Commercial LENR = More or Less Employment?

There’s been a lot of discussion over the years regarding the disruptive effect of commercial LENR — and the topic came up in some comments yesterday as pertaining to its effect on employment. This is something I have thought about quite a bit, and I think there are good arguments for LENR causing both more and less employment.

To summarize:

Commercial LENR could lead to more employment because:

  • A drop in overhead costs for businesses will free up more funds for business expansion, hiring new employees.
  • If energy prices drop, consumers will have more discretionary funds to spend — thus increasing economic activity overall, leading to more jobs.
  • New industries will grow out of LENR, e.g. installation and servicing of new LENR power plants and generators, desalination plants, below-road heating systems, intensive agriculture, robotics, transportation, etc.

Commercial LENR could lead to less employment because:

  • Many people working in the current energy sector  would lose their jobs as industries drift into obselescence (e.g. wind power, solar power, coal mining, petroleum production)
  • Drop in public sector jobs as governments lose revenue streams from taxation on energy, carbon taxes
  • More people would voluntarily opt for working less as their energy costs are reduced, thus requiring less income
  • Cheap energy would allow for more economical automation of labor — more robotics, 3D printing, computing, etc.

So there are persuasive arguments on both sides of the equation, and this is really uncharted territory so it’s very hard to predict which way things will go. It’s likely that there will be short- and long-term effects. Possibly we would see an economic boom with more employments initially — but leading to a new kind of economy where less employment is required overall. Maybe employment as we now know it will become less desirable over time as so many of our needs can be met with new technology based on very cheap energy.

What do people here think?

  • telecommuter

    Isn’t it a bit early to worry about the effect of a commercial device?

    • Roger Bird

      No one is worrying. We are having fun. And perhaps it is good practice, which fun can be.

      Most of us feel that a successful commercial LENR+ is a certainty, so why not have a little fun speculating. We might even learn something.

    • ATS

      Another way of looking at it is this: if we don’t find a solution to global warming, the economic consequences will be catastrophic. LENR is perhaps our only chance to 1) slow and finally stop the increasing concentrations of CO2 and methane by putting the fossil fuel people out of business; 2) cheaply provide the enormous amounts of energy that will be required to build dikes, desalinate water and, most importantly, power the geoengineering efforts that will repair our environment.

  • Mark

    You have to completely expand your mindset to understand the consequences of this technology.
    When you consider that a location of a city is based upon key elements such as availability of water, food, transport mechanism. So historically cities have always been connected to harbours, lakes and rivers and water supplies.
    With the eCat, that can all change as the cheap power to run transport systems and cheap power to provide water will alter the economics of satellite cities.
    Areas of land that were too expensive to live in due to lack of resources such as the desert, may quickly be turned into oasis.
    Other technologies that were considered too expensive to be commercialised may also flourish and provide work. Each new industry or product that appears will inspire more and more products.
    It similar in a sense to how digital cameras have replaced film. One industry closes and many new ones appear.

  • Anthony

    Hey Chris, everyone out of work could club together to buy e-cats and feed them into the grid.

    Here in the UK electricity’s about 12p per kWh, so presumably you could get, I dunno, 8p for feeding into the grid. This assumes that the silly feed-in tarriffs for wind farms (which are the only thing making them viable) wouldn’t be available to CF applications.

    So if we have one of AR’s 1 mW generators, the maths would be:

    8p per unit x 1000 kWh x 24 hours x (say) 350 days = £672,000 per year.

    If the $ 1 million generator costs say £650k, payback would be only one year !

    There has to be something wrong with this calulation as it’s too good to be true – can some please point out what it is ? Maybe the 1 mW output isn’t sustainable 24/7 ?

    • Chris I

      You aren’t counting the cost of a thermoelectric converter, on top of the raw heat source. But let’s neglect this for only a sec…

      As everybody and their aunt starts to do it, what do you reckon will happen to the market value of each kWh? For one, none of these dudes will be buying power, so they’re affecting the demand law as well as the supply law.

