Return to Washington D.C., September 11, 2006.
Part IV - Call for New Energy: An Open Letter to Al Gore
Dear Mr. Gore, October 17, 2006
I am a former astronaut, Cornell professor, physics faculty member at Princeton University and visiting faculty member in technology assessment at the University of California Berkeley School of Law, Mo Udall's energy advisor and speechwriter during his 1975 Presidential campaign, author, AAAS Fellow, World Innovation Foundation Fellow, NASA group achievement award recipient, and founder of the New Energy Movement.
You have asked the public to address the important question: 'How can we reverse global climate change?' I agree that taking on that task is critical for our collective survival. You have also stated that we must freeze and drastically reduce our carbon emissions. I totally agree.
The most promising answer to your question is surprisingly simple and can be summed up in two words: new energy. My experience finds that serious discussion of new energy is still politically incorrect in mainstream circles, which is appalling. Delays in implementing life-saving innovation will be at our collective risk and peril. The urgency for action in these times is unprecedented in human history. Quantum leaps in energy innovation, which some of us in the scientific community are aware of, can provide the needed solution, hopefully in time to avert global disaster.
Having held professorships in the physical sciences and energy policy at many universities with an impeccable publication record for 45 years, I join you in not taking these matters lightly. I make no claims that cannot be rigorously backed up and I have no vested interest in which specific energy options should be implemented. I receive no money for the grassroots work I am doing in assessing these technologies. I can assure you that with proper public support, we will soon have robust solutions without needing many building blocks or wedges. Incremental approaches, as you correctly point out, will not be adequate to solve the problem. But you may not be fully aware of what’s on the horizon, since we have been so blinded by our collective shortsightedness.
By 'new energy' I mean innovative technologies with the potential of providing a quantum leap in our ability to tap cheap, clean and decentralized energy for producing fuels and electricity. These may or may not be recognized by mainstream science. The technologies include:
ADVANCED HYDROGEN TECHNOLOGIES (1) catalytic water molecule manipulation and dissociation through cheap electrolysis, and (2) manipulation of hydrogen plasmas with catalysts to induce fractional quantum electronic states that yield large energy outputs;
COLD FUSION or low energy nuclear reactions (LENR) by electrochemical means, induced in water and heavy water solutions catalyzed by (1) palladium cathodes, (2) sonocavitation and (3) other processes that can produce large amounts of thermal, radiation-free nuclear energy;
VACUUM ENERGY or zero-point energy, tapping the enormous quantum potential of every point in space-time, through the use of (1) super-motors with super-magnets (cf. Faraday), (2) solid state devices, (3) Tesla coils, and (4) charge clusters; and
THERMAL ENERGY from the environment.
Any one of the above approaches to new energy promises a quantum leap, i.e., orders of magnitude increase, in our ability to tap and have abundant clean, cheap, decentralized energy for all of humanity. In addition, there are many important transitional technologies which can mitigate emissions in the very near future, as follows:
RECYLING AND SEQUESTRATION OF CO2 AND OTHER POLLUTANTS AT THE SOURCE through innovative chemistry; and
REMEDIATION OF RADIOACTIVE NUCLEAR WASTE with innovative technologies.
All of the above concepts have already been demonstrated in laboratories throughout the world (I have seen many such demonstrations) and have been published in the peer-reviewed literature, but implementing them has proven difficult because there is no significant support.
As you undoubtedly already know, the environmental literature nowadays well expresses the energy problem and other aspects of our national crisis, but has so far fallen short on solutions. Some of the best scientists in the world (John Holdren, Nathan Lewis, Richard Heinberg, James Lovelock and Ruggero Santilli, for example) have concluded that conventional renewables such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, tides, biofuels and hydrogen fuel cells are not nearly adequate to meet current, much less projected, energy demands. Each of these 'building block' options runs into serious pitfalls environmentally and economically when we talk about supplanting our multi-trillion dollar hydrocarbon energy economy. Nuclear options also have their serious problems, as you undoubtedly know.
You hit on the situation in your recent NYU speech when you said, 'I am certain that some of the most powerful solutions will lie beyond our current categories of building blocks or wedges'. You said that America, and only America, has the 'capacity for vision' but that 'we have to urgently expand the limits of what is politically possible'. Very well said, and part of any program to implement new energy will involve a very rapid but necessary political education and risk-taking that even the liberal and progressive community has ignored. I acknowledge, and I am sure you would agree, that the limits of what is politically possible need to stretch very far to accommodate the reality of new energy. But what is physically and economically possible is surprisingly close at hand.
You also said in your speech that our children 'deserve better than the spectacle of censorship of the best scientific evidence about the truth of our situation and harassment of honest scientists who are trying to warn us about the looming catastrophe.' There’s also a second group of scientists involved in new energy research that has been suppressed even more and need to take their place in our quest for solutions.
New energy would shift the paradigm overnight. We will need public policies in place to:
Do the necessary R&D Apollo-style in secured laboratories, gathering teams of the best and brightest scientists and engineers in the field. Surprisingly, the cost of such an effort would only be on the order of $200 million for five years, equivalent to one day of fighting in Iraq and two days of profits for ExxonMobil. We must leave no stone unturned in this quest because the range of technologies is already broad and far-reaching.
2. Provide public forums to debate and discuss how to implement the most viable new energy options to mitigate climate change and pollution; and provide education and demonstrations for the public. We need to plan conversion scenarios that can help industry and government make the necessary transition to a new energy economy. The defense and aerospace conversion policies I helped George McGovern, Fritz Mondale and Jesse Jackson draft during their campaigns were minor compared to what we must do here.
While being politically incorrect at the moment, the consideration of new energy needs to be at the forefront of future energy policy discussions. It is too late to deny this, and we certainly don’t want the control of these technologies be in the wrong hands by default. In President Eisenhower’s words, 'Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.' New energy needs to be controlled by We the People and so a strong grassroots movement will be necessary.
I cannot stress too strongly that an aggressive program to develop new energy is what humanity will need to survive our perilous situation. It may be painful for us to address these issues and may seem a bit far-fetched at first, but I can assure you these technologies are very real and can be developed as public policy. To that end, I am working now with Rep. Dennis Kucinich to draft legislation for providing public support for new energy R&D.
One final word: don't rely exclusively on those mainstream scientists, journalists and pundits who deny the reality of new energy. They are just as ignorant as those scientists who denied the practicality of aviation even after the Wright brothers were flying. But to expect the Wrights to immediately deliver a 737 would have been unrealistic.
In the conclusion of your speech, you said, 'This is an opportunity for bipartisanship and transcendence, an opportunity to find our better selves and in rising to meet this challenge, create a better brighter future, a future worthy of the generations who come after us and who have a right to be able to depend on us.' I couldn’t agree more and we’re on the same team.
I plan to speak about these things at the UN on November 29. Could I meet with you a little after that to discuss these Earth-saving possibilities? Time is of the essence and we need to act soon. I look forward to your response.
Brian O'Leary, Ph.D.
Back to:ARTICLES AND ESSAYS