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Why Jeff Bezos, Peter Thiel, and others are betting on fusion

Why Jeff Bezos, Peter Thiel, and others are betting on fusion thumbnail

The energy source has been long on promise and short on reality. Now private companies think they can succeed where the government has failed.

For more than half a century governments around the world have been trying to solve the challenge of nuclear fusion. In theory it could provide a cheap, clean, and almost boundless source of energy. Consider this: One tablespoon of liquid hydrogen fuel—a mix of deuterium and tritium—would produce the same energy as 28 tons of coal.

But smashing two hydrogen atoms together at 100 million degrees centigrade to create a fusion reaction has proved to be a costly and elusive endeavor. The ITER international project in France has been plagued by cost overruns—the original 5-billion-euro project is now budgeted at 13 billion euros (about $15 billion)—and its 23,000-ton ­Tokamak experimental reactor, three times heavier than the Eiffel Tower, is still many years from completion. In the U.S. the Department of Energy’s $4 billion Lawrence Livermore project, which uses lasers to smash atoms, is still deep in the experimental stage. Scientists are learning much from all this tinkering, but experts say these big projects—if they work—are at best decades away from commercialization.

General Fusion, Peter Thiel, Jeff Bezos, Paul Allen Vancouver based General Fusion aims for a relatively low-cost, practical form of fusion called Magnetized Target Fusion.Photo: Courtesy of General Fusion

That’s not soon enough if the world wants to mitigate the worst effects of climate change while providing cheap, clean energy to the poor—a point not lost on a handful of American billionaires including Jeff Bezos, Paul Allen, and Peter Thiel. These men are betting that fusion done on a small scale will be cheaper, less complex, and ready for market sooner than the big government projects. Some major corporations, such as Lockheed Martin and General Atomics, have the same idea and are working on their own versions of small-scale fusion.

America has six private-sector fusion projects underway, according to a new report by the research firm Third Way. PayPal co-founder and Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel has backed Helion Energy of Redmond, Wash.  Microsoft MSFT -1.34% co-founder Paul Allen has put money behind Tri ­Alpha Energy in Irvine, Calif., which has reportedly raised $140 million. And Bezos Expeditions, the investment fund of Amazon AMZN -3.85% CEO Jeff Bezos, is backing a Vancouver company called General Fusion, which so far has raised $94 million.

Fusion, Peter Thiel, Paul Allen, Jeff Bezos Tri-Alpha Energy in Irvine, Calif., has reportedly raised $140 million.Photo: Courtesy of Tri-Alpha Energy

Other well-heeled investors are sniffing around a different but related technology: cold fusion, which requires a much ­lower operating temperature. Skeptics will recall researchers Stanley Pons and Martin Fleisch­mann, who claimed in 1989 to have achieved fusion in a simple tabletop machine at room temperature. Their experiment was eventually debunked.

More recently scientists have been making some progress on a variation of this technology called low-energy nuclear reaction. That has led investors like Tom Darden, CEO of the $2.2 billion Cherokee Investment Partners, to create a North Carolina startup named Industrial Heat, which licensed the technology of Italian scientist Andrea Rossi. Last year Bill Gates visited the cold-­fusion facilities of the Italian national technology agency ENEA, but he has not invested, according to his office.

VEN.10.01.15.Fusion.Graphic Vertical Photos, Allen: Frazer Harrison—Getty Images; Tri-Alpha: Courtesy of Tri-Alpha Energy; Thiel: Steve Jennings—Getty Images; Helion: Courtesy of Helion Energy; Bezos: K.Asif—India Today Group/Getty Images; General Fusion: Courtesy of General Fusion

At this point no one knows which—if any—of these private-sector ventures will prevail, and achieving fusion won’t be easy. Says Glen Wurden, a team leader at the plasma physics group at Los Alamos National Laboratory: “To get funding, small companies have to promise the moon. There’s a long history where promises have been made and not kept. When you hear a private company say it will have a technology in five years, you roll your eyes.” Critics also say these startups are building on technology that was rejected decades ago by government labs or that still hasn’t been proved.

