Two promising energy technologies received press coverage recently. The University of Bristol developed a process for capturing the radioactivity from nuclear wastes into diamonds, thereby stabilizing and reducing the risks associated with waste from fission reactors while also creating batteries that have no moving parts, are safe to handle, and have a productive life of at least 5,000 years.

First, the University of Bristol developed a process for capturing the radioactivity from nuclear wastes into diamonds, thereby stabilizing and reducing the risks associated with waste from fission reactors while also creating batteries that have no moving parts, are safe to handle, and have a productive life of at least 5,000 years.

Second, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) developed a highly efficient process for converting CO2 to ethane, which can be used to store energy generated by renewable sources (wind, solar, etc.). A much greater benefit could be derived if this technology were combined with atmospheric CO2 extractors. DOE claims it has the potential to draw atmospheric CO2 level down to an environmentally safe level.

In both cases, the technologies will have to surmount hurdles before the large-scale implementation that would be needed to have significant positive impacts.

Also, for their benefits to transfer globally, such publicly-funded technologies must remain under public ownership and control. Licensing the non-exclusive use of technologies could be a way for governments to shift part of the burden of revenue generation away from general taxation, which would doubly benefit citizens. For universities, non-exclusive licensing could build endowments to fund additional research and breakthroughs. Unfortunately, government- and university-developed innovations with potential to mitigate public health and other existential dilemmas often end up in the hands of private corporations that then set the costs of products and services too high for the broader benefits of the breakthrough to be realized.