Free Energy As A Political Ideology
by Joel Carlinsky
There is an extensive subculture of people who think it is possible to build a device that produces more energy than it needs to run itself. These people do not stop at the mere prospect of building such a device, which would be a fantastic accomplishment revolutionizing modern physics, but have also woven a vision about it in which it saves the world from pollution by replacing all other forms of power generation. This vision motivates them to continue the search for the elusive goal.
But the sad reality is that even if they ever succeeded in actually making such a machine, the impact on environmental problems would be negligible.
Contrary to what the free-energy enthusiasts think, most environmental problems are not related to how energy is obtained.
Deforestation, over-fishing, habitat loss, damming of rivers, plowing ground, building huge urban sprawls, military use of radioactivity and chemical poisons to poison enemy territory, floating plastic in the oceans, diversion of water for irrigation, destruction of the ozone layer by the chemicals used in military aircraft, and many, many other threats to the environment would not be solved by changing the sources of energy in common use.
The free-energy buffs are chasing a chimera. They like the idea of free energy as the solution to environmental problems, but virtually ignore all the other causes of environmental degradation that have nothing to do with energy sources. Seldom are they to be found among the ranks of environmental activists working on other causes.
In fact, the reverse is true. Most free-energy fans are in favor of new technologies, while most environmentalists are suspicious of any untested technology and usually urge caution, not rapid acceptance of technical innovations.
Another frequent gulf between the free-energy culture and the environmentalists is on population control. Most environmentalists are convinced there are too many people on this planet and they would like to see the number of humans reduced as quickly as possible, as long as the methods used are consistent with humanistic values. But many free energy enthusiasts agree with the teachings of right-wing economists that the earth could support many more people than there are at present if only some new technologies were adopted to yield free energy and increase food production. This short-sighted view concentrates on availability of food and fuel and ignores all the negative impacts a larger population would have on the natural life-support systems of the planet.
Environmentalists frequently blame large corporations or the capitalist economic system for the destruction of the environment, though most would agree instantly if you told them the huge numbers of people and the level of technology now existing are responsible for most of the damage. But the free energy buffs focus mainly, if not exclusively, on the pollution caused by conventional energy sources and place the main burden of blame on oil companies and a few rich and powerful conspirators who are thought to be keeping free energy off the market. Instead of advocating less technology, they advocate more.
And most of them have no objection to capitalism. They dislike the few large companies that they blame for retarding technological progress, but seldom advocate the overthrow of capitalism in favor of any alternative form of economic distribution system. If you suggest to them that the best way to bring in use of free energy devices would be to abolish capitalism and become a socialistic society, they would fail to see the connection.Many of them, in fact, are staunch advocates of the free-enterprise system.
So free energy can be regarded as a right-wing solution to environmental issues, while most environmentalists are on the left of the political spectrum. The differences between them are more important than the things they have in common. The free energy buffs frequently reject a call for a socialist economy, population reduction, and limits on technology just as rigidly as the environmental movement rejects the idea of a technological "fix" for environmental problems.
The two viewpoints are not compatible and cannot be reconciled. Ultimately, they are not about facts, but about values, and represent differing ideas of what kind of a world we want to live in.