That may be so, but these entrepreneurs argue that improvements in computer technology just might make those older designs doable today. One prominent example of this trend is General Fusion, the company backed by Bezos. (Retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly is one of the startup’s advisers, and in August the government of Malaysia led a new $22 million round of financing.) It is building on the concept of compressing fuel to heat it until it triggers a fusion reaction, an idea experi­mented with for years in large-scale government programs. At the Livermore lab, for example, lasers the length of football fields are being used to compress atoms into fusion. So far these expensive laser systems require more energy to operate than they produce. In 2002, Michel Laberge, a Canadian plasma physicist, had an idea. What if you replaced those expensive lasers with a hammer and anvil system that created a shock wave that would force the particles into a fusion reaction? Soon after, he founded General Fusion.

Fusion, Peter Thiel, Paul Allen, Jeff Bezos PayPal cofounder and Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel has backed Helion Energy of Redmond, Wash.Photo: Courtesy of Helion Energy

Hammers, too, had been tried before in government labs in the 1970s but failed. Now, thanks to advanced algorithms, modern electronics, and control systems, the hammers can hit the side of General Fusion’s sphere-shaped metal reactor precisely at the same time, creating a pressure wave that compresses the plasma into a fusion reaction at 100 million degrees centigrade. The heat is transferred into a swirling vortex of molten metal, which then gets captured by a steam generator.

General Fusion CEO Nathan Gilliland, who previously worked at Bain Capital, says his company has achieved the right speed and precision of hammers and has created stable, long-lived plasma. Now it’s working on fine-tuning the shock waves and compression so that the plasma generates more energy than it consumes. How long will that take before commercialization? Says a confident Gilliland: “We think in terms of years, not decades. We’ve demonstrated that our pathway is viable. It’s just a matter of engineering.”

The idea of entrepreneurs working in glorified garages trying to solve one of the most ambitious problems in physics sounds absurd on the surface. After all, governments have spent decades and billions without cracking fusion. Yet these startups have one thing ­going for them. Because they are working on a smaller scale they have a quicker learning cycle and, theoretically at least, could get to a solution faster and more cheaply.

There’s at least one relatively recent example the entrepreneurial set can cite: In the late 1980s the federal government said that mapping the first human genome was going to take 15 years and cost $3 billion. The private sector stepped in and did it much faster and more cheaply. There’s certainly no guarantee in this case that private industry will succeed where the government hasn’t. But after 50 years it certainly seems worth trying a different ­approach.


54 Comments on "Why Jeff Bezos, Peter Thiel, and others are betting on fusion"

  1. makati1 on Mon, 28th Sep 2015 9:01 pm 

    Pretty pictures and more bullshit from the money guys.

  2. trickydick on Mon, 28th Sep 2015 9:09 pm 

    A simple waste-to-energy plant can burn garbage and provide extra electricity for sale, but no one wants to spend money building those kinds of things.

    What exactly are all those gleaming and glowing gizmos producing? I’ll bet they consume a lot of power while not making power.

  3. Go Speed Racer on Mon, 28th Sep 2015 11:33 pm 

    I agree. Burning black bags full of trash generates way more energy than fusion. Lot cheaper and way more fun too. I like throwing in old jogging shoes and watch them melt. And plastic hub caps on top make lot of smoke.

  4. verstapp on Tue, 29th Sep 2015 6:38 am 

    Has anyone eve achieved [controlled] criticality yet?

  5. ulenspiegel on Tue, 29th Sep 2015 6:52 am 

    “Has anyone eve achieved [controlled] criticality yet?”

    The sun works sufficiently stable. 🙂

  6. Rod D. Martin on Tue, 29th Sep 2015 7:48 am 

    “Burning bags of trash generates way more energy than fusion.”

    1. Than the Sun? Seriously?

    2. If burning bags of trash were all it took — not that there’s no value in that — we’d have had all the power we needed in the 18th Century. Take a physics class: there’s a reason we use hydrocarbons. Burning wood and paper doesn’t do as much for you as you obviously think.

    3. I wonder how many Luddites like you guys thought it was a “waste of money” to experiment on a polio vaccine? An airplane? A steam engine? Experiments like these are the reason we don’t live in caves.

    “Pretty pictures and more BS from the money guys.”

    And that’s the thing: the money guys don’t need to BS, because they’re spending their own money. It’s government that has to BS, because it’s spending ours.

    And in any case, I have yet to see any of these fellows advertise this or ask you to give them your money for it. In case you missed it, they didn’t write this: some blogger did.

    You would think that on a forum dedicated to Peak Oil — not the most popular concept these days — people would be happy to see smart rich guys trying to solve the problem. Maybe you’re not actually interested in solving problems. Maybe you just like to bitch.

