New Yorker Magazine, 1980
23. E. L. Andrews, "60 Years After Disaster, A Zeppelin is Set to Fly," New York Times, April 22, 1997
24. D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, Doubleday & Co., 1948, p. 164
25. F. Dyson, Weapons and Hope, (Harper and Row, 1984), p. 47
26. Private communication, 1993
27. "Shokubutsu koujousan no yasai ga ninki," ("Food factory-grown vegetables are popular"), Yomiuri Shimbun, January 16, 1994
28. R. B. Woodward, "Business is Blooming," New York Times magazine, May 9, 1993
29. H. B. Herring, "900,000 Striped Bass, and Not a Fishing Pole in Sight," New York Times, November 6, 1994
30. "Agriculture," Microsoft Encarta, 1996 edition
31. E. Mallove, Fire from Ice, (Wiley, 1991), p. 86








Part 2

A Look at Economics and Society
originally Published March-June, 1997

in Infinite Energy Magazine Issue #13-#14

...about two or three years back, I did a first assessment of what the first successful device would be worth and it came out at about 300 trillion dollars.
Martin Fleischmann, Interview, Infinite Energy , Issue #11, p. 10.

(view the article here.)



For the expanding dynamic economy of America, the sky is indeed the limit. Now more than ever we must have confidence in America's capacity to grow. Guided by electronics, powered by atomic energy, geared to the smooth, effortless workings of automation, the magic carpet of our free economy heads for distant and undreamed horizons. Just going along for the ride will be the biggest thrill on earth!
"Calling All Jobs," National Association of Manufacturers, New York, October 1957, p. 21.



Considerable injury has been done to the proprietors of the improved frames. These machines were to them an advantage, inasmuch as they superseded the necessity of employing a number of workmen, who were left in consequence to starve. By the adoption of one species of frame in particular, one man performed the work of many, and the superfluous labourers were thrown out of employment...


The rejected workmen, in the blindness of their ignorance, instead of rejoicing at these improvements in arts so beneficial to mankind, conceived themselves to be sacrificed to improvements in mechanism.


In the foolishness of their hearts they imagined that the maintenance and well-doing of the industrious poor were objects of greater consequence than the enrichment of a few individuals by an improvement, in the implements of trade, which threw the workmen out of employment, and rendered the labourer unworthy of his hire.
George Gordon, Lord Byron, describes the Luddites during the Debate on the Framework Bill in the House of Lords, February 27, 1812

In Part 1 (above), I described some of the gee-whiz technology we can look forward to with cold fusion.


In this issue, I would like to consider more nebulous questions. How will this affect society and the economy? Will it cause an economic boom, or massive unemployment? I think it could go either way. The outcome will depend on policies shaped by business leaders, politicians, and voters. Cold fusion may cause more unemployment than any previous labor-saving invention. It will eliminate jobs in energy, the biggest industry in the world.


I fear that cold fusion will cause social disruption, because people are better at inventing new machines than they are at devising new social institutions.


A Gold Mine

Energy is the biggest industry on earth. It is the most valuable commodity: everyone needs it, every industry, vehicle, and building consumes it.


People are mesmerized by the gigantic profit potential of cold fusion. Martin Fleischmann may have set a new record here when he estimated the value of a successful cold fusion device at "about 300 trillion dollars" over an unspecified period. I presume this is based on the cost of the fossil fuel we will consume if we do not adapt cold fusion.


I disagree with his estimate. In spite of today's gigantic energy industries, in the long run I do not think cold fusion will earn much money, certainly not trillions of dollars.


The individual scientists, engineers and venture capitalists who perfect the technology may become wealthy, but corporations devoted to cold fusion will never play a large role in the economy the way oil and coal companies do today. Instead, I predict the energy sector will wither away. The total market value of energy per annum worldwide in the next century will be zero.


Visionaries like Haldane, Von Neumann and Clarke are often ridiculed for predicting that nuclear power would become "too cheap to meter," but in the long run they will be vindicated.2

In forty years when the changeover is complete and the Hoover dam is shut down, nobody will buy or sell energy.


People will generate as much as they need, when and where they need it. You cannot charge a customer for something he makes himself with his own machine. There is no practical way to meter use or collect revenue. It would be like trying to charge a person every time he watches a video tape of his family vacation.


You can only collect money for cold fusion once, when you sell the machine. At first, manufacturers will sell cold fusion powered machines at a premium, but competition will soon push down the price. Eventually, cold fusion automobiles, refrigerators, furnaces and other equipment will cost no more than today's fossil fuel models. Cold fusion will be a gold mine, but only for consumers, not manufacturers. Nobody will earn $300 trillion selling cold fusion energy.


The $300 trillion which would otherwise have been spent on fuel will be spent on a broad range of things instead, from consumer goods, to gambling, education, and the military.


Perhaps it will not be spent on anything, and the world economy will shrink by $300 trillion.


First a Toy, Then a Luxury, Then a Necessity

Successful technology goes through four stages.


When first introduced, it is a high-tech toy for hobbyists and people who enjoy playing with frivolous, novel, unpredictable, unstable, and generally useless gadgets, like the automobile circa 1900 or the personal computer in 1977. The first personal computers came without disks or even video monitors in some cases.


The first automobiles were toys for wealthy young men with a talent for roadside repair. In stage two the machine becomes a luxury item. It is still inordinately expensive, but more reliable. It no longer takes an expert to operate. It has many advantages over the older technology. By 1905, automobiles could be operated by untrained people. They were faster than horses, reasonably comfortable to ride in, and weather-proof. In the third stage the machine is perfected, mass produced, and made safe and idiot-proof. It becomes a necessity to most people.


The automobile entered this stage on August 12, 1908 when Ford introduced the Model T for $850.3


Personal computers gradually entered it in the late 1980s. Finally, in stage four, the cost of the machine falls dramatically and it becomes so reliable that it replaces the older technology. The U.S. horse population peaked in 1929 and declined rapidly after that.4 Sometime around 1992, computers spread to every business.


Manual bookkeeping with handwritten ledgers became a lost art. As a machine passes these stages, social attitudes toward it change in predicable ways. In the beginning people attack it as elitist or belittle it as impractical. ("Get a horse!")


Later, they cannot imagine how they lived without it.5

It takes people a long time to realize that a revolution is underway, even when they read about it in the newspapers. Automobiles commanded a lot of attention at the turn of the century. They were a symbol of the future.


The Houston Post showed the baby new year "1900" riding in on one. But they did not touch the lives of ordinary people. Many people had never seen one. An automobile was the star attraction at a fair in Emporia, Kansas in 1899. By 1900 there were approximately 8,000 in the United States, including a hundred taxies in New York City.6


The voluminous 1908 issue of the Sears, Roebuck Catalog has 59 pages devoted to buggies, wagons, harness and veterinary supplies for horses, but it lists only a few small items for automobiles, including men's driving gloves, a recommended grade of oil, and a do-it-yourself handbook advertised as,

"A Complete Encyclopedia of the Construction, Operation and Management of Gas Engines, Gasoline Engines, Automobiles, Farm Engines and Traction Engines, Together with Complete Questions and Answers."7

Buggy makers did not worry about the competition. When the Apple, Northstar and Radio Shack microcomputers went on sale in the late 1970s, they were more obscure than the early automobiles.


