This entry will explore the idea that China is the target of a modern American-led incarnation of the “containment” policy. Because I haven’t done much research into the area, some ideas expressed within will be rough and tumble. This also provides an indirect perspective into the threat cold fusion poses to capitalists.
It’s well known in the last century that the United States practiced an aggressive foreign policy toward the Soviet Union. One of the major policies under its umbrella was that of “containment”, the idea that the communist threat ought to be contained to a particular sphere of influence, lest the sphere spread to parts ruled by American hegemony. Of concern was the “vulnerable” nearby nation-state of Cuba, which could spark a domino effect of Communist revolution within the Western hemisphere. This was certainly a central concern behind the American invasion of Vietnam.
I propose that we have a modern analogy to “containment” in our midst today, although it’s not what first comes to mind for most, and the principal targets are China and the third world. The argument I propose is simple. China is increasingly referred to in foreign policy, academic, and media circles as a “rising superpower”, owing in no small part to its rapid urban economic development, shifting diplomatic pivot to the third world, investment and trade agreements with African and signature EU nations, and its ambitious military objectives, which are now becoming more and more of a reality.
Take for instance, the very real possibility of China’s ability to project power beyond its regional straits, with its modern aircraft carrier program. A hegemon like the US has every reason to be nervous, because China’s increasing spheres of economic, diplomatic and military influence, at every step, threatens the erosion of American influence…and the central motivation for hegemons is to maintain the status quo.
Because of its rapid economic development, China’s been the target of carbon gas emissions targets and other measures placing limits on industrial growth, under the ostensible belief that such restrictions will help slow the rapid destruction of the planet, owing to human-caused climate change. It’s notable that China’s developing in much the same way early Industrial age societies did (and still do): emitting large amounts of pollution and waste.
Of course, we might excuse the advanced Western economies for undergoing the same process; after all, the United States industrialized when people didn’t even know what global warming was! How, then, could we be conscious about environmental destruction, and of our responsibility to the planet back then?
The objective behind promoting the CAGW hypothesis is two fold:
a. to contain the rapid development of China
b. the creation of a carbon tax credit market worth trillions of dollars
The first point is significant because the parties involved do not have the political leverage to seriously oppose any restrictive measures placed on them by the advanced capitalist societies. To think that emissions targets would seriously help to scale back planetary destruction is delusion of the highest order, since the capitalist societies have found inventive ways to skirt those self-imposed obligations altogether. Those restrictions are useful, however, in hindering threats. The creation of a carbon tax swapping/credit market will financialize trillions so that Anglo-American bankers can profit off pollution.
Now imagine the threat posed by cold fusion. If China’s industrializing (albeit with massive capital investment and environmental cost!) has the West shaking in their boots, imagine what would happen if multiple countries (e.g. in the third world) could rapidly industrialize to an American level within a generation with little capital investment and no externalities. Those are precisely the three-prong threats that cold fusion poses to the Western-leaning order. The current order is based on a balance of power favoring the West, sustained from exploitation of third-world countries, in particular for their energy resources. If an opportunity arises for ANY country to feasibly industrialize within a generation, then the cards are no longer in American hands. The obvious beneficiaries would be the third world. The implications for decentralizing of power production and distribution are too great to be tolerated.
I thought I would stir the pot, and offer an alternative idea of why we haven’t seen “free-energy” or “over-unity” energy production technology enter into the mainstream.
Let’s face it; there’s been a litany of free energy claims over the years. It’s a cottage industry. In every case, none of the claimed results have been reproduced in front of anyone, and very often, the story is that their discoveries were stolen away by some secret government agency, usually the military industrial complex, or big oil. That said, I wouldn’t dismiss wholesale the idea that free-energy, as a concept, is possible.
How you frame a question influences how you answer it, and I think we have framed the question of free energy and its technological applications wrongly. The question we should be asking isn’t, “Has free-energy technology been suppressed?” That’s a loaded question. It’s also not a good starting point for exploring what is an intriguing subject. That question presupposes the possibility that free energy exists to start with, and secondly, that such applications thereof have been suppressed.