  7. penury on Tue, 29th Sep 2015 9:12 am 

    I for one am happy to see rich people spend their money. I just do not want them spending my grandchildrens money.

  8. ghung on Tue, 29th Sep 2015 9:28 am 

    Rod said: “Maybe you’re not actually interested in solving problems.”

    Gosh, Rod, the problem isn’t energy (yet); it’s how we use it. We currently have more energy than at any time in history, and per-capita energy consumption is near all time highs. What have we done with it? Expanded our population far beyond the carrying capacity of our planet, initiated an extinction event, and pretty much trashed our environment. Do you actually think having a virtually unlimited energy source (the sun excepted) will change our collective behaviour and destructiveness? In case you missed it, energy depletion isn’t the only ugly scenario we face.

    Indeed, the problem we need to solve isn’t energy; it’s us. Got a plan for that?

  9. Kenz300 on Tue, 29th Sep 2015 9:57 am 

    Wind and solar can provide all the energy the earth requires…….

    They are safer, cleaner and cheaper………..

  10. makati1 on Tue, 29th Sep 2015 10:55 am 

    Rod, to claim that the average guy is NOT paying for it is to deny the truth. There is ALWAYS tax payer cash involved in these con games at some point. ” … the government of Malaysia led a new $22 million round of financing.” How many more not mentioned?

    If they didn’t want sucker money, why not wait until it is producing net energy and then make the big announcement? Nope, looking for suckers to foot the bill now and for ever, if possible. And a tax write-off is a taxpayer subsidy by another name.

    I don’t give a damn how many billionaires say they are doing whatever. They are some of the best liars alive or they would not be billionaires. No one is worth that much. No one. The world would be better of it they were all shipped to the moon … without a spacesuit.

  11. GregT on Tue, 29th Sep 2015 11:36 am 

    Rod said:

    “You would think that on a forum dedicated to Peak Oil — not the most popular concept these days — people would be happy to see smart rich guys trying to solve the problem. Maybe you’re not actually interested in solving problems. Maybe you just like to bitch.”

    Peak oil is still not a term that most people have any idea about, and there is a very good reason for that. It would be bad for business.

    Smart guys solving which problem Rod? Overpopulation? Resource depletion? Species extinction? Food production? Water scarcity? How do you believe that adding even more human generated energy into the mix will in any way will solve these predicaments? Where do you believe that the resources will come from to continue manufacturing all of the unnecessary gadgets that we would use this extra electricity for?

    Maybe if more people “liked to bitch” Rod, the general population might wake up and actually start paying attention to the real problems. Industrialism, consumerism, human exceptionalism, and BAU. Fusion isn’t a solution, it is more of the same that got us into these predicaments to begin with. We either start taking care of our one and only planet, or we are done for as a species. It doesn’t get much simpler.

  12. Davy on Tue, 29th Sep 2015 12:09 pm 

    Rod, you just think your rich. The reality of the situation is you are screwed and don’t know it. The most you have is a few physical items and your location. You will find this out shortly.

    One day you will wonder why the store shelves are empty and gas stations closed. Rod, don’t worry, peak oil will only be part of the cause. The real cause will be an imploding way of life. That implosion will come from multiple directions. The best thing you can do is learn how to be poor.

  13. Go Speed Racer on Tue, 29th Sep 2015 1:40 pm 

    I will stand up for Rod. The chat board should not give a post person a hard time. He has some fair comments. The bag of plastic trash is mostly hydro carbons, so it has more energy than wood. Also it’s good for science to try things like fusion. Humorously the sun fusion is totally different than the man made version. At the core it’s a near vacuum the atoms are widely dispersed, like only 100 atoms in a cubic meter. Man made fusion does not work like that anyway so stop equating to the sun. It’s absolutely true if the billionaire invests, the government will giv some kickback so it pencils out pretty. Another few hundred million to the rich. The rest of us can go eat Top Ramen and burn garbage to stay warm.

  14. GregT on Tue, 29th Sep 2015 1:51 pm 

    “The chat board should not give a post person a hard time.”

    So what would you rather ‘the chat board’ do Racer, be untruthful? Our predicaments are not going to be solved by exploiting yet another manmade energy source. It will do nothing but make matters exponentially worse. We are already in mass population overshoot, and are destroying our one and only home. Human technology is the problem, not the solution.

