This summer we have been deluged with reports from every corner of the world concerning the devastation that fossil-fuel induced global warming is causing. Fires, floods, storms, crop failures, unbearable temperatures, and water shortages are occurring across the world, yet the consumption of fossil fuels continues to increase. While a handful of countries, mostly in Northern Europe, are taking serious steps to reduce the use of fossil fuels, the rest of the world is mostly in denial. These countries either believe there is not a fossil fuel/climate change problem or rank the need for economic growth ahead of the need to address climate change. Few are willing to admit that these goals are incompatible. Reductions in the use of fossil fuels by a sufficient amount to slow or stop global warming are fundamentally incompatible with current levels of economic activity. By its very nature, growing economic activity in today’s world requires more energy, 80 percent of which is currently coming from fossil fuels.
While the use of non-fossil fuel energy sources – wind, solar, tides, waves, hydro, nuclear, etc. – is increasing, the rate at which these sources of energy are replacing the still-growing use of fossil fuels is so low that climate-induced catastrophes seem more likely to increase than recede in coming decades. In short, large portions of humanity are between the proverbial rock and a hard place; either parts of our civilization are done-in by increasing harsh climate conditions, or we accept the economic hardships that mandated reductions in the use of fossil fuels would bring.
A corollary to major reductions in the use of fossil fuels would be the need for many new government policies and regulations controlling the use of fossil fuels. This is likely the main reason behind why the obvious reality of climate change has become so controversial in America. While the devastation caused by climate is increasing steadily, it has not yet reached the point where the overwhelming majority of our fellow citizens are willing to make economic and life-style sacrifices required to deal with what is likely to be an existential problem.
The only real solution on the horizon to this situation is to develop and deploy as soon as possible one or more new sources of energy, for the current major non-polluting sources – mostly wind and solar – have major deficiencies. Moreover, they are unlikely to grow fast enough to solve the underlying problem. For the last 50 years it has been widely believed that nuclear fusion of hydrogen would one day answer to the world’s energy problem; however, after decades and billions of dollars’ worth of research, a commercial product is nowhere in sight and seems unlikely to arrive in time to mitigate climate change.
For many years now, I have been following and reporting on the progress of two technologies that could (and I underline could) be the answer to global warming. Both these technologies offer the promise of non-polluting energy in unlimited quantities at a fraction of current costs. If these promises sound too good to be true, you have the reason why there is so much skepticism that these technologies could possibly be real. Both are based on new concepts that seem to conflict with currently accepted science. For many years there were rancorous disputes between the scientific community and those believing in the new technologies, but recently there has been a de facto truce with both sides simply ignoring each other.
The years of controversy have resulted in a situation where only a fully operational prototype that can be tested by outside laboratories will be enough to convince media and the scientific community that one or both of these technologies are real and are ready for the commercial market. We are not yet at that day, but it may be closer than most realize.
Our two technologies are Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) and the chemical “hydrino” reaction being developed by Brilliant Light Power up in New Jersey. While many laboratories around the world are working on the LENR reaction, so far as is known only the Italian inventor Andrea Rossi down in Florida claims to be close to installing the first LENR-based reactor for a commercial customer. The differences in transparencies between Rossi and Randell Mills who is developing the competitive hydrino technology is like night and day. For numerous reasons, Rossi is highly secretive about his technology, only responding to questions about his progress on his blog in one or at most a few words. For years, Mills has been releasing detailed information about the designs of his evolving devices and about 95 percent of the science and technology behind his reactors.
While Rossi and Mills have at times been overly optimistic about how fast they could develop their radically new technologies into commercial products, the underlying science used by both companies has been validated many times over the years by outside scientists. To any open-minded observer who has been following these technologies, there is no reason to believe that any fraud is involved and that there are valid energy-producing technologies behind the devices both scientists are trying to perfect.
In a recent post, Rossi says he has a contract to build a 40-megawatt (MW) heat producing plant and hopes to have the reactors ready for installation before the end of the year. As is usual with Rossi, there are no details as to where the reactors will be installed, who the customer is, or which of two devices Rossi has under development will be used for his first installation. Although the heat-producing reactors will be installed at the customer’s plant, they will be operated and maintained by Rossi’s employees. The customer will only receive the heat from the device and will have little or no access to the details of the reactor’s operation.
In contrast to Rossi’s secrecy, Mills of Brilliant Light Power has just published a quarterly update on his progress that contains much detail, including engineering drawings, about the progress his firm has made in the last three months. As some readers may recall, last year Mills switched his strategic direction from developing a device that would produce electricity to two separate devices. One of these would, like Rossi, produce only heat that would be used in buildings or for industrial processes. The new electricity generating device is to use the plasma created by the hydrino reaction to power a magnetohydrodynamic subsystem to produce electricity. The magnetohydrodynamic generator should be much cheaper than one using concentrated photovoltaic cells and can be scaled to larger sizes.
By switching strategic direction, Mills has delayed by months or years the day when he will bring a working device to market but may have a more reliable and cheaper-to-build product when the development is complete. The one major problem that Mills is still working to overcome is to modify the reactor module so that it will run continuously under computer control. Computer control is necessary to have a marketable product. Mills had hoped to have accomplished this goal last year, but it is turning out to be more difficult than anticipated. In the past six months, however, many changes to the design of the reactor have been made which hopefully will result in a fully automated system being available sometime soon.
It is important to remember just what is at stake in the development of these new energy-producing technologies. The global market for heat currently is about $8 trillion (with a “T”) a year. The global electricity market is on the order of $3.5 trillion. Both these impending technologies offer the promise of producing heat and electricity at a fraction of current costs once they can be made to work reliably. Should this be the case, all other forms of energy production could quickly become obsolete due to their much higher costs of production, not to mention the problem of global warming. Given their potential, it is amazing that they have not received more attention simply because they seem to be too good to be true or move our understanding of science ahead by a notch or two.