The second inference one could make from the absence of free-energy technology, I argue, is not that there is a suppression of existing applications, but that such applications haven’t materialized yet due to how institutional science (and capitalism) function. And, if you like, we can treat suppression as an epiphenomenon — a secondary effect — of how the current science regime functions.
It’s possible (even likely) that some horror stories about stolen/suppressed inventions are true, but these cannot be cited as the principle reason for absence of free energy applications in the mainstream. Many “suppression claims” are excuses to hide the fact that the claimed invention doesn’t work. This makes it harder to distinguish legitimate over-unity claims, which are worth investigating, from bunk claims which are not. The result is that “suppression” claims are rendered untenable.
Thus, we need stronger and complementary evidence aside from “suppression” to understand why over-unity technology (probably) hasn’t appeared. The explanation I offer agrees with what I understand about institutional behavior and, I think is also more plausible, given the difficulty of validating suppression claims.
I want to argue against common points which dispute the suppression of free-energy applications. The lack of evidence for free-energy suppression is often conflated with the idea that free-energy is impossible, and that is why I’m engaging these arguments. Many of which we will see are plausible on the surface, but counter-intuitive when considering the scientific environment and political realities. These are arguments from actual skeptics of the idea, to let you know.
Points Against Free Energy Suppression
“Free-energy violates the laws of physics.”
In natural science, a “law” does not indicate inviolability. The meaning differs slightly between sub-disciplines, but it’s simply a generalization of empirical observations, a generalized statement about how a given thing can behave in some situation. “Laws” describe the general case of how something will behave. There are extensions to laws where the general case fails to accommodate. “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” describes (or substitute any situation you like) how a ball will bounce back when hitting a wall with some amount of force. But the quantum tunneling effect bypasses the second law of motion. That would be a case where the law does not apply.
Further, legitimate theories about certain phenomena can challenge commonly held conceptions of physics, if these theories themselves are backed by good physics. For instance, the theories posed to explain curious aspects of certain phenomena, like anomalous heat transfer in palladium lattices (the back-bone of cold fusion/LENR), are not paradigm-breaking, but are rather confined to condensed matter physics.
“Scientists working in these fields are very competitive, and would fight tooth and nail to show that such applications worked!”
What skeptics leave out is that the fields which these researchers work in are considered legitimate. They are actual professions, and research is dependent on grants. There’s a dis-incentivized and marginal space for research in controversial fields, such as cold fusion (or low-energy nuclear reactions). There exist better research opportunities in closely allied fields (like muon-catalyzed fusion) where relevant experience could be applied. This leaves little space for room-temperature fusion research. This pushes away competent scientists, and fraudsters and loons like Greer, Hutchison, etc. fill the void. The reason is that competent scientists don’t claim to have unlocked free-energy like cold fusion. Rather, it’s a “Huh, that’s odd…”.
It’s not even clear that a breakthrough in free-energy applications would be immediately apparent, because there would be several valid interpretations of preliminary data, and a competent scientist would not risk his career in boldly announcing research which at first glance, contradicts basic physics (there is the notable exception of Fleischmann and Pons, but that is for another time, I’m afraid).
“The discovery of free-energy would make its discoverer rich beyond his wildest dreams and propel him to global fame overnight!”
There are competing fields of research. Entrenched research communities (any industry with enormous funding, like aerospace research or nuclear research) want to protect their research grants and industry investments. The long-term prospect of job security and access to a venerable funding pool, for the individual scientist, out-weighs any idealistic benefit from discovering free-energy. The competent researchers have established careers in legitimate fields.
For instance, why risk their reputation in researching room-temperature fusion, widely considered a pseudo-science? Even Nobel laureates aren’t insulated from attack. Einstein-like fame is an unrealistic job prospect and is antithetical to serious scientists. Those who have defended subjects like cold fusion have faced ostracism (Schwinger resigned from the American Physical Society). Professor Peter Hagelstein at MIT was denied a full professorship due to his associations with cold fusion, and remains an associate professor there.
