An argument for hydrogen fusion

Last weekend, I met a Massachusetts senator at local charity event. I asked the Senator a question about Hydrogen Fusion research funding at MIT, which had been cut again because of sequestration. The Senator commented that the Department of Energy does not want to fund fusion research. I followed up by asking independent fusion research team Lawrenceville Plasma Physics. Their response was DOE has a policy of not funding their type of fusion research. MIT’s research lab is top in the nation and cannot get funding while small independent teams won’t apply for grants. The Department of Energy Portal doesn’t list fusion! Doesn’t this contradict the Obama administration’s “all of the above” focus on energy?

This is an incredible turn of events, and a travesty of science. If we continued investing in fusion energy research during those prior decades, we could have had fusion by now. The think tank American Security Project (ASP) has proposed a $30 Billion / 10 year project to achieve fusion energy and argues this would create whole new industries similar to the semiconductor revolution. The list of prior ASP Board Members includes Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. Their white paper can be downloaded from here: $30 Billion dollars over ten years would jumpstart this technology. Other countries may also decide to increase their investment, thereby accelerating the phasing out of carbon fuels.

The production of oil, natural gas and coal limits the energy available for civilization. The socioeconomic powers that control or “own” these fuels keep their grasp on the spigot of energy for mankind. It is a carbon fuel colossus that powers our civilization and poisons our planet. These socioeconomic powers killed off fusion long before they started to deny Global Warming.

The science and engineering required to achieve fusion energy is well known and understood. Check out this article on Slashdot. Refining small amounts of seawater, which is plentiful, creates the hydrogen isotope fuel. Hydrogen fusion energy is distributed power. The number fusion reactors in operation are the only limit for fusion energy available for mankind. With more machines generating power through fusion, the less need for carbon fuels. After the patents expire, the technology become royalty free and open source, reducing the cost. Compare that to oil fields that can generate fuel, and revenue for owners up to 50 years or more.

Fusion is an interplanetary power source, and it’s stable, unlike renewables. Renewable energy’s incredible energy capture potential can help counterbalance the release of energy from civilization into our environment. With chemical power, mankind reached the moon. With fusion power, we will reach the planets. Some day, the fuel for our interplanetary civilization will be skimmed from the upper atmosphere of hydrogen giants.

My research on fusion was for a science fiction book I am writing called TimeArc, a cautionary tale of time travel, a compelling tale of global warming. My background includes 30 years in High Tech. My first experiences with computers were paper tape and punch cards. I see many analogies between the transition from Mainframes to Distributed Computing and the transition from a carbon-based economy to one that relies on infrastructure based energy sources like solar, wind and fusion. The oil industry acts like IBM when mainframes dominated the computer industry.

The only reason why hydrogen fusion energy hasn’t replaced carbon fuels is the lack of political commitment. We need the political will to promote fusion research and shepherd a new generation of clean energy for mankind. This could be a greater feat for mankind than President Kennedy’s commitment to land on the moon. If we had invested in fusion earlier, we could have fusion by now and we would be phasing out carbon fuels for mankind. We need to invest in fusion now! Promote the American Security Project (ASP) proposal for a $30 Billion / 10 year project to achieve fusion energy:

The attached file is a hyperlinked, extended version of this document. It can also be downloaded with the following link:

Frank Paine

One reply on “An argument for hydrogen fusion”

  1. Frank, I strongly agree that we should be investing in a broad array of potential new energy technologies — we have to get beyond fossil fuel! If I were in Congress, I’d vote for more energy research funding.

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