As a child, I was always told by my parents that somewhere, somehow there were evil companies that were secretly suppressing technology that would make life better. Hidden in a vault in some corporate HQ were pieces of paper containing things like the cure to cancer, cars that ran on water and Little Debbies that instantly made people skinny with just a few bites.
As a much more cynical teenager, I decided that it would be impossible in a free society for companies, no matter how large, to suppress powerful technology – especially when you have many companies in the same field dealing with the same technology. Heck, millions of dollars were spent by companies to keep pizzas hot while they delivered them to you.
Then, as an adult, I discovered the real truth – there are plenty of amazing things that are out there that can’t be brought to the market due to simple government over-regulation. Just like MTV killed rock ‘n roll, federal regulations are doing a good job of killing ingenuity.
Give up, just quit, because in this life, you can’t win. Yeah, you can try, but in the end you’re just gonna lose, big time, because the world is run by the Man. The Man, oh, you don’t know the Man. He’s everywhere. In the White House… down the hall… Ms. Mullins, she’s the Man. And the Man ruined the ozone, he’s burning down the Amazon, and he kidnapped Shamu and put her in a chlorine tank! And there used to be a way to stick it to the Man. It was called rock ‘n roll, but guess what, oh no, the Man ruined that, too, with a little thing called MTV! So don’t waste your time trying to make anything cool or pure or awesome ’cause the Man is just gonna call you a fat washed up loser and crush your soul.
Jack Black – School of Rock
So, here is our list of 7 amazing technologies that are illegal right here in the U.S.
#7 – Fuel-Efficient Cars
“Oh, come on now, we have fuel efficient cars! My Focus gets 38 miles per gallon!”
That will be the first angry email or comment I get from this entire article. I’ve been told this line by many people about their Focus, Prius or Insight.
Yet somehow, for the most part the United States has seemingly gone backwards in terms of fuel economy for vehicles. Back in the 80s and early 90s, it was possible to find a vehicle that would produce nearly 50mpg in real-world performance. Vehicles like the Metro, Sprinter and CRX. Up until recently, VW still put out a few vehicles that would get over 50mpg, but since the EPA has changed laws against diesel, VW no longer has much interest in producing fuel-efficient diesels here in the US.
The proof of fuel efficient cars built in other countries isn’t too hard to find. VW Makes the Passat 1.6 TDI which blows any US made car out of the water with an average of 76 miles per gallon utilizing the UK’s version of fuel efficiency testing. If this vehicle would be brought to the US and driven, MPG ratings would likely be much higher. The method used in England uses primarily urban driving without any miles given to long distance highways, the kind that 60% of Americans utilize every day. Using some simple fuel saving methods and longer roadway usage, the TDI could get up to 80 or even 90 miles per imperial gallon when in use on this side of the pond.
It isn’t just European automakers. America’s own Ford produces the ECOnetic ,which is a variation of the Fiesta for the European market. It boasts a combined MPG rating of 74 to 76 miles per gallon. It, however can not be produced – or even imported to the United States due to strict “environmental laws” (For some reason, using one petroleum distillate like diesel is barbaric, while gasoline somehow is much better).
So, as it stands now, we’re stuck with underwhelming performers like the Prius and other hybrid abominations until someone does something to overturn EPA rules on diesel, or NHTSA rules regarding smaller, light weight cars. Maybe while we’re at it, we could finally let companies use advanced composites to build cars and replace mandated steel.
#6 – Outer Space
We LOVE space (hence the website name). However, as it stands right now, there are absolutely monumental restrictions for private individuals as well as companies to go to space.
Recently, many videos have been appearing on Youtube where people send different things “To Space” by way of hydrogen balloon lifting a cooler. Some examples are here, here and here. They are great examples of the ingenuity of Americans who want to send things to the upper atmosphere and claim some fame.
The sad thing is…Every one of these cases that we can find is illegal. In order to send a cooler to space, you need clearance from the FAA to go above a certain altitude. There are also MANY restrictions on things such as radio wave emission, altitude and many other things. In reality, the vast majority of these civilian balloon ‘space shots’ are illegal. Thankfully the FAA hasn’t fined anyone…Yet, but eventually it will happen, ending everyone’s fun. One great example of someone getting fined by the FAA for this very thing was the man who attached balloons to a chair and flew up to 15,000 feet – Larry Walters. Poor Larry was fined $4,000 for not having the proper permits. Far more than his 15 minutes of fame gained him.
