Bloom Energy unveils fuel cell ‘power plant in a box’

Is this a tipping point in the quest for energy independence? Can this technology drive the oil-rich OPEC elites back to third world living? Can a natural gas-based fuel cell reduce the need for emission-belching giant coal-burning electricity generation plants?

It's easy to have unrealistic hopes for a breakthrough that could help turn around the tough economic times we are experiencing. Critics provide numerous reasons to undermine all thoughts that "this time it's different." We might be disappointed, but the Bloom Energy devices create some momentum that is much needed.

I'm old enough to remember when PCs were viewed as expensive toys, back in 1980. Apple and Commodore had introduced computers for the home. The esteemed CEO of very successful Digital Equipment Corporation, Ken Olsen, said "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.” Then the IBM PC came out, targeted for business use, and consummated the microcomputer revolution that continues today with smart phones and the Internet. In the early '80s the U.S. was in a deep recession, and the workforce productivity and technological innovation that was stimulated by the IBM-PC standard helped end the recession.

I mention the impact of the PC  as a metaphor for the current energy situation. While the Bloom Energy device may not be the holy grail, it could be the first of a number of innovations that could break the hold of OPEC on industrial societies and trigger the demise of dirty energy like coal.

Link: Bloom Energy unveils 'power plant in a box'.

Bloom Energy Corp., one of Silicon Valley's most secretive startups, unveiled on Wednesday [Feb 24] its long-awaited "power plant in a box," a collection of fuel cells that the company says can provide clean electricity to homes, office buildings – even whole villages in the developing world.

The Bloom Energy Server, a smooth metal box the size of a pickup truck, can generate electricity from multiple fuels while producing relatively few greenhouse gas emissions. With government subsidies factored in, power from the server costs less than power from the grid. Unlike other fuel cells, Bloom's is made mostly of sand, with no platinum or other precious metals thrown in as catalysts. And unlike solar panels and wind turbines, each server can produce the same amount of energy day and night for years on end, according to the company. The process is twice as efficient as burning natural gas. "This is not when the sun shines, this is not when the wind blows – this is base load, nonstop," said K.R. Sridhar, Bloom's co-founderand chief executive officer. The server, he said, could change the energy industry in much the same way that cell phones changed communications, decentralizing the generation of power.

Sridhar introduced the device, for years a subject of intense speculation within the green-tech industry, before a large and rapturous crowd of politicians, press and Silicon Valley luminaries, eager to see the first product from a company that has landed roughly $400 million in venture capital investments. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hailed the server as a potential revolution. Sen. Dianne Feinstein sent the company, founded in 2001, congratulations via a video message.

More important, some of the business executives in attendance had already bought the servers, which cost $700,000 to $800,000 apiece. Bloom, based in Sunnyvale, counts among its customers the Coca-Cola Co., Cox Enterprises, FedEx Corp. and Google Inc., all of whom sent executives to speak at Wednesday's public premiere. Online marketplace eBay Inc. liked the product enough that it hosted the event at its San Jose campus, where five servers have been running since July.

More Big Government: McCain Bill S.3002 To Limit Access to Vitamins and Nutritional Supplements

The bill that threatens our freedom to have continued access to supplements is bill S.3002, the Dietary Supplement Safety Act of 2010 (DSSA). Senator John McCain is the primary sponsor. And it would give the FDA more powers to limit your access to nutritional supplements.

Here's some of what the McCain bill would do:

Require everyone associated with supplements to register with the FDA and provide validation for every ingredient they sell. This includes manufacturers, distributors, labelers, licensors, stores, and even people selling products through MLMs (multi-level marketing). Penalties for failing to keep these documents could put companies and stores out of business. Current regulations already require that supplement companies provide proof of ingredients and quality.

Give the FDA the power to decide which supplements would remain on the market and in what strengths.

Give the FDA the authority to ban all other supplements and turn them over to drug companies so they can be developed into drugs and sold for much higher prices.

Give the FDA the authority to immediately recall any supplement that has even minor adverse effects, like an allergic reaction, while at the same time permitting the sale of aspirin and other "safe" drugs with known side effects. About 10,000 people in the U.S. alone die each year from bleeding caused by aspirin or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs. Yet, the FDA is not taking aspirin off the market or turning it into a prescription drug.

There's much more…. The FDA already regulates many aspects of nutritional supplement safety. We don't want them telling us which nutrients we can buy or in what quantities. We want the ability to choose for ourselves like we have.

Its creators designed bill S.3002 to prevent athletes from using steroids and other illegal substances. Let's see a bill that says that, plain and simple. Not one that robs us of our freedoms.

Tell your senators not to co-sponsor or vote for this bill, and to do everything possible to defeat it. Phone calls carry more weight than e-mails. Hand-written letters are more powerful than phone calls. But do something. Anything. You can find your senators' contact information at Click on the tab at the top that says "Senators."

