When I was first entering college, I heard of a young man who had a fusion reactor on his desk. He built it himself, and it did fuse hydrogen and helium. He had to plug it in -- it used more power than it produced. He made it more as a bragging thing -- he personally built it -- rather than any practical reason. And then I stopped hearing anything about it.
Discovery News reports that now many other people are following in his footsteps. They, too, are building reactors and plugging them in, owning their own personal stars that they keep contained on their desk. It costs loads of money, people are reported to spend as much as $35,000, and none of them can really get anything useful from it yet.
Humankind's best and brightest are struggling with fusion because it's so immensely valuable. It could be powered with water, which covers 75% of our planet's surface, it produces only helium gas as waste. And we know it works. The article points out that the sun is powered by fusion. The expensive part is keeping it contained so that it stays on your desk, and doesn't burn a hole to the center of the earth. (Which, needless to say, would really piss off your landlord and/or neighbors.)
If we ever really, truly, succeed at creating a fusion reactor, it will be the only form of power we'd be interested in from now on. The fuel is so cheap as to be nearly free, the waste products are things we use anyway and are in no way poisonous, and the potential production is huge. As a fusion-capable species, we would have easily petawatts of power, if not exawatts. Cheap energy would fuel all kinds of economic developments, in both the literal and figurative sense of the word.
I can only hope that some of our intensive research bears fruit.