Techno-utopian hope springs eternal. Ooooo-aaaahhhh, fusion is here! We really can keep making shit using energy slaves forever! The myth of progress has been renewed!
Am I just a curmudgeon? An ill-tempered Schopenhauerean naysayer? A hopeless misanthrope with a compulsion to urinate on our most venerated dreamscapes?
Fusion energy (not the kind we get from the sun . . . that works fine) is today’s alchemy . . . and, for a few exalted scientific dabblers and their retinues, an ATM. No, the world will never be a cornucopia of endless fusion power, and not just because the research and application is a vast energy sink with its roots in already catastrophic extractive practices. Exsomatic energy use beyond some very limited thresholds is not only a drain on fuel supplies; it dissolves biomes and communities and creates a dependency that ensures modernity’s own suicidal momentum.
For the record, I still think the hydrogen-energy hype is likewise a scam. Fossil hydrocarbons and (unfortunately) nuclear fuel (which uses massive quantities of fossil hydrocarbons) are going to remain the workhorses of the great extinction event. Where we are headed is where we were always headed — biospheric dissolution punctuated with oil spills, chemical spills, Three-Mile-Islands, Chernobyls, and Fukushimas.
Beyond that slippery but still very real threshold of exosomatic energy-use, which can only be cheated through massive inputs of photosynthesis — a process for which capitalism is systematically destroying its material bases — there is no cornucopia, but only an inexorably grim zero-sum game. It wouldn’t matter if fusion were not what it is — a wastefully expensive scientific parlor trick and a con-game. Even if fusion were not billions of dollars aimed at producing a “net energy gain” (yeah right) for a few billionths of a second, the problem is not that we don’t have enough “energy,” but that we have and use far too much of it to do far too many insanely counterproductive things.
And yet, for one transcendent Pelagian moment, we can now imagine — oooooo-aaahhhh — that Science da God has secured our salvation.
I call bullshit.