How LENR Would Impact Transportation Policy?

So what impact would widespread adoption of low energy nuclear reaction (LENR) aka cold fusion have upon transportation policies? The impacts would be profound but they might not be immediately felt.

Taxation would be the first government function on which LENR could be felt. If vehicles could be powered by LENR or by low cost electricity generated by LENR governments would certainly collect fewer fuel taxes. That would be a big problem here in the United States where fuel taxes pay for the construction and maintenance of roads. There might be more vehicles than ever on the roads being driven more and yet less money to pay for the roads.

Obviously we’d still have to pay for roads, highways and the services they require such as traffic police and rescue workers to pull people out of wrecked vehicles. That means governments would have to turn to alternative methods such as tolls. One model for this would be the 407 Express Toll Route (ETR) around Toronto the worlds’ first all-electronic toll road.

Toll Booth of the future on the 407 freeway in Toronto, Ontario

I drove on the 407 last month there are no toll booths instead a transponder on your car calculates a bill. Those who don’t have a transponder get a picture of their license plate taken. Then the company that runs the toll road sends a bill to the address where the vehicle is registered. This system seems to work for highways but what about side roads or country roads. I might point out here that the 407 is a nice freeway on which traffic runs smoothly, mainly because many people avoid it to avoid the toll.

Other solutions might be increasing property taxes or other sales taxes. Another option might be increased vehicle registration fees which is how the State of Colorado is currently making up for revenue losses. An option that’s widely used in Europe but not yet in North America is the VAT (valued added tax). This tax is levied at all stages of a sale. If LENR leads to a great increase in manufacturing as some observers have suggested implementing a VAT might make sense.

Beyond changing taxation LENR will have a profound effect upon the roads, if it becomes cheaper to drive at some point the roads will fill up. Cities like London and New York are already restricting the number of vehicles on the streets. In the US both urban freeways and rural interstates are already jam-packed with vehicles. At some point the government will have to start restricting the number of vehicles on the road just to keep traffic moving. One potential means of doing this will be high taxes on car ownership, pay to drive express lanes or high fees for parking.

One option might be to limit the number of semi-tractor rigs on the road. That will only be practical if some other means of hauling freight such as trains is available. Since the railroad system in the US is already at capacity that means money will have to be spent to expand it. Then we’d still need trucks to haul freight from the train to the final destination in most cases.

This will be a big problem here in the US where is no alternative ground transportation in most areas. We’ll either have to greatly expand the roads or build alternative systems such as high speed rail or light rail. All of these options are expensive it now costs around $50 million a mile to build either a freeway or high speed rail. (Note this is an average cost in areas where tunnels or bridges are required the price is much higher it can rise to as much as $100 to $500 million a mile).

Then there’s airports, if LENR makes air travel cheaper we’ll need more of them. Many of the big airports in the US are already at capacity and in urban areas such as New York and Los Angeles there’s no room to expand. That means new airports outside the cities or the expansion of airports in nearby cities. It also means new roads or rail lines to haul passengers out to those additional airports. Not surprisingly that will cost a fortune. It costs around $10 billion to build a new airport.

One potential solution here is high speed rail which would reduce air travel but that too is expensive. For example high speed rail lines could carry passengers from New York to airports in nearby cities like Albany or Westchester.

Obviously LENR would make high speed rail cheaper because it could either power the trains directly or provide a low cost power source right back the tracks. LENR powered locomotives on the trains could reduce the cost of high speed rail because no electrical lines along the tracks would be necessary to power the trains. That might make high speed rail a viable alternative across long distances here in the US and Canada.

There are some other benefits, the smog in cities like Los Angeles would disappear. The cost of basic transportation would be far lower, until the cost of additional transportation infrastructure is figured in. Construction costs might also be cheaper because of LENR but they’d still add up. Construction costs could down because the machines might be powered by LENR. So it might be cheaper to build infrastructure.

Still the only family in America with flying car that won't change because of LENR

One final alternative that has to be mentioned that I don’t think is realistic is flying cars even though some LENR advocates have said LENR will make them possible. There’s a big reason flying cars will never become widespread simply because of safety. Many average people can’t operate automobiles safely, how are they supposed to operate flying machines? How many people don’t do simple things such as obey stop signs or use their turn signals?

Next time you’re on the freeway take a look around at the other drivers and ask yourself do you want those people flying over your home or your child’s school in a two ton hunk of steel? The answer is probably no. Do you want the lady doing her make up behind the wheel, the guy texting on his phone behind the wheel or that nice fellow guzzling vodka from the bottle flying over your neighborhood? Of course not!!

