Mark Gibbs on E-Cat

by Reihan Salam

At Network World, Mark Gibbs has a column on E-Cat, a low-energy nuclear reaction technology developed by the Italian inventor Andrea Rossi. It sounds, and most likely is, too good to be true. Gibbs projects what might unfold if E-Cat works as promised:

Let’s assume Rossi’s E-Cat works. What then?

From the demonstrated prototypes it appears that you could build E-Cats small enough to power a car or a house. Bundle a lot of them together and you could power a truck, a ship or an office block. Imagine a data center where each row of racks has its own really cheap power generator.

Now you have a world where oil only matters as a raw product for things like plastics so the oil economy as we know it could be dismantled within a few months. Production costs for anything would fall. The power grid would become obsolete. Power stations of all kinds would no longer be an environmental problem. The balance of economic power worldwide would change and, for example, OPEC would become a historical footnote.

The only risk, assuming that the E-Cat doesn’t become horribly radioactive after extended operation or produce some other kind of hazardous byproduct, could be global thermal pollution from so many power generators (if they are very cheap and not dangerous then niceties such as minimizing waste heat would be ignored).

We could see a world where ubiquitous power generation is so cheap it wouldn’t be worth metering (as a consequence, Rossi would become the wealthiest man in the world, assuming that all of the vested interests in the existing oil and power economies didn’t have him bumped off). [Emphasis added]

A public demonstration in Bologna is scheduled for the 28th of October.

As a thought experiment, it’s worth thinking through what might happen to the wold if “production costs for anything” were to markedly decrease. Might labor-intensive manufacturing in emerging economies take a hit? And if so, will this contribute to large-scale political unrest? Moreover, resource extraction is not just important to OPEC: Norway, Australia, Canada, and the United States, among many other countries, might see a pronounced internal shift of economic and political power. It’s all very intriguing. 

This can’t be serious. 

The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.