Re: Fusion—I Told You So

Yesterday’s item previewing the announcement of a fusion energy breakthrough included the prediction that environmentalists would oppose fusion if it appears to be practical some time down the road.

Silly me: environmentalists already staked out this position—33 years ago!

You may recall back in 1989 the sensational announcement by a pair of scientists in Utah who claimed to have developed “cold fusion.” It turned out to be nonsense, if not in fact a hoax. But never mind that. The Los Angeles Times ran an article entitled, “Fear of Fusion: What If It Works?” It’s all there—the technophobia, the Malthusianism, and the misanthropy that we have come to know and love about the greens:

But now that the first waves of astonishment, wonder and euphoria have passed, a few scientists, environmentalists and ecological activists have begun to have more troubling thoughts. For one thing, they say, even if desktop fusion really works–a matter still very much up in the air–it is unclear that the power produced will be as cheap or clean as many have suggested it might be.

And even if it were, given society’s dismal record in managing technology, the prospect of cheap, inexhaustible power from fusion is “like giving a machine gun to an idiot child,” Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich says.

Laments Washington-based author-activist Jeremy Rifkin, “It’s the worst thing that could happen to our planet.”

Inexhaustible power, he argues, only gives man an infinite ability to exhaust the planet’s resources, to destroy its fragile balance and create unimaginable human and industrial waste…

In the euphoria over fusion power, UC Berkeley anthropologist Laura Nader says, many people just assume that cheaper, more abundant energy will mean that mankind is better off, “and there is no evidence for that.” Between 1950 and 1970, Nader says, there was “a doubling of energy use,” while at the same time, quality of life indicators all declined.

“The Age of Progress is really an illusion,” Rifkin says. Far more people–800 million–go to bed hungry today than at any time in history. “There has never been a previous example of that. And yet we continue to delude ourselves with the illusion that this is the Age of Progress.” . . .

But the best bit of this old article come from Old Reliable himself, Paul Ehrlich. Savor this:

Fusion proponents, [Paul Ehrlich] notes, also estimate that commercial applications of their work are at least 20 years off. And it will be 30 years beyond then before fusion power has significant impact. In this sense, says Ehrlich, fusion is irrelevant because, he asserts, the world will have long since succumbed to over-population, famine, global warming and acid rain. [Emphasis added.]

Somehow in the intervening 33 years since he made this statement, I somehow missed my face melting off from acid rain, not to mention the mass starvation, etc.

But you can expect this article to be recycled starting probably tomorrow.

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