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Cheap energy, a really bad idea?

8 June 2007

Right now, the world's best minds are focused on the challenge of developing cheap, renewable and environmentally friendly energy sources - but is that really a good thing?

Nuclear fusion, hydrogen fuel cells, ultra-cheap amd efficient solar cells; all these things have the potential to provide us with endless energy and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels such as oil, coal and the like.

Jeanette and Nandor would doubtless be jumping for joy if someone announced that they'd made a breakthrough that completely shattered our reliance on existing non-renewable energy sources but I'm not so sure that it would be such a great thing, at least in the short term.

Of course we know that conspiracy theorists love to roll out and endless stream of claims that many of those folks who have invented things such as water-powered cars suddenly disappeared -- killed or kidnapped by the big oil companies.

What a load of rubbish -- or is it?

The reason I ask is this story in today's Herald.

This has absolutely nothing to do with oil companies but I think it is a pretty good insight into the dirty tricks that some large corporations are prepared to resort to if their revenues are threatened.

Glaxo appear to be one of the worst lying, cheating corporate thugs. Remember that they're the ones who blatantly lied about the vitamin C levels in Ribena and told the girls who discovered this discrepancy to get lost when they first approached the pharmaceutical giant with their findings. It was only after the media got involved and they could no longer deny their deceit that they fessed up and apologised.

Now compared to some players in the oil industry, Glaxo is just midget, so imagine how the likes of BP, Mobil, Shell or others might respond if their core revenues were threatened by a truly viable and more cost-effective form of energy.

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Consider also that there are a lot of powerful people who have a lot of money tied up in the oil industry, George W Bush being just one example.

How do you think these people would respond to such a major threat to their wealth and fiscal wellbeing?

If a method of creating safe, cheap, environmentally safe cold-fusion was found tomorrow there's a very good chance that such a hreakthrough would have a hugely destabilising effect on the world -- both economically and politically.

The entire energy industry as we know it would be turned on its ear. Those who were making billions yesterday would be virtually out of business tomorrow.

I strongly suspect that politicians and those who own them (the rich and powerful) would place severe constraints on the proliferation and availability of this new cheap energy -- citing a need to preserve world stability as the reason.

Suddenly, instead of being told that we need to conserve oil and move to more environmentally friendly alternatives, we'd see this "cheap, clean energy" being rationed or taxed severely -- solely to preserve the viability of existing large energy multi-nationals.

This kind of action would also be necessary to protect us from a massive collapse in the economies of those nations who are currently providing the bulk of the world's oil production.

Without the ability to command a good price for its oil exports, countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE and others would likely enter a state of economic collapse and civil unrest (possibly war).

So, when it comes to alternatives to fossil fuel, be careful about what you wish for -- it may not be all that you expect.

What do you think?

Would governments step in and regulate the availability of cheap, renewable, environmentally friendly energy alternatives if they became readily available?

Would the major players in the oil industry really stoop to the kind of skullduggery that we see being undertaken by those in other industries such as pharmaceuticals?

Could it be that those doing promising research into alternative energy are being told not to try too hard because politicians are aware of the massive problems such a breakthrough would create for the world economy and world peace?

Have your say on this...

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