Americans are overwhelmingly polarized over ongoing presidential election campaigns. The choice is going to be between Donald Trump – an oligarch accused of disregarding the interests of minorities, and Hillary Clinton – an utterly disgraced public servant too unqualified and incompetent to even serve at the lowest possible grade in the US State Department. But, between the two, one has already clearly […]
The implications of nuclear fusion power as a panacea for the world’s energy needs are not good. There are better alternatives and I’d like to write about them again.
As explained by nuclear power critic Linda Gunter in a recent article on the recent Paris climate talks, nuclear fusion, as found in the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) project, would dangerously concentrate control of the world’s energy supplies in the hands of a cherished few. The idea of a single fusion power station, or a few, providing energy to whole countries or continents is a political and sociocultural nightmare that would further divide and impoverish the world. It would completely neglect poor countries, isolated communities, and moreover the majority of the world’s population.
I believe Gunter does a great thing in mentioning this problem in her article. When we theorise on alternative energy, it should be incumbent on economists, scientists and futurists alike to think not only of finding inexhaustible energy sources but ensuring they can be evenly distributed. The right alternative power sources must work even in the most primitive conditions, if we are to observe the importance of equality and equal development. This is where I think something like “synthetic life” as advanced by J. Craig Venter has more promise and is more politically progressive.
When synthetic biology’s creations have been correctly unbound from the chains of laboratories and expensive product catalogs, they will transmute simple renewable feedstocks into instantly usable fuels everywhere. Synthetic biology is no less than Utopian in its possibilities – a fact its creators do not deny. I realise plenty of people have and will continue to scorn this idea, including people like Gunter – who are likely to hold to only a primitivist philosophy. And synthetic biology could be like the work of Prometheus. It could literally bring warmth and development to every place in the world. It could also literally set the world on fire, if handled incorrectly, so the question of how to handle it and at the same time ensure fairness and equal development in the use of synthetic creatures as fuel sources needs to be addressed more deeply.
However, Gunter did write, “our survival will depend upon moving away from large centralized sources of energy, like coal, oil, gas or uranium, towards much smaller, decentralized sources”. I agree, but I think those sources will be as small as living cells, new life engineered solely for human purposes.