  15. apneaman on Tue, 29th Sep 2015 2:22 pm 

    Creative Self-Destruction and the Climate

    “In his 2006 landmark report on how we should respond to the climate crisis, Nicholas Stern characterised global warming as an ‘externality’, a damage to others due to market activity whose cost is not met by those who cause it.

    Indeed, Stern characterised climate change as ‘the largest ever market failure’. In other words, the problem of global warming arises because the market system is not working well enough, and if we could find a way to correct the fault then the problem would be solved.

    It was a geophysicist, Brad Werner, who in 2012 argued precisely the opposite case – that we are in this mess not because the market system is not working well enough but because it is working too well. Werner’s startling presentation to the annual conference of the American Geophysical Union was titled ‘Is the Earth F**ked?’ and he posed in public the question climate scientists and others who follow their work had been asking in private. His answer was bleak, or just possibly inspirational.”

  16. GregT on Tue, 29th Sep 2015 2:36 pm 

    Even the Pope gets it.

    “The ecological crisis, and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species,” he said, condemning what he called “The baneful consequences of an irresponsible mismanagement of the global economy, guided only by ambition for wealth and power.”

  17. Davy on Tue, 29th Sep 2015 2:48 pm 

    Speedie, while I agree with your compassion in the abstract the reality of our situation is such that time and preparations are limited. We are talking people’s lives that are at stake. We are talking pain and suffering that can be made less severe. The time for cherries and whipped cream is over. We must be firm and direct. We no longer have the luxury of poor decisions. That is what got us here. We have maybe a few years to take some kind of action. Granted, I was brought up to take care of others so I am taking what is ahead seriously. Everyone has his ethical underpinning.

  18. apneaman on Tue, 29th Sep 2015 3:24 pm 

    Rod D. Martin, fuck off with your little fan boy defense of your heros. No one has sucked at the government taxpayer tit more than these parasites. Oh they are smart all right. Smart like a parasitic wasp or a cuckoo bird at getting others to do the work while reaping most of the benefits. What great thing did anyone of them invent from scratch that has bettered humanity? Jeff Bezos? Thank Jesus for Jeff otherwise we would have to leave our caves to go out and purchase the piles useless of shit Amazon sells that’s destined for the landfill or storage the second the dopamine subsides. Fuck Jeff Bezos. Paul Allen? Microsoft? Nothing has slowed the advancement of operating systems and software advancement in general more than the billionaire tech monopolists. Fuck Paul Allen. Peter Theil? Uh I actually don’t know anything about him, but I don’t like his face or the way he spells his name so fuck him too.

  19. antaris on Tue, 29th Sep 2015 5:02 pm 

    Ap, don’t forget the horse they road in on !

  20. apneaman on Tue, 29th Sep 2015 5:04 pm 

    Next time. And there will be a next time;)

  21. Truth Has A Liberal Bias on Tue, 29th Sep 2015 8:32 pm 

    Typical fucking retarded American bullshit. You don’t see anyone else in the world stupid enough to fall for this stupid scam.

  22. GregT on Tue, 29th Sep 2015 8:47 pm 

    “Typical fucking retarded American bullshit. You don’t see anyone else in the world stupid enough to fall for this stupid scam.”

    Except for perhaps Canada, Germany, France, and the EU?

  23. Banjo on Tue, 29th Sep 2015 9:38 pm 

    Agree 100% Apneaman. Billionaires are a by product of monopoly usually enforced by patents and or trade deals that can also be very monopolistic.

  24. Davy on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 5:57 am 

    Billionaires are a product of globalization and financialization. These vehicles have allowed the concentration of capital and global control. That has allowed vast sums of money to be amassed. This late capitalism development then allowed widespread corruption of the legal and political system. The commons were opened up for exploitation for private profit. Normal regulations and basic laws are now bypassed or have been legislated out. I might add laws that are vital for the environment and social fabric.

    The phenomenon becomes irreversible especially now that it is global. Any country resisting this pull deemed less competitive by the global money movements that is mainly billionaires voting for their best yield. This is what we have become folks. Are you proud? I am not. It doesn’t really matter anyway this will not last much longer. The wealth is an illusion and in no way reflects the real physical world we live in. A local world which is a deflated world is has no ability to support such wealth.

    We have overpopulation and overconsumption across the class spectrum. Even poor people overconsume in relation to a postmodern world. Many poor people don’t have much but they have the luxury of not working like they must to survive in a post fossil fuel world. Once need only look to 18th and 19th century Russia to see what a real life is of a serf.

