The 1 gallon of water = 300 gal of gasoline is the carrot, but it is far horizon, long term risk/reward. I don't think it is the certainty of the outcome or payoff that is at risk, it is the distance to the horizon that is at risk.
Can you imagine any VC folks lining up behind a payoff with a far horizon measured in decades, when there are other, shorter term alternatives? That isn't a criticism, I think it is just a description of the 'potential' well.
A similar impediment exists with governmental action on fusion; seriously, think of the implications of those economies. Energy as endemic as water.
It's as if we would need to find leaders motivated by the following: "We form this new government effort/national energy policy and all its power structures with the mission of launching a five decade effort to render the role of government largely moot...or at least, drastically reduced."
As likely as finding that VC guy willing to wait 20? 40? 60? yrs for a payoff, no matter how big that payoff is guaranteed to be.
What is at the end of that bridge to the fusion economies is totally changed global geopolitics. A reshuffling of world power. The M.E. will be on its way to Disneyfication-- we will create animatronic 'HolyLand' complete with fiber-automated Moses.
I think what will happen with fusion is, ITER will bump along at less than light speed, demonstrating milestone after milestone and proving out the commercialization until it is close enough, and then, that carrot ... 1 gallon of water = 300 gallons of gasoline -- will be enought to push private investment to critical mass, and it will be an avalanche. It will reach a critical point where that far horizon is near enough.
There will be transitional stages; a coal fired power plant, an oil fired power plant, a fission fueld power plant, a fusion fueled power plant ... all are very similar capital projects...at some point when the far horizon is not so far horizon, current plants will be built anticipating a changeover to the ultimate source of heat/fueling the power cycle; operators will be designing and building plants that will start out under one source, but during their lifetime be designed to switch over to fusion, as opposed to scrapping a plant and starting over fresh.
So, there will be commerical opportunities on the 'nearer' horizon than just the 'far' horizon.
The 'Energy Policy' question is, is it in our national interests -- whoever gets to define those given our politics -- to pursue building the bridge to that future-- even if those policys, under analysis, turn out to be -exactly- the policies advocated by the CO2 is climate driver folks?
The way to build an energy bridge of indeterminate length into the future is ... basically everything they say they advocate.
There are two sides of that question; would those who would see the economic benefit of bridging to those future economies agree to those policies, or abhor them precisely because they are the same as the CO2 crowd? As well, would the CO2 folks agree to them if the stated goal of that national energy policy was to build a bridge going there?
Their goals would be somewhat different. The pro-fusion bridge builders, pursuing similar interim policies, would have competing requirements; getting all the way there without unduly damaging current economies along the way.
The greeks/Trojan Horse folks don't want to bridge anywhere except to a world of increasing dependency on an ever stronger, more centralized world government, and part of their agenda is precisely the crippling of current economies along the way.
But the actual policies, at some level, in the interim would be identical:
1] Conservation of existing fossil fuels
2] Use of ever more efficient processes
3] Use of alternative energy sources
4] Reduced emissions as a consequence...if not a goal.
That is some catch, that catch-22.