Few people realized how important they would soon become.

Not only does technology evolve into a necessity, it sometimes falls in price until it becomes virtually free. People accuse me of utopianism when I say that the cost of energy will fall to zero, but it has been falling steadily ever since Newcomen invented the steam engine in 1711. It would asymptotically approach zero even without the development of cold fusion.


Even the cost of non-renewable energy has been falling, in defiance of many predictions since the beginning of the oil age. In real dollars the price of gasoline in the U.S. has declined from $1.60 per gallon in 1947 to about $1.10 today, with one short price spurt that ended abruptly in the early 1980s with the collapse of OPEC.8


Many other goods that were expensive luxuries not long ago now cost little, including fresh vegetables in winter, pearls, automobile tires, computer memory, and ice. In northern states, people used to cut ice from frozen ponds in winter. They stored it under sawdust to be used in summer or transported south by ships, where it was a valuable commodity. In cities, icemen delivered it in blocks to housewives, who preserved food in iceboxes.


Mechanical refrigeration was invented in 1834 and became practical in 1881. Ice was manufactured in large, central factories in cities, and delivered to houses with horse drawn wagons. General Electric introduced the first refrigerators for home use in 1920. They were luxury items, costing $600. (Twice as much as a Model T Ford, which was down to $290 by this time.)


Ten thousand refrigerators were sold in 1920, 75,000 in 1925. Freon replaced ammonia in 1931, making refrigerators safer and cheaper. By 1937 sales reached $3 million, and the iceman was out of business.9


The last holdout customers were forced to buy refrigerators. When the last gas station in your neighborhood closes down, holdouts will be forced to buy a cold fusion car. When the power company goes bankrupt, they will have to buy home generators.

In the summer of 1842 an enterprising merchant could send a sailing ship full of New England pond ice to Savannah, Georgia or Florida and sell it at a handsome profit. A schooner carrying ice bound for Florida was wrecked. Dr. John Gorrie needed that ice desperately, to stave off the heat in the sickroom where his wife was convalescing.


He invented an ammonia ice-making machine, one of the first primitive refrigerators in the U.S. If you had told an ice merchant that in a hundred years people in Florida will make as much ice as they want with their own miniature Gorrie machines, the merchant would not have said, "someone will earn a hundred million selling all that ice!" He would understand that when that happens, the bottom will drop out of the market and ice will be worth nothing.


Projecting a $300 trillion future value on cold fusion is like using the cost of 1842 pond ice to extrapolate what we pay to make ice in our kitchens, with our own refrigerators.10

Today Exxon earns $132 billion per year selling oil. When cold fusion replaces oil, a tiny fraction of those billions of dollars may be diverted into the pockets of people who invented cold fusion, assuming they are clever enough to secure a patent. The dollars will not be earned by the companies which manufacture cold fusion machines like Toyota, Hitachi, Ford, or General Electric.


Today these companies manufacture gasoline engines for automobiles and electric motors for appliances.


Someday they will equip all types of machines with cold fusion engines instead, but they will not earn more profit. In the long run, competition ensures that a manufacturer can only make a moderate profit above the cost of materials and labor, and these costs will be the same (or less) than they are with today's motors. Cold fusion motors will not require particularly expensive materials, difficult manufacturing techniques, or close tolerances.


Even a palladium-based cold fusion engine may not cost much. It might require roughly as much thin film palladium as you find in the catalytic converter. When cold fusion automobiles are first introduced, they will be sold at a premium. The first companies to sell them will make a windfall profit. Then competition will drive the price down, and cold fusion will become the standard.


It will be an invisible item included in the base price, along with windshield wipers, electric head lights, and cabin heating. (These three were optional, extra cost features when they were first introduced.)


No Monopoly or Broad Patent Likely

I do not think that cold fusion will concentrate wealth or make one industry rich.


I doubt that any one manufacturer will be able to monopolize the market for cold fusion, or dominate it the way IBM once dominated the computer business. One inventor will not patent a device that all manufacturers will be forced to license.


This is unlikely for three reasons:

  1. Many varieties of cold fusion have already been observed, with palladium and nickel. A patent that covers all of them would have to be very broad, which would leave it open to challenges.

  2. Many different implementations will be developed. It does not seem likely that one will be so superior that it will capture the whole market. Specialized, patented forms of cold fusion may dominate certain high performance niche applications, for things like pacemakers or aerospace engines. But if an inventor tries to monopolize a larger market, like space heating or automobile engines, and he charges too much or refuses to broadly license the technology, manufacturers will circumvent the patent. They will find alternative methods that are good enough to do the job. This has been common practice since James Watt devised the sun-and-planet steam engine gear to circumvent a patent for a crank.11

  3. The technology will change rapidly in the early years. The first machines will soon look as quaint as early airplanes and personal computers. Most patents will be obsolete before they are granted.

Cold fusion may be obsolete already.


Other excess energy devices have been reported, like the Correa and Griggs machines, and various over-unity magnetic motors. Unlike cold fusion, they have not been independently replicated, so we cannot be absolutely sure they exist. If they are real then the money being poured into legal battles to patent cold fusion is a total waste.


Companies spending money on these battles ought to be anxious to verify the competing claims.


They belittle and ignore the claims instead, as if that will make them go away.


Increased Energy Use in Industry, Not Consumer Markets

No single company or group of companies will collect the billions that Exxon now earns.


With the money they save on gasoline, consumers may buy new carpets, education, or a vacation in Rio. The money Exxon no longer earns will be spread out over many different industries.


For consumers, cold fusion is about saving money, not spending it. In the early stages of its development, cold fusion will benefit the consumer with lower prices more than it benefits industry with higher sales or increased profit margins. New technologies like medical CAT scans, computers, and the Internet encourage the consumer to spend money in ways he had never imagined before.


Cold fusion produces energy, something we have always had. In the third world, there is a terrible shortage of energy in daily life for things like cooking, space heating, pumping water, and transportation. But in developed nations the consumer market for energy is close to saturation. It is already so cheap that people use as much as they want.


People keep their houses at a comfortable temperature, turn on as many lights as they like, and drive as much as they please without worrying about the price of gasoline.


Traffic congestion limits driving more than the cost of fuel.

The consumer market is saturated, but industry can always use more energy. Energy-intensive industries like air travel, aluminum smelting, and beer brewing will become more economical overnight, even before cold fusion becomes widespread, because the cost of fossil fuels will fall when people realize that cold fusion is real. This may not please the airlines and beer brewers.


It may spur a price war or encourage many new companies to enter these businesses. When the cost of computer memory and other microelectronics plummeted, it did not help IBM or the minicomputer makers. New companies like Compaq sprang up and took advantage of the "commodity pricing."

Industry, trucking firms, office building and shopping mall managers will adapt cold fusion more quickly than homeowners because they have a different attitude toward capital expenditures and return on investment. They will change out capital equipment even before it pays for itself or wears out, if they determine that new equipment offers a sufficiently large return on investment.


Homeowners ought to do this. They would if they understood economics.


You can put $200 in the bank and earn 5% interest, or you can put it in the stock market and earn 10% if you are lucky, or you can invest it in ten compact fluorescent light bulbs, which you use to replace 100-watt incandescent bulbs as they burn out.


