06/27/2013 03:42 pm ET Updated Aug 27, 2013

There is No 'Free Energy'

For many years stories have circulated about the suppression of alternative energy sources by the evil and greedy manipulators of the petroleum industry and global financial system. According to these conspiracy theories, those controlling petroleum production do not allow anything to infringe on their stranglehold on the world's economy.

The wild claims run from the U.S. Government confiscating Nikola Tesla's papers to Detroit buying up patents for 100 mpg carburetors nearly a century ago. Indeed, some prominent individuals have asseverated such theories regarding the development of "free energy." While it may be popularly held and emotionally satisfying to create a chimerical boogeyman for the public to hate, there is little basis for that logic. In fact, the premise is absurd.

Foremost, the notion of "free energy" is a total myth. The concept is perpetuated by individuals with their own self-interests, or who are intellectually oblivious to reality. For every energy source, known or hypothesized, there is a cycle that incurs costs that will be passed along to consumers.

That process begins with research and development that never ends. Even after more than one hundred millennia of use of fire by humans, scientists still study thermodynamics to improve applications. Any source of energy; be that petrochemicals (including oil, coal, or natural gas), nuclear, renewables (such as solar, wind or biomass) or any other ingredient, must be extracted and converted or refined at least once to create a usable product.

From the point of generation that energy must be transmitted over a distribution system. Dissemination can range from a simple battery affixed to a device, to extremely complex networks such as the national power grid or the multitudinous filling stations supporting automotive transportation.

Finally the energy must be converted to work producing the desired application -- motion, sound, light, heat, etc. At every point in that process costs are incurred. Then, in most instances, both marketing expenses and taxation are added to the total. There is nothing "free" in that cycle.

There is significant misunderstanding by the public about the requirements necessary to introduce a radically new, disruptive energy technology. From the time of scientific breakthrough and proof of principle, it would take two to three decades before engineering development, public acceptance and infrastructure were completed.

Most people fail to understand the dynamics of the current systems. They simply throw a switch and get power, or drive into a filling station and pump fuel into their cars, with no thought about how the energy was delivered. In reality it takes development, refinement, transmission, and storage just to promulgate a diverse distribution system.

Also adding great expense would be requirements for new devices. Consider that if an ounce of mythical "Unobtainium" could power a car of a thousand miles, it would be useless without a total re-engineering of the vehicle. As an example of such complexity, contemplate that it took more than a century for the development, acceptance and integration of hybrid and electric cars.

There is no doubt that the petroleum industries currently have the global economies by the "hearts and minds," and take extreme advantage of their predominance in the market. However, contrary to popular belief, they are not afraid of competition. The rationale is quite simple, energy demands are constantly increasing, especially as more countries become more technically developed. There is no doubt demand will exceed supplies for the foreseeable future. Therefore, rather than viewing alternative energy sources as threats, the people who presently own the petroleum companies would simply buy controlling interest in the new technologies.

While several countries have nationalized oil production, the majority of petroleum products are developed in public companies such as British Petroleum, Exxon Mobile, Royal Dutch Petroleum, Chevron, ConocoPhilips, Occidental, and others. While some of those stocks are owned by wealthy individuals the majority interest of those publicly traded companies is held by large financial institutions.

The owners have nothing to fear as fund managers would merely alter their portfolios to accommodate the new opportunities. With wealth increasingly more concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, plutocrats already have the economic power to accomplish that takeover.

As for suppression of existing technologies, that too appears to be specious. While stories of invention quashing abound, ground truth is quite different. Zero-point-energy (ZPE), and cold fusion, also known as low energy nuclear reaction (LENR), offer tantalizing hints, but have yet to come to fruition in energy production. Failures in other concepts and schemes run from miscalculation to hoaxes in claims made for output of energy above unity (more energy out than is put in).

Many of these devices have been tested at Dr. Hal Puthoff's Institute for Advanced Studies at Austin, which provides the gold standard for such analysis and is uniquely qualified in calorimetric measurement. Despite wildly inflated claims by some inventors, none of them have met his "one-watt challenge." Rather than asserting multifold above unity output, as many claims do, the challenge demands only a minimum increase in power over what it takes to operate itself to be successful.

While all prior tests have failed to demonstrate a credible energy source that can operate over unity, hope springs eternal. There are scientific theoretical foundations suggesting energy breakthroughs are feasible. What has been missing is concerted research into high-risk/high-payoff technologies. What remains to be determined is whether the solution will come from hidebound traditional institutions or the inspiration of some maverick inventor. The fate of humanity may be riding on it.