Even though you’ll probably never be a flying car in your garage we might have a lot of flying vehicles around our cities because of LENR. If LENR makes vertical take-off and landing vehicles (VTOL) such as harrier jets cheap to operate there will be flying shuttle buses that will haul you to the airport or the next town and flying limos for the rich. Those vehicles will be safe because they can be operated by specially licensed pilots.

LENR is going to have a profound effect upon transportation policy. Unfortunately it isn’t going to create the cost free utopia of flying cars that some dreamers want. Fortunately it will greatly improve life for the average person by making transportation cheaper but it’ll also require new government policies to avoid gridlock.


9 Responses to How LENR Would Impact Transportation Policy?

  • ACG says:

    Could you stop using the word policy for fubar sake.

  • kwhilborn says:

    Flying would all be auto-pilot. Lifter tech would reduce moving parts and also make it safer if enough electricity could be generated.

    Airports could have small shuttle flights to and from (their parking lot) neighboring cities where another airport could meet their needs. Many people overlook the potential for floating hotels a.k.a. Blimps to make a comeback with cheap hot air and/or helium produced from LENR. Speed might be replaced by luxury.

    Why fly when a Trans-Atlantic ship will travel there at quadruple the speeds of todays giants. Todays cruise lines travel far below max speeds to conserve fuel. If fuel cost becomes redundant we will see a rise in cruise destinations and speeds. Hydrofoils even?

    Won’t it be much cheaper to build roads? Isn’t a large portion of the cost transporting and heating asphalt to the sites. We will still drive buy and see 12 workers smoking cigarettes and talking while 1 guy does all the work. It will still be America.

    I think size restrictions will need to come into play. Bigger will be better. Pimped out motor homes might be the norm. Who needs that gas station anymore when you have a bathroom on board. Possibly a hot tub, 52″ Television, and kitchen also in the back. Find a city with 5 milion motor homes and you will find congestion and parking problems. Perhaps you can pay a special tax to license and insure trailers if you really do go camping.

    Why travel at all. Just quit your job and go live in the middle of a lake somewhere on a houseboat. Use your free energy and heat and cook and catch fish and do light computer work to get by.

    This may not get past moderation, but at least someone (you) can read these ideas.

    • jennifer says:

      Thanks for your opinion. Road or railroad costs could be reduced by going to private contractors. I hope pimped motor homes are not the norm. I can’t get to the grocery store in the summer because of those things. If you ever end up sitting behind one on a mountain road you’ll know what i mean. My guess is that at some point motor homes might be banned or restricted to certain roads. At some point in the future the size of private vehicles will have to be restricted. As for auto pilot we would need true artificial intelligence for that. Blimps will never make a come back. Rail is actually cheaper and more efficient but politically unpopular here in the USA until high speed rail gets built and people start using it. Then all the Republican politicians currently attacking it as a waste of money will be trying to get it built in their district. As for the floating hotel what about wind. You’d need antigravity to make that work.

      • wunderbar says:

        Flying cars would not need full AI. Google has driven a fleet of autonomous cars over 200,00o miles on public roads without an accident. Flying cars would be substantially easier to program, all they have to do is avoid everything that comes with in their range when in the air. If it is solid and in your flight path avoid it. On the ground you have to have significant amounts of machine vision to distinguish between things you avoid and how much to avoid them by. The FAA has actually been slowly working to put in place computer systems to regulate larger personal use of flying vehicles. Several companies have flying cars in the development phase with sales to commence in a year or so.

        • jennifer says:

          What about the costs. Also what’s to stop people from disconnecting the remote or AI unit. Then there’s maintenance the flying car might work great when it comes from the show room. What about when it’s ten years old. There are lots of people out there that don’t even change the oil in their cars. Do you want them maintaining a vehicle that flies over your kid’s school everyday? Google’s cars are well maintained by expert technicians. The safety factor will stop flying cars before they get off the ground.

  • Bård Havre says:

    Worlds first all electronic toll road?? In Norway we have used this for ages, probably the system is the Q-free, invented and developed in Norway, and in use all over Europe. As for taxation you are sadly correct, here all new major roads have toll, that is the main financing scheme. With an economy largely based on oil/gas export LENR will hit us hard in the long run, but for now we are happily carrying on our business as usual.