    I bring all this up because being a billionaire is an illusion with no future. Globalism is real and the abundance of globalism is real but it is not sustainable and will end relatively quickly per our human historical narrative. We see deflation and demand destruction today. It is slow now and not too worrisome but this will become a depression that will not end. That is when the billionaires will become millionaires and on down.

  25. Kenz300 on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 10:53 am 

    Solar can provide all the energy the planet needs….

    Top 10 Clean Energy Trends Driving the Global Clean Energy Revolution – Renewable Energy World

  26. energyskeptic on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 12:08 pm 

    At least this shows they understand energy better than most do — a 2002 paper in Science explained why fusion was the only possible energy source that could replace oil.

    Which I also discuss at:

    None of the known alternate energy sources are technically ready to take the place of fossil fuels experts say in a new study: Martin Hoffert, et al 2002 Advanced Technology Paths to Global Climate Stability: Energy for a Greenhouse Planet, Science. Vol 298)

    If we figure fusion out, the extra heat would cook us as surely as unlimited supplies of fossil fuels, so let’s hope the scientists don’t figure it out.

    Living the 15th century lifestyle beats extinction.

    Alice Friedemann,

  27. marmico on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 12:17 pm 

    Living the 15th century lifestyle beats extinction

    The exact personification of the hubris of doomers. They think that they will live the 15th century life while non-doomers become extinct.

    Meanwhile they goof off on Green Acres or stare at a computer screen in their suburban homes spouting blather or both.

  28. ghung on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 12:23 pm 

    They think that they will live the 15th century life while non-doomers become extinct they take what they want from the marmico cornies who saw no need to improve their options..

    Sounds about right…. and I’m not goofing off. I’m giving my back a rest while fucking with you, marm 😉

  29. marmico on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 12:41 pm 

    Grow your cabbages, ghung. 🙂

    You would be collecting food stamps if your spouse didn’t work. Oh, there is this modern thing called a search engine.

  30. Davy on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 12:55 pm 

    Marmi, you will wish you had some cabbage once this market is through with you. You got to be nervous and angry with us doomers. Everything you have been preaching here on this board is being proven wrong daily little by little. Death by a thousand cuts for the Marmi. We are like pecker gnats irritating and bothersome with your fake Freddy fluff life. Every week that goes by you look more ridiculous. I have reached out to you as a friend but you spit on me. So much for compassion for the mentally challenged.

  31. ghung on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 1:04 pm 

    Leave my cabbages out of this, marm. They’re like my kids, who’ll admit, like my wife, that I work harder than any of them. That’s why I’ve been down hard these last few days; and more chance to spend quality time with you.

    BTW: When was the last time you did any really hard physical labor, marm? Broke a really good sweat actually building something tangible instead of sitting in traffic or a cubicle ‘working’ for The Man? You just can’t grok that some of us are smart enough to live a damn fine life while not pissing away half our labor in taxes supporting all sorts of nasty BAU behaviours and consumption. Fact is, I don’t need your income (assuming you have one).

    Which of us is more fucked when BAU fails? That’s the question you need to answer. The thought that I/we may possibly qualify for food stamps we don’t need and still live well is actually quite nice. Means I’m accomplishing my goals.

  32. marmico on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 2:08 pm 

    Leave my cabbages out of this, marm. They’re like my kids

    I like cabbage rolls. I swear on a stack of the quart shy of oil ETP Bibles not to eat your kids when the College of Druids clock is rolled back 500 years. 🙂

  33. marmico on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 2:30 pm 

    Marmi, you will wish you had some cabbage once this market is through with you

    You are a fucking demented innumerate word salad prattle flag waiving asshole.

    Fuck off.

  34. apneaman on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 3:06 pm 

    marmy the Econ 101 disciple falls apart in lock step with the markets. No amount of tricky numerology is going to convince the masses it’s just another “market correction” this time. It’s a correction alright a thermodynamic and biological one.

    That other blind religious group – the alt energy crowd is going to be woken up as well when it sinks in that their fantasy future was, in fact reliant on fossil fueled mining companies and mining equipment – industries which are unravelling too.

    Why Did the Australian Sharemarket Lose So Much Money Tuesday?

    “On Tuesday, the Australian share market lost $56 billion [$39 billion USD] on the back of a global shitstorm with international mining giant Glencore at its center.”