The fluorescent bulbs cost more but they last 9 to 13 times longer, so you end up spending an extra $103 on equipment. They consume 75 to 80% less electricity. At 10 cents per kilowatt hour that saves $107 per year, a gigantic, risk-free return on investment. Plus, you do not have to bother changing burned out bulbs for the next seven years.


As one expert put it,

"this is not a free lunch; it is a lunch you are paid to eat."12,13


The Potential for Disruption

Cold fusion spin-off like indoor farming, desalination, and aerospace engines will take decades to develop.


They will require massive investment, new factories, and years of research. Cold fusion itself will take time to perfect, but the spin-offs will take longer because they are more complex, and because large scale research on them will not begin until cold fusion is commercialized. Indoor farming with robots might take 30 to 60 years to develop. It is cost effective for some crops already: flowers in the Netherlands, tomatoes in Tokyo, aquaculture in Boston.


But it will be a long time, if ever, before we grow wheat more cheaply indoors than on the Great Plains. The change to automated indoor farming will occur gradually, giving displaced farm workers time to find new jobs. The energy production industries ­ oil, gas, coal, and the electric power companies ­ are another matter. The potential for chaotic disruption here is very great, because the transition will be swift and it will be in one direction only.


All jobs will be lost, none will be created.

It may take twenty years to develop the first cold fusion aerospace engines, but most energy is used in simpler machines: space heaters, electric generators, and automobiles.


Cold fusion will be applied to these within months of its introduction, and it will quickly sweep these markets. Fossil fuel companies will lose most of their business in the time it takes to replace the automobile fleet (four to eight years). I fear that cold fusion will abolish old jobs more quickly than it creates new ones.


It will cause a burst of unemployment. It will not be like the unemployment in the 1920s when automobiles gradually displaced passenger trains, or in the 1990s when computers finally began reducing the ranks of middle managers forty-five years after ENIAC.


Automobiles and computers are so complicated, it took decades before they produced a large impact on employment. Automobiles required breakthroughs in motors, tires, quick drying paint, automatic starters, and so on. They required years of massive investment in factories and supporting technology like highways and refineries.


Cold fusion will be implemented quickly by substituting cold fusion engines for gasoline engines, and leaving the rest of the vehicle alone. (Later models will be re-engineered to better exploit cold fusion's advantages.) A home generator will be a plug-in replacement for the power lines. Consumers will be ready to take advantage of it the day it goes on sale.

The change over to cold fusion will be accelerated in the last stages. It now takes six to eight years to replace nearly every automobile on the road. The first cold fusion models will be expensive and unreliable, but in a few years they will become as cheap and reliable as gasoline models, and nearly every customer will select them.


As gasoline automobiles wear out, more and more of the fleet on the road will be powered by cold fusion. When a quarter of the automobiles no longer consume gasoline, gas stations go bankrupt in droves.


Retail gasoline profits margins are thin. In the 1970s oil crisis, consumption fell by less than 10% but this drove many stations out of business. It forced others to consolidate, and it led almost all of them to modernize, install self-service pumps, and set up convenience stores. When consumption drops by 20, 30 and then 50%, this will drive more than half of the gas stations out of business.


At some point it will become difficult to find a gas station still in business. People will be stranded on highways. Commuters will have to drive miles away from their neighborhood to find one of the last remaining gas stations in the city. This will force the holdouts to trade in their cars for cold fusion-powered models. Not only will it become difficult to find fuel, it will be difficult to find spare parts and mechanics qualified to repair the old models. The shift in space heaters, water heaters, stoves and electrical equipment will be accelerated for the same reason.


Normally, home appliances last 20 to 25 years. But when most have been replaced by cold fusion models, you will not be able to find a repairman or spare parts for the old models. It will be like trying to fix an electric typewriter in the age of personal computers.


The gas and electric utility companies will begin filing for bankruptcy, and they will stop delivery. It is not economical to run a gas or electric power distribution network when only a small scattered fraction of the houses in a city are connected.

It must be understood that we are not talking about dislocations or a partial reduction in the number of employees in the energy business. Cold fusion will eliminate every job in every part of the energy economy.


Cold fusion requires no labor, that is, no extracting or hauling fuels, opening dam sluices, monitoring pollution controls, or repairing power lines after a storm. It does require mining and metal refining, but the metals are already mined for use in gasoline engines. We may need more palladium than we use today, but this will still take millions of times less labor than we expend drilling for oil and mining coal. Nobody on earth will ever again lift a finger to fuel a machine or transmit electricity.


We will have no more oil wells, coal mines or pipe lines; no oil trucks or coal trains; and no power lines, or dams. Contrary to some oil industry executives, I do not think there will be any market for oil as a chemical feedstock.14


Enterprising companies will devise cold fusion powered machines to synthesize oil from air and water (or garbage and water). This will be cheaper, easier, and far safer than pumping oil from the ground and transporting it in ships and trucks. People who mine coal will not be mining palladium or nickel ore; the miners already digging this ore will not need much extra help. The plants at Ontario Hydro already produce more heavy water than the entire world would need with cold fusion.15


Nobody will sell heavy water in a roadside gas station. A small amount of heavy water, perhaps a kilogram, will be permanently sealed in the motor when it is manufactured, the way acid is sealed in a battery.

This will be enough to drive the car millions of miles.16 Workers who assemble gasoline automobile engines today will do about the same amount of work assembling cold fusion engines tomorrow. They will not need help from unemployed oil company workers. This point eludes many people: with cold fusion we will build engines with the same metals and other materials as we use today, with about the same amount of labor, but these engines will not require fuel. Cold fusion calls for no extra effort, and no special value added to the engine.


In the larger sense, cold fusion will not cost anyone anything - no resources and no work.


We must build engines anyway to replace the old ones as they wear out. We use nickel, steel and palladium in gasoline engines, and we will use them in cold fusion engines. People get the impression that cold fusion will be expensive because experimental cold fusion cells are expensive and they take a terrific amount of work to make. But so do prototype gasoline engines. Cold fusion will be about as difficult to mass produce as batteries, computer RAM chips, or catalytic converters.


These are physically similar to cold fusion devices, and they require similar production techniques, cleanliness and handling.


The Energy Industry is Gigantic

The energy industry is so big and pervasive that it is difficult to find reliable figures for the amount of money it earns or the number of people it employs.


Oil companies are the most important players in the energy business. Oil and gas wells together supply about 52% of energy worldwide,17 and 65% of U.S. energy.18


Oil is important because it is a military strategic necessity. It powers most vehicles and weapon systems. Oil is easy to blockade. Oil refineries are more vulnerable to attack than coal mines or hydroelectric dams. Oil deposits are not as evenly distributed around the world as coal, so oil concentrates wealth in some countries and in the southwest United States.


Oil has a flamboyant history. It played a major role in both World Wars, the Iran-Iraq war, and the Gulf War. Changes in oil prices and periodic oil shocks have had a profound effect on the economy and stock markets.


As Yergin says in the conclusion of his definitive history The Prize:

Oil has helped to make possible mastery over the physical world. It has given us our daily life and, literally, through agricultural chemicals and transportation, our daily bread. It has also fueled the global struggles for political and economic primacy. Much blood has been spilled in its name.


The fierce and sometimes violent quest for oil and for the riches and power it conveys will surely continue so long as oil holds a central place. For ours is a century in which every facet of our civilization has been transformed by the modern and mesmerizing alchemy of petroleum.

