Energy

Given the availability of sufficient cheap energy the extraction and transport of raw materials, and the fabrication of structural components from them becomes much cheaper. Obviously the cost of operating plant would also be cheaper, and the combination of all these factors should result in a considerable reduction in the cost of building bridges and other infrastructure assets.
Currently fossil fuels are the cheapest energy source available, and whilst this is true the cost of energy will continue to rise, as the deposits that are cheapest to exploit are used up.
It is likely that fossil fuels will remain the cheapest available energy source for some time yet, but there is reason to believe that in the reasonably short term other energy sources will become cheaper than fossil fuels, and this will result in a sustained drop in energy prices.
Possible fossil fuel replacements include;
• Photovoltaic Solar Power
• Fusion Reactors
• Thorium Molten Salt Reactors
• Biofuel
• Low Energy Nuclear Reactors
3.6.1.1 Solar Power
The cost of photovoltaic solar power has been dropping consistently by about 7% a year for the past three decades. Should this tend continue solar power should become cheaper than coal before 2020.

3.6.1.2 Fusion Power
Fusion power is the power generated by nuclear fusion processes. In fusion reactions two light atomic nuclei fuse together to form a heavier nucleus releasing a large amount of energy in the process.
Deuterium is one of the fuels that can be used in fusion reactors, and there is enough deuterium in sea water to satisfy humankind’s energy needs for literally millions of years.
There are a number of groups currently working on developing fusion power, including;
• ITER
• Lawrenceville Plasma Physics
• Focus Fusion
• Helion Energy
• Sandia
The conventional wisdom that commercial fusion power is still decades away, but there are rumours of a secretive unnamed Australian company that believes it will be in a position to trial a fusion power plant in 2012.
http://www.cleantechblog.com/2011/11/a-fusion-reactor-hollywood-could-love.html
3.6.1.3 Thorium Molten Salt Reactors
Thorium molten salt reactors are a cleaner, safer type of nuclear reactor gaining interest recently. Thorium is more common than Uranium, and significant deposits of thorium containing ore are located within Australia.
It is expected that Thorium based nuclear reactors will be considerably cheaper to build than existing types of nuclear reactors.
A number of companies including a Australian and Czech partnership are currently working on thorium molten salt reactors.
http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/11/australian-and-czech-project-to-make.html
3.6.1.4 Biofuels
Biotech is one of the technological arenas that are advancing exponentially, and the concept of modifying micro-organisms to produce fuels isn’t that far-fetched.
Pen State University in the United State for example recently announced a microbiological process that can convert a combination of waste water and sea water into hydrogen.
http://www.gizmag.com/producing-hydrogen-from-wastewater/19884/
3.6.1.5 Low Energy Nuclear Reactors (LENR)
There has been a lot of excitement recently about the Rossi Energy Catalyser. Rossi an Italian scientist claims to have developed a method of energy production, based on converting Nickel and Hydrogen to Copper. Whilst there is considerable skepticism about his claims, he has already built and sold a small number of reactors, and the technology should be either proven or disproven within a year or two. If the reactors perform as claimed, it could result in energy prices plummeting to 10% or less of what they are today, and trains that run for six months without refueling, and other wonders. Another company Defkalion is also claiming to have built a similar type of reactor.
An Australian Company – Star Scientific - is working on a different kind of LENR – Muon Catalysed Fusion. As with regular fusion MCF is deuterium based, so the is an almost limitless supply of fuel available.
http://www.starscientific.com.au/

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