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Billions for Propaganda

November 13, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

Yesterday I discussed how fusion power works and how it might “solve all of our problems”. The most significant facility researching fusion is ITER in France and it is expensive to build and run. But how expensive really?

ITER will be built over a 20 year period (from 2007 to 2027) and cost US$20 billion in total. Does that sound like a lot for an experimental facility which will never actually contribute electricity to the world? Maybe, but consider this: in that same time Coca Cola will spend about $60 billion on advertising alone, and tobacco companies might spend $160 billion on promotion just in the US. Does the cost of ITER still sound like a lot?

Also also ponder this: after Coca Cola and the tobacco companies have spent almost a quarter of a trillion dollars on advertising in what way is the world better off? Is it not almost exactly the same? Well unfortunately not, because more people will have died from preventable diseases such as lung cancer and obesity. In fact just burning all of that cash would be preferable! Yet people still want to stop projects like ITER. Really?

Some people will say that soft drink and tobacco companies own that money so they can do anything they like with it. Yes, under the current system I agree, they can (within reason). But the question should be: is that a good thing? Do we want a system where companies producing dangerous junk are rewarded but truly innovative research is stifled? Let’s just admit there is something wrong here.

There is also some debate over whether throwing extra money at a problem like nuclear fusion will lead to a solution any faster. That is difficult to prove one way or the other, of course, but generally if you put more money into a project (in an intelligent way) you can usually get faster and better results.

I’m sure (but can’t prove) there are researchers in this area who are currently not funded at all or who are underfunded and would be happy to get a tenth of the money that is spent on propaganda – sorry, I mean advertising – by the tobacco industry. So why can’t they have it?

Because capitalism simply doesn’t work, that’s why!

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