Information on U.S. and European oil companies is readily available, but OPEC and Russian oil companies are secretive.


In 1984 OPEC appointed accountants to police quotas and maintain the cartel.

"The accountants were promised access to every invoice, every account, every bill of lading. They did not get such access; in fact, they had great difficulty even in gaining entrée to some OPEC countries and were completely denied access to key facilities."19

I asked a spokesman at the American Petroleum Institute,

"roughly how many people work in the industry, and what are your gross revenues?"20 He chuckled and said the numbers are so big "nobody has a handle on that."

He said overseas producers tell you only what they want you to know, and their financial numbers cannot be trusted.


However, their production figures can be verified with reasonable confidence. The oil they ship to Europe and America is carefully tallied.


Here are production figures in millions of barrels per day:

Worldwide production increased 7% in the last two years. The average price per barrel is roughly $18. Annual production is 27 billion barrels, or $489 billion per year. The retail value of the products refined from the oil is difficult to compute.


Eighty-one percent of oil is sold as fuel, the price of which varies widely from country to country. Nineteen percent is sold to make plastics, fabrics, lipstick, and other synthetic products.


Twenty-seven billion barrels equal 1.1 trillion gallons, or 4.3 trillion liters, so if all of the oil was sold at U.S. prices for fuel, it would be worth more than a trillion dollars including tax. This is roughly one-sixth of the U.S. GDP.

U.S. employment in the oil industry is staggering. As of July 1996, 314,000 people worked in petroleum, natural gas extraction. Ninety-nine thousand worked in refining. Pipelines, distribution, wholesale and retail sales add another 1,011,800, to give a total of 1.4 million people.21


Compare this to:




Annual revenue, in billions



















Data from Hoover's Company Capsules, CompuServe, Inc., and corporate annual reports


That is 1.1 million people at the big three automakers, and roughly 1.4 million at all six companies.


The impact of these six going out of business in a short time is hard to imagine. This does not even take into account the demise of coal and electric power companies. It does not take into account the impact on the other companies that supply oil companies with everything from drilling equipment to health insurance.


You get a sense of the total impact of the industry from this advertisement published by Mobil Corporation on the editorial page of the New York Times in 1995 (see Infinite Energy Issue #13-#14, p. 38.). In 1994, the year the advertisement refers to, Mobil employed 50,400 people. As shown here, over five years it paid out $10 billion in salaries ($40,000 on average per year), and billions more in pensions, dividends, taxes, and purchases of goods and services from other companies.

On the other hand, the economy does absorb large shifts in employment. Oil industry employment has already declined considerably in recent years. Total industry employment declined by 300,000 since 1983.


The 1.4 million people still working in the industry are among the best trained, most highly skilled workers in the world. As energy industries are phased out, these people must be channeled into new industries, especially large scale environmental clean up. It is unfair to say this, but they are experts in causing pollution. Oil is the largest source of air pollution.


Spectacular refinery explosions and oil tanker spills are a symbol of environmental destruction. Yet the oil companies are not to blame. Oil is inherently dirty; it used to be much worse. It has improved thanks to the skill of these workers and the billions of dollars in pollution abatement equipment purchased by the oil companies.


Mobil spent $3.8 billion on environmental activities. After the oil business collapses, perhaps Mobil will re-emerge as a company that sells environmental expertise to other industries. Cold fusion will eliminate about 70% of air pollution. That will leave 30% of air pollution and most water and ground pollution still to be cleaned up. I hope we can devote a large part of the money we save on energy to this task. We must re-engineer industrial plants, highways, and solid waste disposal.


With cold fusion plus the technology already in hand, I believe we can reduce pollution in all categories by 95% or more.

Mobil's total revenues in 1994 were $75 billion; the advertisement refers to U.S. revenue and expenditures only. The world's largest oil company is Saudi Aramco, a member of OPEC. As noted above, financial information from OPEC companies is difficult to come by. The third largest oil company in the world is RD/Shell, a consortium of 1,600 companies, including subsidiaries and joint ventures.[22]


Here are 1996 earnings from six of the top 35 oil companies.


These are American or European companies, which publish reliable income statements:



Rank by production

Annual revenue, in billions




















Rank is from World Oil Editorial,


Revenue data from Hoover's Company Capsules, CompuServe, Inc., and corporate annual reports. The smallest of the top thirty-five is YPF Sociedad Anonima.


It earns $5 billion per year, it has 9,000 employees, and it is the largest company in Argentina. Total revenue for the six listed here is $361 billion, compared to $463 billion for six representative automotive and computer companies. Beyond the top thirty-five there are hundreds of smaller oil companies, and thousands of companies that sell drilling equipment, pipelines, gasoline delivery trucks, gas station pumps and countless other goods and services.

The collapse of oil, coal and electric power companies over ten to twenty years could plunge whole nations into chaos. Even the rumor that they are likely to collapse could cause a major stock market crash. I believe these catastrophes can be avoided by enlightened planning, and cooperation between business and government.


We must have social welfare. We must have retraining and rapid investment in new industries spawned by cold fusion.


Some of the moneys you save not buying gas you will have to contribute help the unemployed, until society has adjusted to the changes. The Federal government will probably be forced to bail out defunct oil company pension funds. It bailed out railroad pension funds in 1933 for similar reasons. Automobiles reduced rail passenger traffic.


The railroads could no longer support the huge base of retired employees. Government had a responsibility to help because it was building roads, which promoted the use of automobiles. Cold fusion will call for massive economic restructuring on the scale of the reunification of Germany, with the same moral imperatives.


The Germans had to proceed whatever the cost - not reunifying would have been unthinkable. The nation had a moral obligation to help the former East Germans, and everyone understood that in the long run the benefits would outweigh the problems. The same can be said of cold fusion: everyone knows that people are dying for lack of energy and that pollution is a scourge.


Whatever the social cost may be, not adapting cold fusion would be unthinkable.


Will the "Men in Black" Stop Cold Fusion?

Many people believe that the establishment and powerful vested interests like OPEC and Exxon will prevent the introduction of cold fusion.


People say that if a cold fusion prototype engine is ever demonstrated in public, powerful organizations will conspire to send "Men in Black" to kill the inventor and suppress all knowledge of the machine. Something like this may have happened to the Farnsworth Fusor, the last invention of Philo T. Farnsworth, one of America's greatest scientists.23


There has been unrelenting opposition to cold fusion by bureaucrats at the DOE, MITI and EPRI. The Patent Office refuses to grant patents for most cold fusion devices, citing as evidence popular press reports from 1989. Academic scientists, especially rivals in the hot fusion program, have attacked cold fusion with dirty tricks, planted newspaper stories, fake data, ridicule, and threats.


They have fired scientists and barred senior scientists from the lab, forcing them to work as stock clerks. Cold fusion has been repeatedly ridiculed and attacked by leading science journals like Nature and Scientific American, and by major newspapers in the U.S., particularly the Washington Post and the New York Times. Despite all this, I do not think the establishment has held back cold fusion much, and I do not think it can stop it. Establishments are overrated. In a democratic, capitalistic society, an established corporation or government agency has little permanent power.


Cold fusion has been held back mainly because of the stupidity and self-destructive behavior of the scientists who are working on it.


