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Commentary on The Capital Markets- Category [Energy]

Lockheed-Martin apparently believes they are on the cusp of a breakthrough when it comes to nuclear fusion.  Color me skeptical, but very interested.

Fusion is what powers the sun, of course.  It also brings the promise of (relatively) clean nuclear energy, since the reaction products are not dangerous.  There remains radiation (and lots of it!) emitted during operation, and activation of materials in the reactor still occurs, but the production of radioactive isotopes as a consequence of the consumption of the fuel does not occur.  For this reason it is a dramatically superior nuclear process, but for one problem: it's damn hard to make happen, and thus obtaining more energy out, in commercially-viable amounts, than you put in has not been achieved.

It has always been "10 years" away from viability.  It was 50 years ago, 40, 30, 20 and now.  The reason for this is that creating the conditions under which fusion takes place requires an environment of extreme heat and pressure, and that takes energy to achieve.  You need to somehow not lose that energy put in to the environment or the reaction you get provides insufficient payback on your energy investment for your fusion reactor to make economic (and operational) sense.

I note that despite the alleged crowing if you read carefully you will find that Lockheed-Martin is not claiming that they have achieved an energy surplus, say much less a large one.  But they think they are on the path to do so.

If true, this would be revolutionary -- both in terms of the economic and geopolitical impacts.  Specifically, it marks the end of the "dig it out of the ground" oil economy as the only means of obtaining liquid hydrocarbons (you can make them from any carbon source, given available energy) and it further means that fresh water deficits can be cured, since there is no shortage (anywhere), nor will there ever be, of sea water.

If.

 

 

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One of the punchlines in my book Leverage is the following: Behind every unit of GDP is a unit of energy.

This is not conjecture or supposition, it is inescapable fact.  It also underlies the limit to what many claim is an "eternal" exponential capacity to grow an economic system; a fact that economists (including people like Yellen, Bernanke and more) just flat-out ignore.  Yet, as pointed out here, there's no cheating math -- or physics:

Allow me to explain why I am one of those scientists who are preoccupied with the physical. Economists are correct in saying that growth doesn't necessarily require more pollution, more carbon pumped into the atmosphere or more deforestation, even though we're getting all of the above today. Humans can learn, and we might figure out how to grow differently in the future, separating the benefits from the environmental costs.

There's just one crucial exception: energy.

Growth inevitably entails doing more stuff of one kind or another, whether it's manufacturing things or transporting people or feeding electricity to Facebook server farms or providing legal services. All this activity requires energy. We are getting more efficient in using it: The available data suggest that the U.S. uses about half as much per dollar of economic output as it did 30 years ago. Still, the total amount of energy we consume increases every year.

Yes, a bigger system might be more efficient but it is still bigger and still uses more.

The author of this piece appears to have bought into the globull-warming scam, but that's not material.  The fact of the matter is that there are no free lunches and yet the closest we can get to them in the energy realm all come from very, very large numbers -- specifically, E = MC^2.

"C", being a very large number itself, when squared is a monstrously-large number.  Thus, the ability to obtain very large amounts of energy from very small amounts of matter.

But even here, there is no free lunch.

Wake up folks....

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