    “The Swiss company now sits at the center of the global commodities market with interests in everything from wheat to iron ore, copper, coal, and oil. In Australia, it owns a string of coal mines in New South Wales and Queensland and is one of the world’s biggest dealers in thermal coal. It also owns zinc, copper, and nickel mines across the various mining states.”

    “The entire situation has people now asking whether Glencore is the resource sector’s “Lehman Brothers,” referring to the American bank that traded in sketchy “subprime” loans to the point where it collapsed in 2008, taking the world’s economy with it.”

  35. marmico on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 3:12 pm 

    The ALT-E crowd will do just fine.

    Ghung shitting in his greenhouse in North Carolina and Davy sodomizing goats in Missouri.

    The two of them are national treasures.

  36. GregT on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 3:22 pm 

    “You are a fucking demented innumerate word salad prattle flag waiving asshole.
    Fuck off.”

    LOL 🙂

  37. Davy on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 3:22 pm 

    Marm, you are too kind. Where did you get so much inner love from?

  38. apneaman on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 3:23 pm 

    And you’ll be under an overpass with a bunch of other neo useless eaters eating rat stew and preaching the second coming of the savior – Milton Friedman….Ya just gotta believe people!!

  39. ghung on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 3:37 pm 

    “Ghung shitting in his greenhouse in North Carolina”

    I shit in the compost pile, outside of the greenhouse. Just shows how much you have to learn.

  40. apneaman on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 3:49 pm 

    Corporate restructurings take the spotlight as commodity rout continues

  41. apneaman on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 4:03 pm 

    Against Hope: A Primer on Complexity and Collapse

  42. GregT on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 4:05 pm 

    “The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved legislation that puts the United States one step closer to avoiding a government shutdown.”

    “The continuing resolution, passed 277-151, would keep the government funded until Dec. 11. Now, it heads to President Barack Obama, who must sign it before midnight, when the government would lose legal authority to spend.”

    “The short-term funding bill would only avert a shutdown for the time being. It sets up another budget fight when it expires in December.”

  43. marmico on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 4:15 pm 

    I shit in the compost pile, outside of the greenhouse. Just shows how much you have to learn.

    That’s why you physically “work out”? Can’t figure out where to shit.

    Once again, ghung the national treasure, should be carved out of granite in Rapid City, Iowa because he shits in the compost not in the greenhouse.

  44. marmico on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 4:26 pm 

    Oh, Apeman, wild fires. Post primary school arithmetic.

  45. ghung on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 4:45 pm 

    Yeah, marm, it probably takes about 10,000 people for you to take a crap; long supply chains and all that. Me? Just some sticks, leaves and such. Marm needs 10,000 people to take a crap; I just need one. Who’s the dumbshit?

  46. apneaman on Wed, 30th Sep 2015 5:25 pm 

    marmy, fire season is not over and may not end in some places now – tell that to your hero econ 101 prof and the other fucktards who visit that blog.

    I’ll see your 1 Post primary school arithmetic chart and raise you 8.

    The failed recovery in 9 charts: 9 charts highlighting the lackluster performance of the economy.

    “It is worth going through each one individually:

    -1. Student loans – we now have a record of $1.36 trillion student loans outstanding. The biggest non-housing debt sector in our economy.

    -2. Food stamps – Over 46 million Americans are in poverty (a record percentage of our population). Dollar stores suddenly sold a bulk of their items as food and many are using those EBT debit cards to pay for daily food. How is this a sign of economic prosperity?

    -3. Federal debt – the Federal debt continues to grow unabated. Will we ever pay this back? #LOL

    -4. Money printing – more like digital debt printing. Inflation is real even though the Fed chooses to minimize its impact. Things now get inflated via forced usage of credit (i.e., mortgage, auto loans, student loans, etc). This gives more power to banks.

    -5. Health insurance – health insurance costs are soaring despite new measures to control it. Employers are chopping away at healthcare benefits and pushing the responsibility onto workers. End result? Families are paying more to stay insured.

    -6. Labor force participation – this is how you get the unemployment rate to look good without making a better economy. 94 million Americans (a record) are now part of the “not in the labor force” category.

    -7. Workers’ share of the economy – wealth is being aggregated in fewer hands. Workers are keeping very little of their spoils as the middle class is slowly erased off the history books. Profits flow up to a narrower pyramid.
    -8. Median income – median family income is back to where it was nearly a generation ago, adjusting for inflation. This is why families feel poorer. Inflation is real. Is college tuition more than 30 years ago? What about housing costs? Health care?