Years ago they could have demonstrated the effect, sold prototype devices, and engaged in an effective public relations campaign. Had they done so, we would have prototype cold fusion automobiles by now, and the pioneering inventors would be multimillionaires. They complain they have no funding, yet they are sitting on a commodity worth billions of dollars.


A typical cold fusion inventor acts like a paranoid old miser who refuses to leave his house. He huddles protectively over a chest of gold while he starves to death. He has only himself to blame for his predicament.

The attacks on cold fusion should not be taken personally. They have no special significance. The establishment usually rejects innovation out of hand. It attacks correct ideas, incorrect ones, big ones, little ones, and many that do not seem controversial in retrospect. When someone suggested that the newly invented zipper might be used to close the fly on men's trousers, the idea was met with gales of laughter and derision.


The establishment not only rejects innovation, it usually belittles and underestimates it.


In 1979, I was working for a mainframe computer manufacturer. I suggested that the newly invented microprocessor might eventually hurt business. The management of the company thought the idea was ridiculous. So did the management at IBM, DEC, Data General and all of the other established computer companies.


IBM was finally goaded into making a personal computer in 1980. It expected to sell 200,000 machines during the life of the product.


This is the Achilles heel of the establishment: it will not take a threat seriously until it is too late. By the time the DOE and OPEC realize they are doomed, cold fusion will be unstoppable. Consumers will demand it. General Motors, Ford and Toyota will invest hundreds of millions in crash development projects to commercialize it. Cold fusion has powerful enemies, but it will have powerful friends, too.

Vested interests and established companies begin by attacking. When it becomes apparent that a new invention cannot be stopped, they switch sides and praise it. They may jump on the bandwagon and sell it, the way IBM sold personal computers. They may attack or co-opt innovation, but they cannot bring themselves to fear it. This is their second great weakness.


Fear is the essential motivation in business. Long after Compaq and others began seriously hurting IBM's market share, IBM executives still belittled and ignored these upstart companies. They treated Microsoft in a condescending manner.


They thought they had nothing to learn from the upstarts, and nothing to fear from them.24

The third great weakness of an establishment is failure of imagination. Powerful people cannot envisage a world in which the rules have changed and they stand to lose everything. Even when they are confronted with compelling evidence of grave danger, they cannot bring themselves to believe it. Sometimes they cannot even see it. They invent fantastic reasons to dismiss it. They acknowledge a trend but they imagine it will never continue long enough to hurt them.


The keynote speaker in the 1908 annual meeting of the National Association of Carriage Builders said:

Eighty-five percent of the horse-drawn vehicle industry of the country is untouched by the automobile. In proof of the foregoing permit me to say that in 1906 - 7, and coincident with an enormous demand for automobiles, the demand for buggies reached the highest tide of its history.


The man who predicts the downfall of the automobile is a fool; the man who denies its great necessity and general adoption for many uses is a bigger fool; and the man who predicts the general annihilation of the horse and his vehicle is the greatest fool of all. 25

Imagine you have cornered this speaker after he steps down from the dais.


You ask:

"Why do you say that? What will stop automobiles from replacing horses? What are the trends? Is there a fuel shortage? Are automobiles becoming more expensive?"

He would not be able to give satisfactory answers. He would have no logical basis for his beliefs.


History and technology were moving at a rapid pace in 1908. Electric lights, telephones, record players, the X-ray and many other inventions had recently been introduced. Belief in the benefits of progress was universal. Inventors like Edison and Bell were heroes, and that autumn the Wrights would become international media stars.


The speaker was ignoring history and popular culture. He was kidding himself because he did not want to face the fact that his industry was obsolete and he would soon be out of a job. The buggy manufacturers were never a threat to automobiles. Neither were the railroads, even though in the 19th century they were the most powerful industry in the country.


IBM never tried to stop microcomputers. In any event, what could it have done?

A scientist once told me that even if cold fusion is real we will still need oil because "it takes oil to run the equipment to mine palladium." It did not occur to her that if automobiles will run on cold fusion, so will the digging engines in the palladium mines. Nor did she realize that it takes only a tiny amount of palladium to sustain a cold fusion reaction.


We are not substituting palladium ore for coal; you do not need to mine tons of palladium every year for each customer. Any scientist should know this. Top oil company executives told Hal Puthoff they would not mind losing the energy portion of their business to cold fusion because oil is worth more as feedstock than fuel.


It never occurred to them that with zero cost, unlimited energy customers will synthesize petrochemicals from air and water. This will be safer and cheaper than buying natural oil. They should have realized that! These men are petroleum experts. They understand pricing, markets, customer requirements, safety, petroleum chemistry.


I know little about these subjects, but the moment I considered the problem I realized that synthetic oil would have many advantages in a cold fusion economy. It is common knowledge that the Germans synthesized oil from coal on a large scale during the Second World War. I assumed that oil can be synthesized from other sources of carbon. I asked some experts and they quickly confirmed my assumption.


The point is, I am nothing special. Any businessman or Wall Street stock analyst would realize this. The oil company executives have the most knowledge, they are the best placed to understand synthesis, and it would affect them more than anyone else, yet they do not see it. Perhaps they cannot bear to think of it.

The people at IBM and Data General who pooh-poohed the microcomputers were not fools. They were experts. In 1978 they knew more about every aspect of computers than beginners like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs did.


The IBM people had vast experience in marketing computers. They had prestige, and millions of satisfied customers. They had billions of dollars at a time when Jobs financed his venture by selling a used Volkswagen. If they had allocated one percent of their research and marketing budgets to personal computers, they could have crushed Gates and the others. Today they would own the business.


But they would have cannibalized their own mainframe and microcomputer business. They could not bring themselves to do that until it was too late. They forgot that it is better to cannibalize your own market than to let the competition do it to you.


If the executives at Exxon or Penzoil would look at the overwhelming experimental evidence for cold fusion, wake up, and act like rational businessmen, they would realize this is life or death.


They would launch crash development projects. They would sell cold fusion motors and license the technology. They would even sell self-contained oil synthesis plants. With their expertise in petroleum refining they could shut the other chemical companies out of that business. They would put themselves out of business and stage a rebirth in a new line of work.

Established industries seldom reinvent themselves. People never seem to learn from history. Perhaps the keynote speaker at the Association of Carriage Builders was a jolly good fellow who knew nothing about internal combustion engines or high technology.


But in 1925, ocean liner executives and ship captains were experts in these subjects, yet they published statements like this:26

We have long known that mechanically, the Atlantic flight is perfectly feasible. It is not any misgiving as to the machine which causes people to hold their breath when a man, or men, jumps off into the blue, with no possibility of landing under at least a thousand leagues.


It is doubts as to their ability to counter those factors, any of which may entirely neutralize the perfection of the machine. Chief amongst these are the weather and the problem of human endurance...


[Even if these should be overcome] the simple truth is that aerial transport can never be made to pay. It can only be run on a scale of charges, which, compared with stateroom fares, is simply preposterous. There will, probably, always be a limited number of people prepared to pay these charges, just as there will always be people prepared to face the heavy irreducible risks of flying.


The fundamental fact to bear in mind, in regarding the airplane as a commercial proposition is that four-fifths of her total power must always be expended in keeping her in the air, leaving only one-fifth to exert on her payable load... Flying has come to stay. But I cannot believe that the airway will ever replace the seaway.