Walt Ratterman: A Hero Dies in Haiti – by John Mauldin

From John Mauldin at Thoughts from the Frontline

A few weeks ago I wrote about my friend Walt Ratterman, who was at the Hotel Montana in Haiti when the earthquake hit. Walt's wife Jeanne received an email only 10 minutes before the quake, which placed him in the courtyard, where he would have been OK. After the quake there was an eerie silence. We all assumed that Walt was helping those injured in the quake and that he and his friends would surface when they got a break. Those who knew Walt understand the passion he brought to many relief operations. Walt was known for sneaking into Myanmar in the bottom of a boat where, if discovered, he would have been summarily executed. Walt was the subject of the documentary Beyond the Call, which showed him braving Afghanistan a month after 9/11, Myanmar, and the most dangerous region of the Philippines.

Walt's love of helping people who, for no fault of their own, couldn't help themselves caused him to relocate his family to the West Coast, to be better able to continue his work. Walt traveled the world to help the needy, visiting Asia, Africa, South America, and Central America. Each time he brought food, medical relief, and solar power, and had a sustaining impact on all the lives he touched. Walt was part of a team brought into Haiti by USAID (United States Agency for International Development) to bring solar power to Haiti. Walt was working there on several projects, including a few hospitals where electricity brought them out of the dark ages, allowing them to perform surgeries and other treatments that were unavailable in Haiti previously. Many of the projects were completed prior to the quake and provided much-needed support for the injured, saving countless lives.

The great irony is that Walt almost never stayed in nice hotels. He stayed with those he helped.

The men and women who loved Walt mobilized to raise money and travel to Haiti. My own readers have been very generous. Six teams made their way at various times throughout the search and rescue phase of the operation. Each of those teams brought much-needed food, water, or medical relief. Dr. Sir James Laws hired a bus in the Dominican Republic and loaded it with bottled water that was given to many who were thirsty in Haiti. Sir Edward Artis loaded a 20-foot truck with food and braved the road from the Dominican Republic as well, in spite of reports of looting and hijacking of other vehicles on the road. The first team was given the emotional task of handling the morgue at the Hotel Montana. Without complaining, each member of that team stepped up and did what was asked of them. Each night this team cried themselves to sleep from the emotional toll of dealing with the dead that day. Each of the Knights and friends of Walt reached out to their entire networks and brought awareness to the search for Walt and the hundreds of others trapped in the rubble at the Hotel Montana.

As time wore on it became obvious that a miracle wasn't meant to be. Hope gave way to preparation for the inevitable. Walt's backpack and laptop were found a few days before his body was discovered. And then there was a wait for positive identification, before dental records confirmed that Walt was a casualty of the devastating earthquake. He was one of more than two hundred thousand souls separated from their bodies in that quake. No doubt Walt was busy in the spirit world, calming and organizing this mass of men, women, and children for their trek to meet their maker.

Each of us who has been involved in the life of Walt, and now with his untimely death, knows that he lived a life of honor and that he died doing the work that he loved. His death was certain to be a death of honor because of the way he chose to live his life. Each of us has the opportunity to rededicate ourselves to living our lives in a manner more aligned with the values that Walt applied every day he was here. Walt stared death in the face so many times and lived, that we all expected him to be immortal. Each of us has limited time on this planet, and we can use Walt's example to make that time count.

John Mauldin

If you want to send a donation: send a check made out to "Steps for Recovery" but clearly marked "FOR KNIGHTSBRIDGE / HAITI" to:

Steps For Recovery
P.O. Box 67522
Century City, CA 90067

(A California 501(c) 3 Tax Exempt Corporation
Federal ID # 95.4472343)

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Like A Rolling Stone @ Monterey Pop


Dire Straits & Bob Dylan – All Along the Watchtower


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Acoustic blues (Hear my train a comin)


via Barry Ritzholtz

Kevin Richardson: Master Animal Behaviouralist, Loved by Lions

Kevin Richardson and Lioness

Kevin Richardson, zoologist and animal behaviouralist, raises and trains some of the most dangerous animals known to man. To do this he does not use the common methods of breaking the animal's spirit with sticks and chains, instead he uses love, understanding and trust.

With this unusual method of training he has developed some exceptionally personal bonds with his students. He sleeps with lions, cuddles newborn hyenas, swims with lionesses. Kevin can confidently look into their eyes, crouch to the their level and even lie down with them – all taboos in the normal world of wild animal handling – yet he has never been mauled or attacked. Some call him crazy; others shake their heads at his unique method of interacting with the animals. And Kevin's secret – get to know the particular personality of each animal, what makes them angry, happy, upset, irritated – just like a mother with a child.