Fossil Fuels

What will the future of energy production look like?
Answered by Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Dr. Michio Kaku

    Dr. Michio Kaku

  1. Dr. Michio Kaku Theoretical Physicist and Author


    When you look at the energy picture, I think it's clear there's no white knight. There's no one single source of energy that'll dominate for the next 10 years. We're talking about an energy mix. That's just the nature of the beast. We're talking about fossil fuels being very efficient, concentrating energy into very small volume, competing with solar, hydrogen, wind, renewables and increased efficiency. However, there are two trends here.

    First, is the falling cost of solar hydrogen. Every year, it's cheaper and cheaper to mass-produce solar cells and to harness wind farms, while fossil fuel technology becomes, on average, more expensive every year. In about 10 years' time, the two curves will cross. Then market forces take over, and it becomes economical to go solar, hydrogen, wind, renewable because it's cost competitive with fossil fuel technologies, which are erratic, and, on average, go up in cost.

    I think we have, as far as the greenhouse effect is concerned, a danger period. The next few decades will be very dangerous for us because we're going to create enormous quantities of carbon dioxide. Beyond that horizon, solar hydrogen becomes cost competitive, and then fusion power emerges as a dark horse in a 20-year timeframe.

    The French are betting the store on fusion power. They have the ITER fusion reactor, costing about 10 billion euros also sponsored by the United States, Russia, Japan and Korea. Their bet is that seawater will ultimately energize the world's nuclear power plants, which will be based on fusion and not fission.

    There's a crucial difference there. The nightmare of the meltdown is created by nuclear waste. Nuclear waste is hot. Nuclear waste comes from the splitting of uranium. When you fuse hydrogen, there is no uranium; there is no nuclear waste other than helium gas, which is commercially expensive and valuable. In other words, if we can make the transition to solar hydrogen, and beyond that to a fusion era, then we can phase out fossil fuels. Then we don't have to worry about the greenhouse effect, then we can go to unlimited energy sources coming from the sun and coming from seawater.

    More answers from Dr. Michio Kaku »

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