We can step aboard a Cunarder at either Southampton or Liverpool, with a feeling of assurance that we shall be in New York with time-table punctuality, traveling in luxury and safety. The aircraft can never hold such assurance.

Why shouldn't aircraft hold such assurance, eventually?


Engine reliability was improving year by year. Why did this expert think that the ratio of payload to power was fixed forever, when it was improving by leaps and bounds?


The comment about "human endurance" is particularly irrational. Anyone could see that airplanes would soon be large enough to carry extra crew members as well as more passengers, so pilots could work in shifts, just as sailors do. Here is the familiar pattern. The expert acknowledges that the innovation is (or soon will be) "perfectly feasible."


He understands what will be needed to make the innovation practical: better engines, a bigger crew, better payload ratios.


He understands the technical details. He keeps up with the latest engineering developments. Yet he cannot bring himself to draw the obvious conclusion: that he will soon face serious competition. Regular transatlantic zeppelin service began in 1928.


The first Pan American Clipper flying boat transatlantic flight was in 1937.

You cannot argue with such people.


The computer experts said,

"Microcomputers are toys. They don't even have hard disks; they'll never hurt us." When I asked, "How long will it take to make a small, cheap hard disk?" they would evade the issue.

Anyone who read the trade magazines could see that small hard disks were a few years away.


Today the hot fusion physicists, oil company executives and government bureaucrats who oppose cold fusion are just as obtuse. Here is a classic example of their thinking, in a letter from a high government official to Chris Tinsley:

Department of Trade and Industry
1 Palace Street
London SW1E 5HE
14 May 1993

Dear Mr. Tinsley

Your letter of 24 March to the Prime Minister about cold fusion has been passed to me for reply in view of my responsibility for nuclear fusion matters. I am sorry it has not been possible to reply sooner.

The DTI is aware that work continues around the world on cold fusion research and that claims of energy releases continue to be made. As indicated in your letter, if such research and development should lead to a practical operating system with useful energy releases this is likely to only be beneficial for small energy devices such as heating systems and small electricity generators.

The Government is more interested in the capability of fusion to generate power of value on a national scale and to this end it is spending considerable sums of money on fusion research. Cold fusion is unlikely to be of much value in this context.


However, this Department continues to watch developments in the field of cold fusion research with interest and we welcome your input into this process.

Yours Sincerely,
J C Munday
dti - the department for enterprise

This letter contains a number of astounding errors:

There is no reason to think that cold fusion reactions must be small. Nothing in the literature and no experience with similar electrochemical catalysis or nuclear reactions would lead one to think that the size of the reaction is limited, any more than fire or fission is limited. Most cold fusion reactions are small, but for that matter so was the first sustained fission chain reaction.


Even if the size of the reaction was limited, most energy is already produced by small machines: automobile engines and space heaters. Most of the energy produced by large generators is consumed by devices small enough to hold in your hand: light bulbs and small electric motors.

The physical size of a machine that produces or consumes energy has nothing to do with its effect on the "national scale" energy flow. Light bulbs, in the aggregate, consume far more energy than blast furnaces or airplanes.

The distinction between small and large scale energy production is artificial. Producing energy on a "national scale" is like growing wheat on a national scale: it can only be done grain by grain. Energy comes from one lump of coal, or one uranium fuel rod. A certain amount of fuel is consumed nationwide. It can come from a few large generators or it can be spread out in many small machines. The best technique is defined by engineering, economics, pollution control and other factors.


Munday writes that the government is "spending considerable sums of money on fusion research." He means plasma fusion (hot fusion).


He says,

"cold fusion is unlikely to be of much value in this context."

He has no technical basis for this statement. By objective scientific and engineering standards, in 1993 cold fusion was closer to becoming a practical source of energy than hot fusion was or ever will be. Cold fusion produces far more energy than the best hot fusion experiment on record (although less power).


It has a much better input to output ratio. It does not produce dangerous radioactive waste. It is more reliable, and it cost millions of times less to implement.

One wonders how Munday could have become so confused.


Tinsley never claimed that the energy releases from cold fusion would only be beneficial for small energy devices. He might have said that experimental cold fusion cells are small. He might have said that cold fusion will allow small, cost effective, decentralized generators. But that does not mean cold fusion is limited to such devices.


Why should it be? In 1992, Pons and Fleischmann showed that a 0.5 gram palladium cathode can generate heat with the same power density as the fissioning uranium in a power plant.27


If the reaction can be scaled up to make "heating systems and small generators" then it stands to reason that it can be scaled up again to make large generators. If it cannot be used for small generators because of technical problems or economics, it would not be feasible on a large scale either. It is an all-or-nothing situation. Either cold fusion will work for any device, on nearly any scale, or it will not work at all.

To be sure, many energy systems are only economical on a small scale, for special applications.


Duracell batteries are a good choice for flashlights, but too expensive for a laptop computer or an automobile. Windmills and small hydroelectric turbines are cost effective in an isolated farm miles away from the power lines, but they are not practical in urban areas.


They cannot be made compact, because power density is limited and the energy is intermittent so it must be stored. Many energy systems only work well on large scale, like uranium fission, which is limited by safety requirements. Hot fusion Tokamak reactors can only function on a large scale. Combustion is our most flexible energy source.


It works for everything from vehicles and space heating to large scale power generation. Coal, oil and gas fired electric generators are more cost effective and less polluting on a large scale, but small co-generators and small generators for isolated communities are available. Every indication is that cold fusion will be as flexible as combustion.


Perhaps Munday assumed that cold fusion is limited to a small scale for some technical reason, the way hot fusion is limited to a large one. He must have assumed so; nothing in the literature or Tinsley's letter would give that impression.


I expect that Munday sat down and dictated a response containing whatever random thoughts popped into his head, based on fragmented impressions of cold fusion. Perhaps he is an expert on energy. In that case, he is flummoxed; he has temporarily forgotten what he is doing; his conclusions do not follow from the premises. This describes the state of mind of the ocean liner executives and the computer experts.


They knew better, but they could not admit to themselves what they knew.


The Long Term - Arthur Clarke's Utopia

The demand for some products seems to expand endlessly.


We can always use more computer memory, and people seem to enjoy ever-more-elaborate blockbuster movies. But what family needs more than one automobile per driver? Who could use five dishwashing machines? Who would want to travel on airplanes ten hours a day, seven days a week?

Hal Fox says that cold fusion will create ever-expanding material prosperity and employment. It will open up the planets to colonization. That will take so much work, it will create enough jobs to keep us busy for hundreds of years. This is the traditional, gung-ho American attitude reflected in "Calling All Jobs" (quoted at the introduction). It is hard to be pessimistic about the economy.


As of July 1997 the stock market has been rising for years and it is at breathtaking highs. Unemployment is the lowest it has been in a generation, even though automation is more widespread than ever, computers have recently replaced millions of middle managers, and large corporations have eliminated hundreds of thousands of workers in downsizing.


Since the beginning of the industrial revolution people have dreaded the effects of automation, fearing it will cause permanent widespread unemployment. It would have, if we had not reduced the work week from eighty hours to forty. Most innovations take a long time to develop, giving society time to adjust to them by reducing the work week or inventing new industries. From time to time a new invention that is easy to implement has spread swiftly, causing a burst of unemployment.


