Re: USGS estimate of oil supply

From: george murphy (
Date: Thu Oct 04 2001 - 08:51:29 EDT

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    George Hammond wrote:

    > .....................................
    > > As a less-theoretical (non-theoretical) person, I gave up on fusion years
    > > ago. Matter of fact, at a conference about a year ago, one speaker
    > > mentioned that about the only pronouncement on the fusion is that it is
    > > "forty years away from being viable." This has been the case for the last
    > > fifty years. ;-)
    > [Hammond]
    > During the war they needed Radar to spot submarines on the
    > surface to win the battle of the Atlantic. No one even knew
    > if it could be done. The "candu" attitude at MIT nevertheless
    > produced the Magnetron and cm-wave radar that wiped out the
    > U-Boats. Same with the Manhattan Project and the A-Bomb. They
    > didn't know if one could be built, or what would happen when
    > they set it off. Same with Fusion.

             Bush had a chance to pump $1.3 trillion into Fusion over

    > 10 years. Instead he opted for a tax cut. There is no law of
    > physics which says a Fusion reactor can't be built. It's just
    > a matter of money.

            Certainly no law of physics rules out controlled fusion - witness the
    sun. & we can develop lots of good theoretical models in which it takes place -
    magnetic &/or inertial confinement &c. But the distance from that to a working
    model, & from there to a practical power source is - well, unknown at this
    point. I remember hearing the same kind of comment that Chuck made - that it's
    always 40 years away - when I was in grad school, now getting close to 40 years
            The problem of plasma instabilities (among others) is pretty daunting.
    It's true that there's some similarity there with what had to be done to achieve
    an implosion bomb, but the fact that that was solved pretty quickly doesn't mean
    that the fusion problem will be. It obviously hasn't been in ~50 years,
            I'm not as pessimistic as Chuck - which is again the advantage of being
    a theorist. We may well get commercial power from controlled fusion at least in
    my children's lifetimes. But it's unrealistic to see it as our first response
    to a decline in oil supplies on the time scale that Glenn & others have talked
    about. There is no magic bullet - fission, fusion, hydrogen combustion, &c.
    What we ought to be working toward now is a mix - changing cultural patterns to
    reduce (not eliminate) use of oil, reasonable use of fission, solar power &
    other sources where feasible, & continued work on fusion without illusions.



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

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