Overview of Free Energy Impact
This page deals with the possible impacts on society if a free energy device is discovered.
Impact on existing energy providers
Anything currently involved in the extraction, refining, transport and storage of energy would become obsolete if a free energy device was discovered. Oil, for example, could still be used to produce rubber, fertilizer, etc. but as a fuel source, it could not compete in the free market with a device that provides infinite energy beyond the initial cost of the device. Everything related to oil including rigs, tankers, refineries, gas stations, etc. would become things of the past. Power companies, powered by natural gas or coal would also vanish. Everything related to that kind of electricity; coal mines, power poles, power lines, etc. would no longer be needed. Even batteries could be replaced by the free energy device. Also alternative energy sources such as solar panels, wind turbines, nuclear, hydro, etc would be replaced.
Things involved in the distribution and storage of energy may remain if the free energy device has limitations. For example, say the free energy device needed to be a certain size, the size of car, and could not be miniaturized because it required a large size for the free energy effect? Then portable gadgets, watches, MP3 players, etc. would still require batteries for power. If the minimum size of the free energy device was the size of a house, then power plants and power lines with their well established networks would be useful in the transport of energy to homes. If the free energy device could not fit in a car then gas stations could continue as well and even continue to distribute some kind of liquid fuel with probable involvement of the free energy device in the production of the fuel.
It will take many years to fully replace the remnants of the old energy economy. If things used by old energy cannot be retrofitted for some different use, oil and power companies would have significant costs to deal with along with falling revenue. Many oil companies currently have significant investment in alternative energy and position themselves as energy providers vs fossil fuel energy providers. So, it's foreseeable that oil companies would again position themselves as the providers of the free energy device using their significant cash reserves to take part in anything related to the distribution of the free energy device. If however the barrier to entry for the creation of the free energy device is small, oil and power companies' only hope would be a government mandated, free energy device tax to subsidize some type of protectionist transition.
Countries with significant oil reserves should expect much lower taxes from the old energy industry. Non-capitalist countries where there is direct ownership in oil and power companies should expect significant political ramifications (See section on Cultural Political impact, Coming Soon). In general, the ramifications from the device itself on government revenue would be insignificant when compared with the over all impact of the free energy device on culture and business. Initially however, it's probable countries with dependence on oil would set up bans or high tariffs on the device. It's also possible that fossil fuels may be a required component of the free energy device or the oil companies may own patents which would allow them to restrict the production of the device.
Impact on business and commerce
Beyond the probable catastrophic impact for the energy industry and oil rich nations, the impact of on industry as a whole should be quite positive. Taking away the cost of energy for the creation of your good or providing your service could only mean higher profits for your business. Industries with particular high energy costs, such as mining and construction, would see the greatest benefits. The economy as a whole would also see significant benefits from the potential for growth as new efficiencies are discovered.