A famous example is the spinning jenny, which led to the revolt of the Luddites and the speech by Lord Byron quoted above.

In spite of the booming economy and low unemployment, there remains an undercurrent of fear. Unemployment numbers mask deep social problems: they do not count people who have given up are no longer looking for a job. We have a large underclass of permanently unemployed people. The gap between the rich and the poor is the largest it has been since the Great Depression.


Top management and skilled experts earn far more than ordinary workers. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan says this could become a "major threat" to the economy.28


Perhaps these problems are caused by greed or cruel social policies, but automation also plays a role. We need experts to design robotic machines. We do not need factory workers to operate them; they operate themselves. It is astounding how few people it takes to run a modern factory. The supertanker that ran aground in Tokyo Bay on July 2, 1997 had a crew of only 25. AT&T and MCI have replaced their long distance collect call operators with voice response computers. Jobs have been "dumbed down."


It takes little skill to operate a supermarket checkout line compared to a push-button cash register, so clerks cannot demand higher wages.


Customers do their own work, operating machines themselves. One supermarket recently began letting customers scan their own goods, with one clerk to keep an eye on four checkout lines. Gas station attendants have been replaced with self service pumps. People even do semiskilled work like computer typesetting on their own machines.


A front page article in the Wall Street Journal is titled "A Slide in Factory Jobs: The Pain of Progress."29


It quotes Lester Thurow at MIT,

"... for the bottom 60% of the work force, real income is going down. Something bad is going on in our lives."

A New York Times 30 article, "Do Computers Eat Our Paychecks?" says:

Computers have enriched a small class of technological wizards and management consultants who streamline production, merging and "downsizing" and "re-engineering" the companies of America to the great benefit of managements and stockholders.


But those same computers have eliminated many jobs and significantly reduced the skills needed in the jobs that survive, thereby weakening the bargaining power and income of most wage earners.

Cold fusion will cause dislocations far greater than these.

Chris Tinsley believes that the coming unemployment problem will be solved by the expansion of other jobs. We need people to educate the children, take care of lonely old people, and clean up the environment, and to do jobs which might seem frivolous until we can afford to have people doing those jobs. Many of the growth industries of today would be regarded as a joke by past generations; people get paid to sell things on cable television that nobody really wants.


He points to the example of agriculture in Britain.


Before the industrial revolution nearly everyone worked in agriculture, yet food production was barely enough to sustain the population. The population exploded in the 19th century, and became dependent on imports. By the 1930s the proportion of the population working in agriculture was much lower, efficiency was up, but some food was still imported.


Today, the population is higher than ever, a mere 1% of the population works in agriculture, but Britain is a net exporter of food. This gradual transition has not caused permanent massive unemployment. It has not concentrated power or great wealth in the ranks of the few remaining farmers. Furthermore, in the 1970s and Œ80s large British industrial corporations relentlessly automated and shed workers, leading to an implosion of manufacturing jobs even more severe than the rest of the industrialized world, yet unemployment remains lower than most European nations.


Today, hardly anyone seems to work for the (formerly) large corporations. Self-employment, home-offices and cyber-commuting are booming. People start their own companies providing innovative (and often apparently pointless) new services, from home design to frivolous travel and entertainment.


Tinsley feels that as long as money and prosperity surge through society, people will find clever ways to snag it for themselves.

Fox and Tinsley may be right about the short term, but I think that computers and cold fusion are the harbingers of a new era in economics. Communism has fallen; capitalism may be next. We are seeing the beginning of the end of work itself.


For two hundred years the economy has been growing as we consume more and more goods and services. We assume that consumer demand has no limits. People will always want more goods, more appliances, more radios, automobiles, dishes. But this cannot be true.


As my mother used to say,

"No trend lasts forever, or the world would be knee deep in televisions."

The famous 1949 exponential jump in television sales had to slow down eventually. You cannot watch fifty television sets.


There is a limit to how much we want to consume, and how much we are physically able to consume. Most people have no place to park to a dozen automobiles in front their house, or dig five Olympic swimming pools. You cannot eat thirty gourmet meals a day.


People in the third world are nowhere near the limits, but in the developed world it is difficult to imagine that our per capita consumption can increase by a factor of 10 or 100, or 1000. A prizefighter in Atlanta recently built himself a giant mansion. It sits in isolated splendor with a theater, a bowling alley, room for dozens of automobiles, giant closets bulging with clothes, and on and on. I suppose some people envy the fellow and would like to live that way, but I would find it a nightmare.


Cold fusion powered food factories may double our available land by eliminating outdoor agriculture. Cold fusion may ultimately allow us to move our factories to the moon, freeing up even more land. We might build mansions, or shopping malls, or sprawling private parking lots to store our collections of Rolls Royces. I hope that most people have more sense and better taste.


I hope that most of the freed up land can be returned to nature.

There are limits to how much travel and entertainment we can consume. Entertainment can automate itself into bankruptcy as readily as any other business. Classical music recording fidelity has grown so good that old recordings last forever. They sound as good as the new ones, so catalogs offer forty versions of the Chopin preludes, 100 recordings of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons," and twenty-five of Mahler's Sixth Symphony.31


Up-and-coming classical musicians cannot find work, because they cannot compete with famous dead musicians. Today, home renovation calls for a licensed architect who makes a good living. Someday one architect will do the work of many, using a computer program that generates detailed floor plans certified to conform to the building codes.


The architect will sit down with the customer to design a new house or renovation. He will bat out a finished floor plan an hour later, and twenty other architects will be unemployed. I do not think the demand for home renovation will increase by a factor of twenty. High technology seems labor intensive and highly rewarding. Politicians love to think so.


But it has a nasty habit of imploding, or killing itself off. It has always been this way. In an earlier article I mentioned that the chronometer makers perfected their art so well between 1800 and 1920 that they put themselves out of business.32 With proper maintenance their instruments lasted for decades, being passed from one ship to another.


By the early 1900s there was only one manufacturing firm left, which was enough to keep up with demand for new clocks and replacements.

No trend lasts forever; the end of automation will be reached when nearly every job is eliminated. Computers and robots will do everything from paving roads to building houses and flying airplanes, setting the table, setting broken bones, and operating on your appendix. It may take hundreds of years for computers to develop the intelligence to do these jobs.


They may never be able to perform critical tasks without guidance by human experts. But airplanes already fly on autopilot. Computer controlled lasers already perform delicate eye surgery. They will go much farther, even in our lifetimes.

Suppose we were invaded by a hoard of super intelligent robots anxious to do our bidding and fulfill every wish, and work disappeared overnight. Most people would not know what to do with themselves. People identify with their job, and define their self worth by it. That is part of the work ethic, which has been essential to human survival throughout history.


Ask a man "what are you," and he replies that he is a carpenter or an accountant.


Losing a job is a traumatic experience for most people, even in European countries with extensive long-term unemployment benefits. When people are incapacitated by illness or accident, and find themselves unable to work, they are often devastated by the loss of social status, the loneliness, the lack of structure and purpose.


This happens to rich people who retire with no loss in income. It even happens to people who win millions in the lottery and quit their jobs. So what will it be like on that distant day when all labor is automated? Money will lose most of its meaning. For many people life may lose its purpose.

