Must Love Cheap Energy

I probably should have taken a New Year’s resolution to avoid posting about this, but I ran across an old bookmark to the Falls Church News-Press, so I figured I’d see what Tom Whipple had to say in his recurring Peak Oil Crisis column. Perhaps he would weigh in on fracking, or tar sands or train spills. Nope.

Many of us believe that life on this planet is in a lot of trouble. The climate is becoming unstable; there are too many people; oceans are dying, sea levels are rising; and water, food, clean air, and minerals are coming into short supply. For many, the economy refuses to grow fast enough to maintain living standards.

Although appreciated by only a handful, the evidence continues to build that, unless we have reached some kind of a tipping point, there may be a way out of our mounting problems. A few minutes’ reflection should be enough to convince most that a source of unlimited clean, cheap energy just could reverse global warming, provide unlimited water, food, and a better life for all.

Whipple is grasping at the straw of a new source of energy (heat) that is promised to require no fossil fuel, no radioactive fuel and no intermittent wind, wave or solar energy. That source is the Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR), formerly called cold fusion and sometimes now called Chemically-Assisted Nuclear Reaction (CANR). A lot of people see LENR as pseudo-science, but a devoted following awaits every development with bated breath.

Developments usually involve an announcement linking LENR with a recognizable name like Underwriter’s Laboratories, or some agency of the US government, or even a foreign government. The biggest players are Andrea Rossi, of Leonardo Corp, and Lewis Larsen, of the Widom/Larsen theory and Brillouin Energy, but the field has attracted a lot of small fry, too, some from the multi-level marketing business.

Last year Rossi enlisted a group of scientist friends to conduct a demonstration of his E-Cat, but while the believers were heartened, the presence of an outside power source led to more doubt from the doubters.
Larsen opined both that LENR occurs during a lightning strike, and inside compact fluorescent bulbs.

A series of LENR-focused articles leads one to believe that Cherokee Investments Partners LLC, a US firm with some connection to China, has funded Industrial Heat LLC with eleven million dollars to develop the E-Cat. We are also being told that an unnamed firm from South Korea has licensed LENR technology from Brillouin.

Whipple thinks that is great news.

Update 20140124: Wired covers much of the same ground with little critical analysis and a tepid expectation as to whether LENR will eventually pan out.

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