    -9. Homeownership – the homeownership rate is near generational lows because of the foreclosure crisis. No recovery here. Investors bought a large portion of homes through big connections with banking buddies. End result? The one vehicle where most Americans build wealth was siphoned off to the new rentier class. Rents are higher and so are housing costs even though incomes are stagnant (see number 8).
    These are all up-to-date charts. So does this seem like a good recovery to you?”

    If there are any survivors to look back they will look at neo liberal economists and their true believer disciples (you) in the same way we look at people who believed in and practiced Phrenology.

  47. Kenz300 on Thu, 1st Oct 2015 10:16 am 

    Solar energy is safer, cleaner and cheaper than the alternatives and can provide ALL the energy the planet needs..

    Berkeley Lab: Utility-Scale Solar Project Costs Down 50% Since 2009
    September 30, 2015
    By Renewable Energy World Editors

    “Installed utility-scale solar project costs have fallen by about 50%, from $6.3 per AC-W to $3.1 per AC-W, since 2009 for solar projects completed in 2014, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) said on Sept. 30.
    According to Berkeley Lab’s recent report, Utility-Scale Solar 2014, some solar projects built in 2014 were priced as low as $2 per AC-W.
    Projects completed in 2013 performed at an average capacity factor of 29.4 percent in 2014, the report said, adding that projects built in 2011 and 2012 had an average 2014 capacity factor of 24.5% and 26.3%, respectively.
    Authored by Berkeley Lab researchers Mark Bolinger and Joachim Seel, and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, the annual report identifies trends in project costs, performance and pricing of ground-mounted U.S. solar projects larger than 5 MW.
    The report determined that solar project owners are regularly securing power purchases agreements (PPAs) at prices of 5 cents per kWh or less, and declines in PPA prices are making utility-scale projects competitive in states with very little solar development.
    According to the report, there were nearly 45,000 MW of solar capacity in regional transmission operators’ interconnection queues across the U.S. at the end of 2014. In addition, of those projects in queue that receive regulatory approval, most would likely reach commercial operation prior to 2017, when the 30 percent federal investment tax credit is set to decline to 10 percent.”

  48. GregT on Thu, 1st Oct 2015 11:24 am 

    “Solar energy is safer, cleaner and cheaper than the alternatives and can provide ALL the energy the planet needs.”

    Current Solar energy in the form of photosynthesis is all the energy the planet “needs” Kenz. ALL of the manmade energy production is destroying the environment that human kind needs, as a trade off for what man wants. What man wants is not necessary for his survival. The natural environment is.

  49. ResDev on Thu, 1st Oct 2015 11:54 am 

    Wow, a lot of BS comments to this story. Sadly, the first comments are mostly BS; the later ones are more thoughtful. I guess it takes longer to be thoughtful than it takes to spout BS!

  50. Rod D. Martin on Thu, 1st Oct 2015 7:22 pm 

    It is absolutely amazing, sad, and at the same time funny as hell how many people on this board (a) have zero interest in any real solutions, and (b) are just absolutely mad at the world. Some of you hate the guys who made their own money and can afford to do this research precisely because they made their own money and can afford to do this research. You’re just jealous as hell, angry beyond words that anyone has more than you. You are Rosie O’Donnell, who once angrily opined that anyone with more than $150MM should be put to death. How much did she have? $140MM.

    If you really cared about the problems you claim to care about, you would:

    1. Note that a shocking number of people die each year in the Third World because of lung diseases we associate with smoking. Why? Because they have to burn kerosene and wood in their houses for light and heat. Do you care? No, you do not.

    2. Note that the water table and drought problems we’re facing globally could easily be solved through desalination, but only with a tremendous increase in available energy (no, conservation does not solve every problem, just like conserving electricity in my house does nothing to run my car). This would be one of the biggest environmental advances of all time. Do you care? No.

    3. Note that a fusion breakthrough would basically eliminate the need for so-called fossil fuels forever. No more carbon footprint, no more pollution. Just clean energy for all mankind (yes, including the black Africans some of you obviously couldn’t care less about).

    Do you care? No you do not. Why? Because you’re pissed at the world, and especially at Bezos, Thiel, Allen, Musk et al. for being better than you.

    Cuss at me some more. I’m laughing at you.

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