TL;DR: How scientific research is organized creates a disincentive around controversial research for competent scientists. This means that fraudsters and loons take up those sorts of fields. Then, the whole field reeks of pseudo-science, because the fraudsters are practicing pseudo-science, and so we have confirmation bias. This argument is therefore unrealistic.
“If the US/Russia/China had anti-gravity technology, they would have conquered the Earth already.”
This works well for arguing against military suppression of such tech. But it doesn’t extend to an argument against the possibility of over-unity applications. Technology which would result in military domination, would also have civilian applications which challenge the material base of the power structure (i.e. a structure based on inefficient finite resource allocation is incompatible with free-energy applications. One is centralized, the other leads to decentralization). The wide-ranging civilian applications out-number the military applications.
This is an excellent reason why such technology hasn’t appeared. Not because it has been suppressed (such claims are hard to verify), but because power structures are wary of socially disruptive technologies. The introduction of free energy into the mainstream would destabilize it.
People are short-sighted, and institutions, being risk-averse, intensify this fault. This causes us to misjudge the value of emerging technologies. It’s been said that we overestimate the progress of technology in ten years, but underestimate its progress in a century. There’s also a complex overlap between capitalist development pressures, engineering capability, and theory when we discuss exotic technologies, such as alternatives to fossil fuels.
1. FTL warp-drives are theoretically possible, but we have no engineering capability. It also does not seem to serve capital interests, unless the economy of scale would drive down costs low enough to render planetary colonization possible.
2. Low-energy nuclear reactions seem possible in some proposed theoretical frameworks (e.g. Keith Johnston, Hagelstein, Edmund Storms). There is some engineering capability to take advantage of these reactions for use in practical applications. But there are no capital development pressures for them. The monetary return on investment would drop as the economy of scale increases, rendering LENR no longer profitable. This may be fine to some intrigued investors, but it is not tolerable to the power structure.
Thus, it’s not so much that these technologies have been suppressed, but that they’re excluded from consideration by virtue of how two major institutions function: capitalism and science. The progress of science under capitalism (“capitalist science”) has led to development pressures for highly redundant technology, or technologies which improve linearly and satisfy market imperatives.
These technologies are good for investment because of realistic expected returns. David Graeber writes extensively about this in his article in the Baffler. The reason we (probably) haven’t seen technologies capable of solving our energy crisis, is due to how capitalism responds to disruptive technologies.
TL;DR: We (likely) don’t have free-energy technology, not because it’s suppressed, but because:
We have a capitalist science institution which minimizes destabilizing outcomes and maximizes profitable outcomes.
- Lack of serious research from competent scientists due to how research is structured
- The cacophony of fraudulent free-energy claims discourages many investors, and lone intrigued investors are the source of much funding for these fields.
- Its implications seriously challenge risk-averse power structures
- If suppression has happened, it is an epiphenomenon of a larger cause, and not the cause itself
Note on “pseudoscience”: There is much debate in the philosophy of science over whether a clear line can be drawn between legitimate scientific and pseudo-science. Pseudo-science presumably has some quality that clearly distinguishes it from legitimate science. I think there are general guidelines you can follow to distinguish dishonest science from honest science.
I ask if “pseudoscience” is an honest qualitative description of some controversial fields, or if it, more often than not, simply reflects biases with institutional science. I think there are legitimate fields, such as LENR/cold fusion, which have unfairly earned the moniker of pseudo-science. That is, if you were to compare LENR and some other field in a hard science, you would find no qualitative differences in how research is conducted between them.
I had a think about the current state of capitalism and its trajectory. In particular, how socialism may arise from post-capitalist conditions. I think part of economic democracy comes from managing our limited resources in a sustainable manner. But I think there’s a fundamental economy which underlies all else, and that is the energy economy. I don’t merely refer to how energy is stored and extracted (be it hydrocarbons or solar rays), but in particular the universal capacity for humans to perform work, both from utilizing this latent energy and our own bodies. Insofar as we reproduce the means of life everyday through our work, so too is energy central to the human economy as a whole. There’s much talk about non-fossil fuel sources and post-fossil fuel economies, which can be broadly categorized as renewable energy solutions.
