National Commentary

The Peak Oil Crisis: The 3rd Window

We currently are living through one of the more interesting yet bizarre periods in the history of science. The interesting part is that the evidence continues to accumulate that there has indeed been a scientific discovery fully as significant as the steam engine, electricity, radio, atomic energy, or micro circuitry – perhaps even combined. The bizarre part is that 99+ percent of us have either no, or possibly a distorted idea, of what is happening. I am talking about the third window that nature left open for us into the energy locked inside atoms –popularly known as “cold fusion.”

The reason, of course, that most of us know little to nothing about it is that coverage in the mainstream media has been close to zero for the last 20 years. What little coverage there has been recently has been confined to obscure websites or cast in a skeptical light with each report of progress “balanced” by some eminent scientist saying it can’t be true.

The main reason for skepticism is that implications of cold fusion are simply too good to be true. When somebody says, “I have just made a discovery that will give the world all the cheap, clean energy it will ever need; that will solve the global warming problem and clean up the environment; that will do away with the need for fossil fuels; that will supply us all the clean water we can use; and that could even lift us all out of poverty,” obviously you are going to think him nuts, a fraud, or overly optimistic.

Keep in mind, however, from time to time major new technologies are discovered/developed – electricity, light bulbs, radio, internal combustion, atomic energy, computers – that do have a significant impact on human civilization. Why not another?

When the phenomenon widely known as “cold fusion” was announced 24 years ago, there was much enthusiasm in the media, which soon died away after the initial experiments turned out to be difficult to reproduce. The scientific establishment, for reasons too complicated to go into here, pronounced the idea of “cold fusion” as ridiculous, and the media dropped the subject altogether.

A handful of scientists, however, were able to detect anomalous heat in their laboratories and for the next 20 years these scientific “mavericks,” subjected to much opprobrium by their colleagues, continued to research the effect. Progress was made but largely ignored by the media as the heat produced was minimal – nothing like the atomic bomb which introduced the nuclear age.

About five years ago, however, Italian researchers discovered that by loading hydrogen into nickel a device could produce commercially significant amounts of heat. Two years ago, one researcher demonstrated a prototype heat-producing device to a selected group of scientists and members of the press. The demonstration was met with much derision as skeptics fell all over each other in attempting to explain how the “obviously fraudulent” demonstration was perpetrated.

There are several factors currently hindering general acknowledgement that cold fusion is real and that we are looking at a new paradigm-shifting technology. First, there is as yet no agreed-upon theory as to how the phenomenon, which many say must contravene the laws of known physics, works. Then there is the problem of proprietary information. There are currently at least a dozen companies attempting to develop and sell a heat-producing device based on cold fusion. As many countries still refuse to grant patents on what much of the scientific establishment considers fraudulent science, developers are obviously reluctant to share the detailed inner workings of their devices.

A key point in all this controversy, however, is that there have now been so many observations of anomalous heat by so many reputable scientists around the world that the chances that this phenomenon is not real are extremely remote. The question now becomes how long before “cold fusion” becomes a practical reality or at least it becomes generally accepted science so that governments will start spending on its further development and propagation – months, years, or decades?

There was an interesting development last winter when the Italian entrepreneur Rossi, who seems to be leading his competitors in developing a commercial heat-producing device, let a team of outside scientists come in and take measurements of his latest device in action. The team reported that the device worked as claimed, produced unprecedented amounts of heat, and that they were unable to detect any trickery. What was most notable about this report was that it received almost no coverage in the mainstream media.

Likewise, a successful video demonstration of a similar heat producing device by a Greek/Canadian company at a conference in Missouri last month elicited close to zero coverage in the media. This suggests that given the strength of current conventional wisdom about cold fusion, simple announcements and demonstrations are not enough to stir the media into recognizing what is happening. Only continuing media and their technical consultant access to working devices that produce large quantities of heat over an extended period would seem to be enough to overcome the legacy of prejudice.

Fortunately, that day may not be years away. There are currently three companies that have announced they are working on commercial “cold fusion” devices and that seem to be making progress on producing large amounts of heat from the hydrogen and nickel reaction.

The leader at the minute seems to be the Italian Rossi and his Leonardo Corporation. Rossi claims, and as yet there is not substantiation, that he has partnered with a major U.S. company, capable of producing cold fusion , and that they are currently completing the testing of a device which will be mass produced and marketed. A prototype has already been brought to the U.S. and will be installed as a source of heat for a new factory.

For now all we can do is wait for a credible announcement, demonstration, or other type of confirmation that a new age has arrived.


Tom Whipple is a retired government analyst and has been following the peak oil issue for several years.