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Conversation with an Energy Heretic - Part II

Conclusion of two-part discussion with Dr. Thomas Valone on the fringes of 'emerging energy'

By Bill Moore

To Part One

"Emerging energy," as Dr. Tom Valone and his colleague like to refer to what conventional science considers fringe or pseudo-science, faces a real conundrum.

The very people who are qualified to understand and weigh in on the merits of the matter, are often the least likely to do so for fear that it will tarnish their careers. And it isn't because they've carefully studied the literature or conducted serious investigations for even to do that much might stain their reputations as scientists.

So, we are left with a handful of people like Dr. Valone who continue to labor in a field that the mainstream considers unfruitful and unproductive at best and downright heretical at worst.

Still, there remain so many unanswered questions -- like what propels all those hundreds of toy lifters experimenters around the world have flown for years now -- that makes the fringe so intriguing ground to explore.

And not just the fringe. Valone is just as interested in the conventional as the unconventional. During our discussion he talked about an article he just published in Future Energy magazine that highlights what he considers five important breakthroughs in solar energy in the last year that will make it even cheaper to tap into. He lists them as follows:

In part two of this interview, we talk about why he believes there is something real about the energy at the far edges of science. You can listen to the entire 30-minute discussion using either of the two MP3 Players at the top of the page or by downloading it to your computer hard drive for transfer and playback on your favorite MP3 device.

IN BRIEF: Synopsis of Part II of the Interview

  • When Valone and two other colleagues from the Conference on Future Energy attended a Foundation for the Future conference, it was a former physicist from the Jet Propulsion Lab who stood up and defended the Zero Point Energy proponents when a couple other PhDs, one from NYU, protested that they'd prefer the symposium stick to conventional physics. He noted that while many professionals are somewhat interested in the field, they prefer to keep it at arms length and when pressed, they get defensive and take refuge in the safety of the status quo.

  • Taking his cue from Jared Diamond's "Collapse", Valone noted that societies fail when their sources of energy are depleted and this is what is facing the people of the planet today. He said that we need denser, lighter, more portable, localized forms of energy. He is especially keen on local, distributed forms of energy that are produced in the home or community and not the large centralized plants that only compound the impending crisis in his mind.

  • To the question of which "emerging energy" technologies or theories he's investigated over the years is the most promising in helping address the energy crisis he sees ahead, he identified photovoltaic energy -- as discussed above -- as one of the most promising and immediate pathways. He also sees promise in a vanadium-based redox regenerative fuel cell developed by a Canadian company called VRB Power. Essentially, it stores excess or off-peak electric power like a huge battery and then using PEM fuel cell technology produces electric power on demand. It can run forever for less than a penny a kilowatt, Valone contends, saying it is far superior to batteries for storing electrical energy.

    Another conventional technology he likes is production of on-site electricity from a plant's waste heat, and he know of several such facilities now in operation. This allows the company to disconnect from the grid.

  • America's Founding Fathers designed the Congress to be a slow-moving, deliberative body, which has its advantages and disadvantages, especially when it comes to dealing with the consequences of the nation's fossil-fuel dependency, which continues to aggravate a worsening environmental crisis that we and our descendants will pay for in the coming century. Valone finds that when he makes presentations to Congressional staffers, his material often gets diluted and put on a shelf. He notes that even getting to a mere 10% renewable energy standard at the state level is a hard sell and likely to never happen at the federal level.

    And yet, he points out, we need a 50-80% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions if we are going to minimize the environmental impact of global warming.

  • He sees electric cars as a "very nice bet on the future." He sees them becoming increasingly valuable as time progresses and a safe place to put your money (long term). He sees batteries, like solar PV, being revolutionized, along with the promise of ultracapacitors from firms like EEStor.

    But beyond what are clearly conventional energy and propulsion systems, Valone thinks the emerging field of electrokinetics (also known as electrogravitics) shows promise well beyond the toy lifters. He and others believe that the B2 Stealth Bomber has some of this technology incorporated into it, enhancing its stealthiness and even possibly providing a small margin of propulsion.

  • I asked Valone, who is clearly an intelligent, diploma-ed individual with a Masters in physics and PhD in Engineering why he believes Zero Point Energy and electrokinetics are real. He responded in two words: quantum coherence. He explained that the much-vaunted, often-cited-by-skeptics Second Law of Thermodynamics doesn't allow for the extraction of workable energy from two energy "baths" of the same temperature: you have to have a temperature difference. However, "quantum coherence" does, in fact, allow for energy to be extracted and methods for doing so have been postulated, peer-reviewed and published in reputable journals like Nature.

    Another example is the Casimir effect, which is now accepted and understood to be the means by which geckos can climb up glass windows and insects can walk on ceilings. It turns out that if you are within a millionth of a meter of an object, the Casimir force creates a powerful attraction. Microscopic hairs on the pads of the gecko are just the right size to create the Casimir effect. It is so powerful at the micron level that it destroys nanoscale devices.

    However, Valone has identified a number of different ways to manipulate the effect and create potential micron-scale engines, which can be chained together to create power plants capable of producing kilowatts-to-megawatts of energy.

  • He points to two already existing "over-unity" devices: the simple solar-powered calculator and the conventional heat pump. Both produce more "work" than the amount of energy they consume. He also cites permanent magnets as another example of zero point energy at work. His institute is working on two self-sustaining, permanent magnet motors that can produce sufficient torque to do meaningful work and both can be scaled up.

  • Looking into the future -- assuming a more open-minded government policy towards emerging energy systems -- Valone sees a world powered by devices that are today considered impossible. He cites the survey performed by Dr. Stephen Schwartz of numerous remote viewers that sees the planet's energy problems solved by 2050. He said we need these systems if we are to survive as a race on an increasingly crowded, resource depleted planet.

    He sees the environment forcing us in the coming two decades to be more energy efficient in energy production, which he also sees as a misnomer. When Zero Point Energy is understood and accepted some day, we'll understand that we are not "producing" energy, but simply converting it from one form to another.

    We are bathed in a sea of energy and an enormously powerful one at that. The challenge isn't so much how to tap it, we'll eventually figure that out. The challenge is do we have the maturity and wisdom to use it wisely? We will have to become, Valone believes, a single world community and the European Union shows that it can be done.

    It is more a sociological problem than a technological one, he concluded. Free energy is our destiny, as free as the air and as the water.

    EVWORLD Future In Motion Podcast

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    Times Article Viewed: 14453
    Published: 20-Aug-2007

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