      Methinks the big power utilities will be replacing their sources, starting from coal, and won’t be too anxious to pay such a huge number of others for such large power production. It will be worthwhile for parties to set up for mostly their own needs, preferably stipulating a contract with the big utility but just to buffer the imbalances, especially for their own consumption variabiliy.

      • Anthony

        Yes, right on all counts, forgot that the 1 mW wasn’t actual electricity – duh ! Which is of course why AR is looking for a Sterling engine.

        So this would be only a short term venture until the power companies start replacing their own sources, but still…..

    • Olle A

      There will be ….

      More jobs, new demands, new industries,and less money spent on energy.
      See it as if we switch from expensive flint stone to cheap iron! Of course flint stone workers will loose jobs but they will have two new better payed ones to choose between and more money to spend because of cheaper energy bills. Its one of the biggest global problems E-cat is solving.

  • RichyRoo

    Asking about jobs is missing the point, we only have jobs in order to acquire stuff.
    Stuff will become cheaper with cheap energy so even the living standards of the unemployed will rise.
    Some people will become unemployed, you don’t see many buggy whip manufacturers around today; but that’s life unfortunately for them.
    But overall even those who lose their jobs will be living in a better world.
    As usual in our current epoch, the unintelligent will be left living on welfare while the intelligent get jobs maintaining the equipment. And the parasites will continue in the 1% and in government (although hopefully this will mean loads of government employees put on welfare, buh-bye DOE).
    As xy said, electrification, railroads and the internet didn’t decrease employment or, more importantly, standard of living, this will be no different.

  • Jjaroslav

    The first major hit will tbe crash of the energy sector stocks…..there is no reason to believe that this energy mode will not be totally decentralized in application…a model similar to what the world was like when we burned wood for fuel.
    Big deal is the reduction in overall cash flow….but like you say transportation reconfiguration will keep us all busy for a good while…..

  • Babble

    At present I can’t imagine a home version of the e-cat unless the refueling is done by the owner. Hiring thousands of people just to go around changing the fuel every six months won’t work. As for LENR itself, the advent of cheap/portable energy should fuel job growth. You see this in areas where cheap Nat gas is available. The real problem will be and is population growth which may be worsened by plentiful energy.

    • Roger Bird

      Go to: http://www.gapminder.org/ Click on: “Load Gapminder World” Set both axises to “Number of children per woman”. Then click on “Play”. Observe and think carefully. Then stop fretting about world population. It is going to plateau out at about 10 billion. Education of both genders is the best birth control.

    • AlainCo

      I disagree.
      My gas furnace is maintained twice a year for 200$.
      It is mandatory for safety, otherwise you lose your insurance coverage and get guilty of any accident.

      LENR furnace, even if refueled easily will need to be maintained, checked like any boiler/furnace.

      question is the periodicity…6 month? 1 or 2 years ? no more, at least for the plumbing.

      by the way, the job will be done by trained plumber not by nuclear physicists. 😉

    • RichyRoo

      forget about the home version for a decade or two, power will remain centralised; the PTB will ensure their own survival.

      And forget about population growth, higher living standards ALWAYS lead to slowed population growth and Malthus/Ehrlich are ALWAYS wrong.

      You’re a real sicko if you think its OK to keep people poor and dying just so they don’t have too many babies for your semi-educated liberal stupidity to countenance. There I said it!

      • Babble

        Why don’t you ask a Mormon how many kids they have? Your theory is not correct as religion plays a big part.

        • Roger Bird

          Go to http://www.gapminder.org/ Click on “Load Gapminder World” Select “Children per woman (total fertility)” for both axises. Click “Play”. Understand what is going on. Stop worrying about world population. It is going to plateau off at about 10 billion. By then LENR will make it much easier to live in currently impossible places. The population bomb as been defused with education, prosperity, and LENR

  • xy

    LENR = cheaper energy = more money left to INVEST into projects previously unfeasible (even crazy) = more employment

    Did steam trains imply unemployment? Did electricity? Nope. They created plenty jobs at faster rate that the old jobs could get disrupted. The same will happen.