It gets worse though. Not only are civilians not allowed to send things like an Iphone or beer to space, but private space companies are becoming the target of overwhelmingly tough legislation.
The worst example is SpaceX. The company that is in the forefront of commercial space development is coming under more scrutiny by the US government. In the forefront is the odd requirements to “Human Rate” equipment. Based on some recent statements by NASA, they want SpaceX capsules (like the Dragon) to be 100 to 200 times more reliable than the absolute best space vehicles that NASA can produce. This is quite absurd, and if things don’t change will make it much harder for space to be commercialized. Can you imagine the federal government mandating that all new cars be 100 times safer? It’s practically impossible, and therefore essentially makes such a thing illegal.
#5 – Cheap, Reliable Meltdown Proof Nuclear Reactors
Imagine that some day, the world no longer has a need for additional electricity generation. No more brownouts or blackouts, electricity has become immensely cheap to produce. This energy is produced by something extremely clean and abundant, in fact the United States has the capacity to power the world for the next thousand years.
Now , imagine that this technology was almost perfected in the late 1960s and 1970s but put on the shelf due to government regulations.
Unlike a typical nuclear power plant that Utilizes enriched Uranium as its primary fuel source. LFTRs produce almost no hazardous waste and are meltdown proof. Not only do they not produce significant amounts of radioactive waste, they can actually burn the waste generated from current nuclear power plants as the source. The little amount of waste that is produced has a phenomenally short half life – 30.7 years. This compared to the half life of U-238 which is 24,000 years is an amazing thing. As an added bonus, there is some economic value to the byproducts of LFTRs (Cesium 137 and Strontium 90) that virtually no waste would need to be buried or otherwise disposed of, it could be used for beneficial purposes.
Finally, the most important thing is that thorium is cheap and readily available in the United States. In fact, we’ve got enough to power the world for a very long time. Thorium is so cheap that you can find it at your local WalMart or Harbor Freight. They currently use it as wicking for camp stoves and for welding. The alpha particles it emits are almost harmless (That is unless you readily eat the stuff) so you don’t have to worry about some sort of cancer from exposure.
While LFTRs aren’t completely illegal to build (yet) the government has made them for all purposes impossible to build. Right now, anyone wanting to develop one is likely to spend $10 billion dollars in planning, permits and pre-construction costs before even being approved by the government. Let’s be serious, who would spend that kind of money for a ‘Maybe’ from the federal government?
One article reader provided some great thoughts on the PRISM reactor which is a bit different than the LFTR. Instead of being a thorium-based reactor, it is something called a Integral Fast Reactor. The Clinton administration canceled the IFR project that was underway and left it for “Private companies to accomplish”. Sadly, even though Hitachi has developed a IFR for use in the United States. The NRC is overly dragging their feat on it. Requiring massive, and almost unattainable expenses to build it.
It seems the UK will be deploying one in the near future, but there is no plan to deploy one at any time in the future. From current estimates, the UK reactor will be able to provide 600mw of continual output for OVER 500 years. Running on nothing but nuclear waste.
#4 – Long Range WiFi
Ever get tired of dropped wifi coverage? How about the fact that your wifi router can barely make it through a few walls before the signal is almost useless.
Interestingly enough, with a quick firmware upgrade of most wireless routers, this can be fixed. By increasing power by a reasonable amount, you can get quite a bit more range from your personal wifi router.
Unfortunately, this is quite illegal.
Sadly, WiFi routers in the USA are limited to a total of 1 watt of effective radiated power (ERP).
Sure, it’s important to be safe with microwave energy (which is what all wifi routers emit) however 1 watt ERP is almost nothing. With a $25 amateur radio license, magically the government seems to think that a person is capable of handling 200 times this output.
In some cases, off the shelf, highly effective antennas make a run of the mill router highly illegal. I don’t know about you, but I figure it would be nice if it was legal to have a router that could make it through two or three walls before becoming completely impotent.