The Mobil Corporation advertisement is right on target. The economic benefits from drilling, shipping, refining and selling oil help everyone in our society. The pollution and the flow of money into the Middle East hurt everyone, too. Careers and daily labor give people dignity. The people at Mobil have a right to be proud of their labor. It is difficult work. It is vital. We would starve without these people.


Their labor serves higher social purposes, just as they say. It spreads wealth, pays for pension funds, provides security. Mobil is not just selling oil, it is selling a vision of society happy, prosperous, and hard at work. Unfortunately for Mobil, with cold fusion we will have no use for any of that stuff. The customer wants a tankful of gas.


He does not give a hoot about economic stability or pension funds. When cold fusion comes, he will stop paying for gas and not think twice about pension funds. Nobody will pay the people at Mobil to do useless labor with obsolete tools. That would be like paying them to cut wood with a handsaw. Even a demeaning, low-paying job collecting garbage or cleaning toilets can give a person a sense of self respect. But the moment any job is automated, it is no longer fit for human beings. It becomes worse than slavery.


There is no dignity in a man doing something a machine can do faster and better at a fraction of the cost. There is no meaning in it. It is like fighting a war after your side surrenders.

When all work is automated, we will have to learn to find our purpose in life elsewhere.


Work is already fading in importance. Money is not as important as it once was. People no longer starve when they are penniless. In developed countries, everyone has access to clean water, primary education, and public libraries. In every developed country except the United States, free health care is considered the birthright of every citizen.


This does not demoralize people, or rob them of their sense of purpose. Someday, unlimited food, housing, education, health care, travel, books, television and Internet access will be the birthright of every person on earth. Arthur C. Clarke described how we might live when this comes about, if we are wise enough to build a society worthy of our technology.


He describes a replicator, the ultimate labor saving machine.33

It is certainly fortunate that the replicator, if it can ever be built at all, lies far in the future, at the end of many social revolutions. Confronted by it, our own culture would collapse speedily into sybaritic hedonism, followed immediately by the boredom of absolute satiety. Some cynics may doubt if any society of human beings could adjust itself to unlimited abundance and the lifting of the curse of Adam ­ a curse which may be a blessing in disguise.

Yet in every age, a few men have known such freedom, and not all of them have been corrupted by it. Indeed, I would define a civilized man as one who can be happily occupied for a lifetime even if he has no need to work for a living.


This means that the greatest problem of the future is civilizing the human race; but we know that already.



1. C. Cerf, The Experts Speak, (Pantheon Books, 1994), p. 91.
2. C. Cerf, ibid., p. 211.
3. Microsoft Bookshelf CD, The People's Chronology, (Henry Holt and Company, 1992).
4. My only source for this is my mother's recollection of an undergraduate course in economics course at Cornell University in 1939. The professor's main thesis, which he frequently repeated during the semester, was that the changeover from horses to automobiles had caused massive unemployment. He thought this was the main cause of the Great Depression.
5. F. L. Allen, The Big Change 1900 - 1950, (Harper and Row, 1952), Chapter 8, "The Automobile Revolution."
6. W. Lord, The Good Years, (Harper and Bros., 1960), p. 4. Similar examples cited in many popular history books. See F. L. Lewis, ibid., p. 7
7. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 1908 Catalogue No. 117, 1180 pages, reprinted by Follet Publishing Co., 1969, p. 88. Two marine gasoline engines are shown on page 553, including a 10 hp unit for $318.
8. D. Yergin, The Prize, (Simon and Schuster, 1991), p. 786.
9. Microsoft Bookshelf CD, The People's Chronology, (Henry Holt and Company, 1992).
10. We pay about 5 cents per kilogram for ice. The heat of fusion of water is 80 calories per gram, so it takes 0.09 kilowatt hours to freeze the water. I assume refrigerators are about 20% efficient and electricity cost 10 cents per kilowatt hour.
11. D. Cardwell, Norton History of Technology, (Norton, 1995), p. 163.
12. A. P. Fickette et al., "Efficient Use of Electricity," Scientific American, September 1990, p. 67
13. Data from Fickette, ibid., and also Philips Lighting Company, Earthlight® package for a 25 watt bulb, equivalent in luminosity to a 100 watt incandescent. Philips claims the bulbs last 10,000 hours, or 7 years with 3-4 hours average daily use. Energy consumption per year, per bulb is 35.7 KWH versus 142.8 KWH. A business also saves money on the labor required to change 13 burned out bulbs, which leads Fickette to conclude that equipment and labor costs alone justify the use of compact flourescent bulbs, before you even factor in the money saved on energy.
14. "Cold Fusion and the Future, Part I," Infinite Energy, Issue #12, p. 12.
15. Ontario Hydro uses the heavy water as a moderator in their Candu fission reactors, an application that calls for hundreds of thousands of tons a year. In a palladium cold fusion economy the heavy water itself would react, and only ~24,000 tons would be needed worldwide.
16. In "Cold Fusion and the Future, Part I," p. 11, I estimated that a kilogram of heavy water produces as much energy as 2.9 million kilograms of oil, or roughly a million gallons. Assuming that the Carnot efficiency of a cold fusion heat engines will be as bad as a gasoline powered engine, this would be enough to drive 20 million miles in the city. Actually, Carnot efficiency will probably be much better; see Part 1, p. 10.
17. G. Davis, "Energy for Planet Earth," Scientific American, September 1990.
18. American Petroleum Institute, Frequently Asked Questions,
19. Yergin, p. 746.
20. American Petroleum Institute, 202-682-8000,
21. Statistics from the API Basic Petroleum Data Book, Section V, Table 2, courtesy American Petroleum Institute. I did not include the 29,600 people employed in the Paving and Roofing industry, because I assume these jobs will continue even after the demise of the oil industry. I assume that in 20 years roads will be paved with synthetic oil produced with cold fusion energy. Approximately 20% of the people working in refining may also be employed, unless the synthetic oil generating machines are fully automatic.
23. G.Vassilatos, "The Farnsworth Fusor: the Most Notably Forgotten Episode in 'Hot' Fusion History," unpublished manuscript.
24. R. Cringely, , (HarperCollins, 1993)
25. D. Sanders, Computers in Business, (McGraw-Hill, 1968), p. 64.
26. J. Brinnin, The Sway of the Grand Saloon: A Social History of the North Atlantic, (Delacorte Press, 1971), p. 460.
27. M. Fleischmann (Univ. Southampton), S. Pons (IMRA Europe), "Calorimetry of the Pd-D2O System: From Simplicity via Complications to Simplicity," Physics Letters A, 176 (1993) 118-129.
28. M. Frankel, "Do Computers Eat Our Paychecks?" New York Times Magazine, March 10, 1996.
29. J. M. Schlesinger, "A Slide in Factory Jobs: The Pain of Progress," Wall Street Journal, April 28, 1996.
30. M. Frankel, ibid.
31. T. Page, "A Sour Note. With a Few Exceptions, the Future for Classical Recordings Looks Bleak," The Washington Post, June 24, 1996
32. Landes, p. 186, describing the argument of A. C. Davies, "The Life and Death of a Scientific Instrument: The Marine Chronometer, 1770-1920," Annals of Science 35 (1978) pp. 509-525
33. A. C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future, (Bantam, 1972), chapter 13, "Aladdin's Lamp"