We can speak of renewable energy sources concretely, but in principle, Newton’s Second Law of Thermodynamics would forbid that. The ability for a closed system in non-equilibrium to perform work decreases as energy is converted into irreversible work. By definition, no energy source is completely renewable, because work cannot continue indefinitely. From the industrial revolution in the 18th century, our rate of consumption has steadily exceeded initial energy input, and this disparity will only get worse into the future. Others claim we need to scale down our energy consumption in preparation for a democratic economy (or socialism).
But I see a lingering problem with this proposal. The productive capacity of capitalism has allowed the exploiter nations to industrialize quickly at the cost of environmental and social upset. The current economy is wasteful in two ways:
a) It has produced excess which is systematically with-held from those who need it;
b) It’s inefficient in converting usable energy into work. For fossil fuels, the average energy conversion rate is very poor. The rest is dissipated as waste heat which cannot be used for work. For rockets, one must reach very high speeds in order to get good efficiency.
In order to sustain our wasteful energy economy in its current form, we’ve had to invest literal trillions of dollars into infrastructure. I strongly believe that our dependence on fossil fuels is manufactured, due to the capitalist profit motive. I believe innovation has been stifled thanks to private interests, and there are a limited range of non-fossil fuel alternatives which would require scaling down our energy dependence. It’s true that we can scale down our consumption and liberate those trillions of dollars into more productive work, such as quality education and childcare. But, I think we should also look at alternatives which could both meet our energy needs and not generate waste.
The central problem we face requires we know about physical energy costs vs.physical output. This is before we can even talk about energy needs. There are fundamental needs which simply cannot be metered. And while it’s true our current system is wasteful, it’s doubtful that a post-industrial nation could be sustained with socialism and windmills alone. There’s not enough productive capacity for that. However, if we could find a way to allocate energy use efficiently, we’d free up productive capacity. And it’s from here that I see post-industrial socialist societies being viable. With negligible costs, there’s no worries about consumption.
There are four categories of technology that show promise in this regard:
- Quantum vacuum/zero-point field energy access systems and related advances in EM theory and applications
- Electrogravitic and magnetogravitic energy and propulsion
- Low energy nuclear reactions
- Electrochemical and related advances to internal combustion systems which achieve near zero emissions and very high efficiency
The third one in particular, low energy nuclear reactions (LENR), is the one I’m most knowledgeable of, but we can also discuss EG and ZPF to some extent. LENR is the technical name for a nuclear-scale process more commonly known as “cold fusion”. Experiments with it have shown compelling results. In particular, much more energy is recorded being released than being put in. This is enough to warrant being a source of anomalous power generation, and not simply within expected values due to other mechanisms and error. By analogy, merely one teaspoon of heavy water has the energy content of three hundred gallons of gasoline. Your car could drive 55 million miles on a gallon of heavy water, simply by tapping into the fusion potential of the deuterium nuclei.
In the original experiment by Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons–and I’ll note this discovery was by fortunate chance–two electrochemical cells were compared. There was a heavy water-palladium cell (D/Pd) and a light water-palladium cell. The D/Pd loading ratio in the first cell was much higher than in the second, where light water has about 1/6500th of its hydrogen nuclei naturally occurring as heavy isotopes. Pons and Fleischmann were recording the temperatures of both cells and plotting it against the heater power as a function of time. Normally, the solvent evaporates as the cell heats up, and less heater power is needed to maintain the same temperature over time.
The positively-charged deuterium nuclei (D+) were packed into a compact palladium-platinum lattice. Somehow, the D+ overcame the repulsive Coulomb barrier and managed to fuse. Ordinarily, such fusion is only possible under conditions of extreme heat, such as at the sun’s core. This implies that a reaction occurred at room temperature where the strong nuclear forces overtook the Coulomb barrier. The two scientists measured nuclear scale excess heat in the D2O heavy water cell.
A source of skepticism was that P & F didn’t encounter lethal gamma radiation as nuclear physics predicts for hot fusion, when the deuterium nuclei fused. If they’d encountered fusion, where was the radiation ? This became known as the “dead graduate student” problem. Three prominent theorists stepped forward to posit possible mechanisms for room temperature fusion that could explain the absence of radiation: Keith Johnston, Peter L. Hagelstein and Julian Schwinger (Nobel Laureate in Physics, experience in particle physics).