    To all kinds of strange folks talking socialism, capitalism, communism or feudalism. Forget about those. No isms exist, it’s an illusion, a camouflage. There is one denominator to all of that and that is PERSONAL INTERESTS. Personal interests and conspired mafias around them rule the world. People will always tweak and misuse all social, comune, capitalist idealistic rules to PI in about 15 years. Get real.

    • AlainCo

      yes.
      the question of various ideology is whether you are using PI like aikido does with the energy of the aggressor (capitalism), if you surrender to it (mafia, crony), if you try to oppose (communisme), or dampen (social democracy)…

      I start to think now that the technology is anyway important, not in the detail, but about the capital, sizing requirements.

      nuclear energy, railways, 18-20th century manufacturing, is demanding much capital, much dimension. Oil demand big capital too, and big army to protect the oil fields.
      This lead to huge, crony and fragile organizations, with higher executive who don’t have flesh in the game and can exploit their company, take huge risk for hope of huge personal gain without risk of any huge personal loses.

      LENR, like 3D printing, like Internet, like cloud, is reducing the transaction cost to design, build and sell.
      There no need of great army, no need of huge capital, no need of huge organization.

      Some huge systems may exist, like clouds infrastructure, or e-commerce platforms, but it is possible to separate the design of those platforms by a software company, from the implementation by a network of local partners sharing the same standards.

      LENR energy maye be used autonomously, or in smartgrid.
      No need of centralized control, because the margin of power will be huge, and adaptation will be local and distributed.

      I don’t say that all will be small, but unlike nuclear energy, big grid, big manufacturers, big markets, it is possible to be smaller, to have small state, small companies, working in “federation” (like Amazon is federating e-shops, like EC2 is federating many IT users)…

      we will see.
      Sure the big crony animals will fight to defend their economic rents, and their lords will defend their privilege, but will they be lean, agile enough to survive against a network of tiny actors able to occupy any small niche, and move as fast or even faster than the environment…

      open future.
      big is no more a requirement, but an option.

      • humblemechanic

        Is it just me or others too? I can’t understand your
        Franco-English or Google Translation. I can’t figure where you
        stand on these issues.

      • humblemechanic

        Is it just me or others too? I can’t understand your
        Franco-English or Google Translation. I can’t figure where you
        stand on these issues.

        • AlainCo

          sorry for the long sentences.
          For once I did not let a dozen of typo.

          maybe some concept are new for you.
          “Flesh in the game” is from Taleb.
          Fragility and anti-fragility is key for taleb too.
          Crony capitalism, geostrategy of oil are useful concept.
          Economic-rents is a key to understand today’s economic problems.

          My metaphors may looks strange, but they won’t be simpler in french.

          • humblemechanic

            I have been instructed but am not much wiser.
            Your metaphors and phrases are indeed very peculiar. Used to mix in specialist groups and
            circles but had never inflicted the jargon used
            therein on those outside. Please desist from further instruction.

    • Chris I

      Indeed, if it weren’t for PI history would have been mighty different. Even before the industrial revolution, there had been countless examples. Still, that was a mighty example of something able to greatly increase productivity and wealth, which was conducted by a few already wealthy people who literally enslaved all those whose small, family or individual enterprise had a snowball’s chance in hell of competing with the new steam driven factories.

      But there is such a thing as foresight, too. If all those valiant lads had been quick enough to partner up and pool their resources, they could have jointly run their own steam driven outfits. When guys like Ned Ludd, guys like Karl Marks and whoever else began preaching, it was already late; all those workers were long since in to weak an economic position to do what they should have done at the onset. That’s why revolt had become the only alternative to slaving away for a pittence and feeding their families however they could afford.

      So it’s all a matter of how the new wealth gets distributed.