Thomas Friedman, in his ongoing attempt to push the boundaries of innovation in the U.S., argues for a push on “fusion” as a way to have a purchase on a massively game-changing energy source.
In his piece today, The Next Really Cool Thing, he writes:
Last Monday at 3 a.m., for the first time, all 192 lasers were fired at high energy precisely at once — no small feat — at the target chamber’s empty core. That was a major step toward “ignition” — turning that hydrogen pellet into a miniature sun on earth. The next step — which the N.I.F. expects to achieve some time in the next two to three years — is to prove that it can, under lab conditions, repeatedly fire its 192 lasers at multiple hydrogen pellets and produce more energy from the pellets than the laser energy that is injected. That’s called “energy gain.”
It’s also called “playing with fire” (pun intended). A few years ago, a physicist warned that that we simply don’t know what we’re doing by forcing elements together that previously didn’t exist together on Earth. Sure, it would be “cool” to have a “miniature sun” just fifty miles east of San Francisco. But do these scientists know how to capture, confine, and control that sun? What happens if this new sun created so much energy that it consumed the state of California, the North American continent, or the planet itself?
While I reserve some respect for Mr. Friedman and his desire to pursue “clean” energy, this is the kind of “reporting” that gave us a nice war in Iraq, a worldwide economic crisis, and a greenhouse warming. Are we all a bunch of suckers, hoping that we’re going to gain free energy—without risking the very structure of the planet?
If journalists like Friedman can’t ask the hard questions of these scientists, I worry not for the future of journalism but for the future of our little existence.