The combustion of fuels such as natural gas, fuel oil or coal is the basis of most energy production. While these fuels produce relatively inexpensive energy, the cost to find, extract, refine, and distribute such fuels is significant and disruptive. Combustion also produces harmful byproducts and greenhouse gasses and the extraction of such fuels can have severe environmental impact.
The cost of solid state solar panels is dropping, but even with significant government subsidies, the cost of manufacturing, siting, and installing solar arrays is formidable. Other solar technologies (e.g., mirror concentration) have not proven to be commercially viable.
Wind turbine technology is promising, however, restrictions on siting and capital costs make this technology viable only in specific locations and only with government subsidies.
While nuclear fission reactors have played a significant role in providing inexpensive electrical power, they have severe drawbacks. They emit dangerous levels of radiation that require massive shielding to make the reactor environmentally safe. The radiation makes the reactor components intrinsically radioactive and degrades their properties. In addition, the prospect of a steam explosion with radioactive contaminants requires significant security measures and expensive system controls. If that were not enough, the spent nuclear fuel is dangerously radioactive for thousands of years and its disposal and storage is a problem yet to be resolved. These drawbacks significantly limit the future of fission power reactors.
Fusion reactors do not produce dangerous nuclear waste. Such reactors induce fusion by confining deuterium with either lasers or magnetic fields to produce extremely high temperature plasma. Confining a plasma with magnetic fields or laser energy has proved to be extremely difficult. Several experimental fusion reactors exist, but they are complex, massive and expensive. The US Department of Energy has spent more than $400 billion dollars on fusion reactor research and no fusion reactor has produced more energy than it consumed to induce the fusion reaction.
What is commonly referred to as Cold Fusion is an electrochemically-induced Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR) where rare metals (such as Palladium) are induced to form metal compounds with Deuterium. While heat in excess of what can be explained chemically has been produced, no one to date has been able to produce energy from such a reaction continuously or reliably using this technology.