by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
April 22, 2009
DOES PRIDE GO BEFORE A FALL?
BRADENTON, Fla., April 22, 2010 -- A bright, clear day is rising here on Florida's beautiful Gulf Coast as I write, bringing with it the new hope inherent in every day and the bedraggled promise that all we have done to the Earth we live on can somehow be mostly undone, its ills healed and its beauty restored.
That's a lot of bedraggled promise for one day.
Here in Florida, the reality is that developers are very quietly running off with countless acres of agricultural land that will be desperately needed when the end-times of global climate change reach their zenith.
I don't mean to be pessimistic, but this nation will one day need the vast bread baskets of Florida to fill its pantries, and when they do, they will open the pantry's door and find it full of unsold homes threatened by rising sea levels and so forlorn of green space that the state's cupboard may remain bare for many seasons to come. It is not so different in other states along the southern border of America, and the industrial and human wastelands of northern Mexico.
Where there is now still opportunity to save green land for the future, by then the curse of greed and the pace of industrial, commercial and residential development will have driven their own burgeoning populations and a flood of migrants here when northern states have collapse under year-long cold and the huge cost of energy for heat.
That's why, when others snicker, we are not embarassed to place on our front page the embedded video of the important "60 Minutes" segment on cold fusion from April 19. The news that energy is available from an as yet poorly-understood electrochemical process was first announced on March 23, 1989; for many, news of the 10.8-million gallon oil spill on March 24, 1989, hit the nation's front pages on the same day.
While circumstances had providentially offered mankind a stark lesson on our capacity to heal and to destroy - and a choice of direction - we chose poorly. Universities like MIT, abetted by the hidden hand of the oil industry and the lure of buillion s for costly "hot fusion" research, quickly extinguished the light of hope that the Pons and Fleischmann announcement at the University of Utah had brought to the world, and reduced us all again to the mire of dead sea life and treacly water that despoiled the Alaskan coast.
The "60 Minutes" segment was an attempt to revive that hope after 20 years of wasted time. Its reporters found that the promise of cold fusion had been realized and verified in at least 20 independent laboratories around the world. But it is not so easily done, and that's why we revisit the topic today.
What would it mean if, suddenly, tabletop fusion energy were available to the average man and woman in the United States, the world's largest consumer of petroleum? It would mean far more than simple energy independence, which is independence from your local utility for power needs. It would mean much more than freedom from the bills those power producers mail out every month, from the gasoline we buy, from the dirty coal that fires our utility power plants and factories, and from the nuclear waste that can poison our planet for untold millenia.
It would mean something very vital to our individual and collective future: Freedom from the built-in costs of everyday life attributable to our need to move, travel, commute, consume and create. In simplest terms, it would mean an economic Golden Age for the American peopl, and any other nation that adopted cold fusion generators on a wide scale. The newly created disposable income would be immeasurable, so much that it would have its own environmental consequences.
I often wonder if the captain of the Exxon Valdez, who was reportedly drunk when he ran the ship aground off a little known Alaskan oil port, was drunk because of what he had been asked to do. Asked to do? I believe, without foundation, unfortunately, that the energy companies had gotten advance word of the cold fusion announcement, possibly through the competitors of Pons and Flesichmann, some of whom were all set to both verify and denounce the announcement.
There was more than one cold fusion project, you may or may not recall; Pons and Fleischmann, who had worked the longest and hardest on it (for five years), wanted to retain their slim lead over the rest of the field. Again, without evidence, I nonethless believe that a corresponding disaster had to balance the media exposure of their astounding breakthrough.
It was a tactic that is well-known in Washington politics today: when you see on the wire services' "daybook" that a big press announcement is scheduled for the following day by your archenemy or biggest competitor, you do everything you can to dilute the publicity potential of the other event with one of your own inspiration. If you don't have anything planned, plan something; if you can't plan anything, have someone else allied with you move up an announcment or press conference of their own. Step on them - that's the p.r. rule of thumb. Then your campaign of discrediting them can begin. That isn't a conspiracy; it's a strategy.
In the case of Pons and Fleischmann, though, the oil industry was collectively faced with an event that would lead America and the world to believe that the end of their dominance of the world stage was abruptly coming to an end. Oil and all fossil fuel products would no longer be necessary in countless applications; a simple tabletop process would take their place. With Earth Day approaching three weeks ahead, what was called for was something drastic, something guaranteed to bring huge amounts of publicity. It would seize the headlines and dominate them, making the Utah announcement a bizarre and innocuous sideshow.
Actually, the 10-million-gallon spill did not break the Utah event, but merely competed with it in the following day's breathless headlines. Today, the "coincidence" so many believe in has been forgotten; oil is still dominant, and cold fusion, for the most part, is on the back pages. For Exxon, it was a small sacrifice to make; with profits running now at $44 billion a year, the cost was ultimately immaterial. Imagine what those profits would have been with cold fusion in every home.
Had "60 Minutes," with its very strong reputation for accuracy and the ability to break major news, reported the affair of a senator or governor or revealed a big gold strike somewhere, American media would have followed the news with headlines. That 20 independent labs had verified cold fusion and all its promise elicited no new coverage at all. The media still feels burned from the first one; I'll never forget the abject mea culpas from the Los Angeles Times science reporter who put the Utah story on its front page.
He and others like him vowed to never touch anything like it again. Oil spills, meanwhile, are reliable news that get the blood pounding, and that's what newspapers rely upon today - the damning cost, the damage, the vast islands of floating petroleum waste in the form of every plastic product known.
Not for them the hope of cold fusion, or cheap onboard hydrogen fuel for cars, not for them the wind and solar, the mechanical advances in motors, not for them the experiemental and the new. No; for them, the oblivion of irrelevance and the graveyard of ink. Never will they allow themselves to be put in the position of actively promoting technology that can save and free our nation; it would be unethical. Better they should die, and die they will.
On this Earth Day, for our colleagues in the media, for our fellow Americans, for all the peoples of the world, for rich and poor, for children and the future, we hope for more.
Joe Shea is Editor-in-Chief of The American Reporter, and organizer of the HHO Games & Exposition, an event that showcases hydrogen fuel technology.