Over on Network World where I’ve had a gig as a columnist for about 18 years, in my Backspin column I wrote about a power generation system this week called E-Cat which is to be tested on October 28th.
If you’ve missed the recent brouhaha over the E-Cat (which stands for Energy Catalyzer), you’re missing out on a three ring circus over a technology that will either change everything or change nothing because what is promised is, in theory, power too cheap to be worth metering.
The E-Cat is a simple device albeit with functioning that defies all known explanations.
In summary, the E-Cat is a cold fusion (CF) device (the inventor, Andrea Rossi, prefers to term the technology “Low Energy Nuclear Reaction” which appears to be the same thing as CF but a less contentious phrasing). I’ll refer you to my Network World column for a more long-winded explanation of the background and theories about the device.
The problem with Rossi’s system is that it is too good to be true. It is claimed that the E-Cat only requires some initial heating to start after which the reaction is self-sustaining. The reaction uses a secret catalyst to transform nickel into copper with heat being produced which can be used to make steam, drive a Stirling engine, or be used for whatever you please.
If this device works as claimed, the world will change and not just a little but hugely and at every level of how we’re organized, how we make stuff, how we travel, and how wealth is distributed. And those changes won’t just impact the US or the Western hemisphere; they will transform the entire world because incredibly cheap energy is the ultimate game changer.
So, here’s what I’m wondering: If the E-Cat does work, how will ultra-cheap energy transform your world? Imagine the following:Where today you use petroleum products for motive energy (for example, to propel cars, trucks, and planes) you will be using steam engines or Stirling engines. In theory you’ll be able to drive across the country for cents. What will that do to the trucking industry? The shipping industry? Aviation? With the demand for gasoline falling overnight and petroleum becoming needed primarily as feedstock for plastics, the US would immediately become self-sufficient in crude oil. What will happen in the Middle East without the huge flow of cash from the Western hemisphere? How will world politics be changed? An E-Cat system could power your house or office making the existing grid obsolete. What would it mean to make your personal and corporate electricity and gas bills nearly zero? The cost of manufacturing would fall very quickly with energy removed from the equation. If you are in manufacturing of any kind, this will affect you enormously. How fast could and how would you rework your corporate strategy to become competitive in a market where prices suddenly plummeted (note that the suddenly reduced cash flows would play havoc with the finance structures of many corporations).