Well, just to bang the tech. drum once more: Nuclear fusion 50 years away. (for the uninitiated, that's a nuclear fusion joke).
Actually, it's within the next twenty years, if the timeline from HIPER is to be believed, their timeline is:
So, if NIF gets it's act together on-time with a substantial proof of concept by next year, then Hyper goes live 2020, so 2030 functioning nuclear fusion, and electricity too cheap to meter?
The project was accepted onto the “European Roadmap” in October 2006, with the UK agreeing to take a leadership role in January 2007. HiPER is a consortium of 25 institutions from 11 nations. This includes representation at a national level from 6 countries (Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, UK), 2 regional governments (Aquitaine and Madrid), multiple international institutions and industry. There are also strong international links to programs in USA, Japan, Republic of Korea, Russia, China and Canada. This consortium submitted a proposal for a 3-year “preparatory phase project” to the EC on 2nd May 2007. Following positive reviews from the EC in July 2007, the preparatory phase project will run from April 2008 to 2011.This phase will establish the scientific and business case for full-scale development of the HiPER facility. This phase is timed to coincide with the anticipated achievement of laser fusion ignition and energy gain (on the NIF laser in the USA). As such, future phases can proceed on the basis of demonstrable evidence. Construction of the HiPER facility is envisaged to start mid-decade, with operation in the early 2020s. The UK is a leading contender to host the HiPER laser facility.
Lets think about why the nerds spurt themselves dry over nuclear fusion - it would means almost limitless energy, without geographic restriction and without any substantial pollution or adverse environmental effects.
In political terms, it would re-write the map, with the geopolitics of the past century almost entirely out of the window - I'd suspect the main driver would be minerals for batteries to power electric motors. Fusion wouldn't mean socialism, but it would create the sort of material abundance that would undermine the rational of capitalism.