There’s something about the D/Pd loading ratio in the D2O cell and how the D+ nuclei were packed in the Pd lattice that induced fusion. D/Pd loading ratios of ≥90% have given good results, as a recent talk by Hagelstein states. It’s very likely that the MIT Plasma Fusion Center used loading ratios well below 90%. That’s a key difference between a negative result and a positive result for cold fusion.. MIT’s Plasma Fusion Center–representing an industry with vested interests–had an unpublished draft report on Cold Fusion (the Phase-II calorimetry report), where the excess heat curve for the D2O cell was downshifted with no explanation.
There were two drafts of the report–one published in a journal, another unpublished. The unpublished curve suggested 20% less (20 milli-watts less) heater power was needed to heat the same volume of fluid. What was the source of this power? It could not be attributed to solvent loss alone, as Dr. Mitchell Swartz showed in his analysis of the MIT PFC Phase-II calorimetry report. The published negative report was used by the Department of Energy to deny funding for cold fusion research.
But there are contradicting statements about the negative report. Teams who obtained positive results alleged that MIT et al. didn’t reach a high enough D/Pd loading ratio for the effect to occur. But then we have a downshifted heat curve. I believe that MIT initially found the proper ratio, but then deliberately used a lower D/Pd ratio so that other teams, referring to MIT’s experiments, could not reproduce Fleischmann and Pons’ findings. This would lead to an artificial scientific consensus against LENR, and the initial heat curve could be explained away as solvent loss.
There’s compelling evidence for a concerted effort against cold fusion/LENR. This is for several reasons, which are beyond the scope of the post. But I can elaborate in detail later.
Implications and Uses for These Energy Sources
The removal of air pollution related to energy generation, including electric power plants, cars, trucks, aircraft and manufacturing.
The near elimination of all manufacturing processes since the energy per se required for same would have no cost related to fuel consumption. This would allow the full application of technologies which remove effluent smokestacks, solid waste, and waterways.
The practical achievement of an environmentally near-zero impact yet high tech civilization on earth, thus assuring the long-term sustainability of human civilization.
Trillions of dollars now spent on electric power generation, gas, oil, coal and nuclear power would be freed to be spent on more productive and environmentally neutral endeavors by both individuals and society as a whole.
Underdeveloped regions could industrialize in about a generation, and without the negative costs of environ. impact, including health and social.
We don’t need to scale down our energy use for the long term. In particular, our current and future needs can be met by these low-cost, highly productive technologies listed above. The physical cost of maintaining these systems (energy input) is so low that we simply can’t meter them. And of course, to meter means to profit. By definition, we cannot monetarily profit from these technologies. I think these alternatives will be the catalyst to ending capitalism. The primary human economy–energy–will supply our food production, travel, and manufacturing needs. Every industry, every action, requires energy (capacity for work). Without energy, we can’t reproduce the means of daily life.
I hope we can also use these alternatives to power labor-saving devices at negligible cost. This would allow us to transition to a democratic leisure economy. Currently, only first-world nations (USA, UK, Canada etc.) have a leisure economy dependent on a super-exploited class (the third world). There’s a large middle class with disposable income and leisure time. If these labor-saving devices were made available to everybody…there could not be an exploited class. Energy will be available to anyone, so there’s no need to expend human labor. There’s so much work to be done, and yet there are no jobs. This is a capitalist contradiction, and it’s an artificially imposed mindset. Work will be redefined in terms of its social utility, so everyone, young or old, will have the chance to contribute to society and pursue their goals.
If we’re to discuss any industry–even food production–we must talk about energy. But the current alternatives we have aren’t enough. It’s true that some Nordic countries (e.g. Denmark) derive a good portion of their energy supply from clean wind power and solar cells. But this is dependent on local climate, elevation and other geographic factors which affect the distribution of these technologies. I think we can use LENR, et al. to supply our needs wherever we are. We don’t need the blessings of geography–only science.