3:00 a.m. 25.Oct.1999 PDT
SAN RAFAEL, California -- In six months, Dennis Lee will not only be providing free electricity to anyone who wants it, he will have revolutionized the US power industry, putting all the oil, gas, and coal-fired plants out of business.
Lee has also cracked cold fusion, superconductivity at room-temperature, and a technique for transmitting electricity through the air.
He has figured out the Fourth Law of Motion -- Newton described the first three -- and developed technology that will allow cars to run on water, a camera that peers through concrete, a free telephone, and a pneumatic bicycle tire that can't be punctured.
Lee is halfway through a 47-city tour to introduce his astonishing breakthrough technologies to the American people. On Friday night, Lee purported to demonstrate them to a Marin County, California, audience.
"Tired Of High Electric Bills... How About NO Electric Bills?" asked a full-page advertisement in USA Today last month that promoted Lee's tour. "This Machine May Give You FREE Electricity For The Rest Of Your Life..."
In Marin, Lee attracted about 200 people, most of them elderly. While two or three napped, most sat rapt for the duration of the show.
By the end of his gruelling three-and-a-half-hour presentation, which mixed Christian fundamentalism with conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, and basic, something-for-nothing greed, the audience wasn't incredulous, but eager to pledge US$275 to buy into Lee's preposterous dreams.
Introducing himself as the director of research at Better World Technologies, Lee, a big man with neatly trimmed hair and beard, walked the stage filled with amateurish-looking contraptions, electric motors, lamps, a bicycle, and other props.
"The primary purpose tonight is offer everybody the opportunity to disconnect from the electric utility grid and never pay an electricity, oil of gas bill ever again as long as you live," Lee announced, to a big round of applause. "I want to talk about the word, 'impossible.' I'm a Christian and in the scriptures it says all things are possible."
Lee described his Fourth Law of Motion: In addition to the equal and opposite reaction to every action (Newton's Third Law), there is a reaction to the reaction that can be added to the original action that doubles its power, Lee explained with a straight face.
Using one of his contraptions, Lee then claimed to show how the new Law of Motion can double the output of an electric motor while drawing less power.
Lee's talk was dominated by scattered, albeit energetic, harangues against the forces conspiring to keep his technologies suppressed, among them the energy industry, big business, the government, the media, and law enforcement.
In addition to trying to gag him, Big Government is planning to contrive widespread Y2K power failures so that the National Guard can be deployed to confiscate citizens' firearms, Lee said, a theory that was greeted enthusiastically.
His life has been threatened, Lee said, and he is in constant danger of being arrested and locked up. He admitted that he's served time on a fraud conviction, but he said it was God's will to bring his technology to the people. Hence, the national tour.
Lee told audience members their pledges would be used to finance cooperatives that would buy free power generators for whole neighborhoods and build generator trucks for whole cities.
In months, Lee predicted he could put the traditional, pollution-causing power industry out of business.
"It's a very practical plan," he said, "and it's well on its way."
There was no shortage of takers.
"These things are answers to my prayers," said Dave Anderson, a general contractor, who signed a check on the spot.
"It was like a religious experience," said Bruce Roush, who designs solar power systems and was planning to sign up.
"To see this show has been amazing," said Penny Crow, who owns a manufacturing company that makes refrigerator clips and signed up for a $10,000 dealership last month at the urging of her son. "It held my interest the entire time, and I'm not a technical person."
But Paul Grant, a science fellow at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), is a technical person. And he said Lee's show was patently absurd and his claims were counter to the laws of physics.
"It was like a revival meeting," Grant scoffed.
"He's been promising free energy in a few months, every few months, for the past 12 years," Krieg said. "It's amazing that people buy it hook, line and sinker... but he's great and gifted at working a crowd of gullible people."
Krieg, the president of PHACT (PHiladelphia Association for Critical Thinking), saw Lee on a previous tour, in 1996, and was so enraged he's been keeping tabs on him ever since.
"It was like a conversion experience," Krieg said. "He promised the audience would be shocked and amazed. I was, but not the way he intended."
Through a network of scientists attending the shows, Krieg said Lee's tour has been drawing crowds of between 200 and 400 people. Frequently whole churches will turn out, he said.
Krieg noted that Lee is also attracting attention from attorneys general around the country and that he modifies his claims with words like "possibly," "maybe," and "could happen" to avoid fraud charges.
"To me he's the great American con-man, a modern day snake oil salesman.," Krieg said.
"It's pseudoscientific quackery," said James Randi, a magician whose foundation is offering $1 million for proof of the paranormal, including claims like Lee's. "I've been aware of him for several years now. We've approached him many times. He never responds."
Speaking by phone from his home in Florida, Randi said he was appalled that Lee should peddle his scam across the country and hadn't been prosecuted.
"State and federal law enforcement don't show any interest," he said. "They say, 'If people want to be stupid, let them be stupid.'"
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