For the fields of energy and fuels it has been a very good year.

The current mainstay of energy, oil and gas, has been quite good for consumers this past year. The U.S. oil and gas industry has shown how impressive, even in the midst of prices actually a bit too low, that enterprise, research, innovation and American spirit will fuel an booming economy.

In the near future the congress and the president have reworked the regulatory system for fission nuclear power that will likely reignite the industry. Entirely missed by the media, this is thought, as details are still coming out, to revitalize research and development of many more reactor types. Your humble writer hopes to see that alternative fueling such a thorium plus reactors that use the 94%+ energy remaining in the existing used fuel on hand, gets put to work. I’m looking for both from a consumer’s lower cost stand point but also to draw down the enormous inventory of highly dangerous, toxic and costly to maintain used fuel.

Fusion power looks, from the press releases, to be closing in on net power. This field is about as enthused and confident as your humble writer has ever seen. While ITER is still a money pit, a few innovators look to be getting close.

Cold fusion on the other hand seems to have just disappeared. This field, plus some more far out ideas have gone silent. That may be a good thing, or perhaps not. Just keep in mind that history has many left field type of incoming effects.

Wind seems to have gone over the precipice. Germany has discovered the goal of total renewable power isn’t possible and the consumer cost has grown to driving business and industry out of the country taking great employment resources with them as well as make the standard of living stagnant for many and a reduction for a growing share of the populace. Add to that a city in Texas that got on the piper’s parade is in serious trouble. Wind, a idea that can only go with taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies looks to be mature, if not already at the point of imminent decline. Your humble writer is concerned that as the build up of wind was oversold the takedown will be another economic burden.

Solar has had a very good year with lots of research gains and cost advantages to consumers. Taking out the grid sized installation ideas, and seeing solar as a huge potential in practically all niche uses, the future looks bright indeed.

The most interesting field could be batteries. The chemistry and materials research is intense, and has occupied quite a large number of posts this past year. While no leading technology is in danger, lots of incremental improvements are coming. While consumers may not see product packaging lauding the research in a product, commercial batteries are going to get better in all the main chemistries. Add to that, several chemistries may well scale up well and add to designer and engineers options in product development.

Another contender of most interesting is materials, primarily catalysts. This year has been an amazing vista for chemists working in fuels and batteries. As a practical matter, this field may be the most important in energizing and fueling the future. This field has given benefits from the smallest atom, hydrogen to the large complex fuel molecules. And it looks like much more is to come.

Only one present is missing, the hydrogen storage solution. Or, rather we’re not looking at what is right here in front of us. There will always be carbon in our energy and fuel future. There will always be hydrogen in our energy and fuel future. They are already combined in many of our main energy storage products. Your humble writer hopes we settle down and put aside the purist hydrogen economy ideal and look for economical ways to use these to elements at very low cost in fuels and use the energy in the fuels at the highest possible efficiency.

Your humble writer believes this Christmas is Merry because we have good reason to expect that the ascendancy of our and the world population’s standard of living will increase in an accelerated way and the our children and the coming generations living standards will improve as well.

A Merry Christmas wish for you. Indeed!


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