Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Bloom is off the rose

My nemesis has struck again. Alfalfa and his well connected team of VCs got CBS to air the Bloom Box on 60 Minutes last Sunday. I have been inundated with hundreds of emails to comment on the veracity of the so called Bloom Box. The Green Machine certainly has an opinion on this. The Bloom is already off the rose. In fact this Betamax would not have budded if not for all the cash Alfalfa’s team have put into it. The box is more like a thorn than a bloom. A rather prickly subject for the Green Machine – it is the subject of fool cells. Yes the Bloom Box is a fool cell and although they have couched it in mystery it is most probably a solid oxide fool cell. 60 Minutes used to expose hype now they assist hypers. This is the perfect storm, Alfalfa has convinced Colin Powell to sit on the board of Bloom. Reminds of the prelude to the US invasion of Iraq except now we are being told the enemy has “weapons of mass combustion”.

Solid Oxide fool cells are an improvement over PEM fool cells as they operate at higher temperatures and are therefore not dependent on platinum for catalysis of the fuel. As they operate at higher temperatures they can be feed hydrocarbon fuels and do not need pure hydrogen. They still emit carbon dioxide and the nonsense on 60 Minutes of the box being emission free and being able to run on solar energy is simply untrue. A company traded on the NASDAQ as FCEL called FuelCell Energy Inc. has been trying for ten years to commercialize solid oxide fuel cells and has lost six hundred million dollars in the process. United Technologies has been trying to commercialize this technology for fifty years.

I have cost data from a proposal that Bloom has made to a local institution. These data show that the Box is one expensive piece of equipment with only a slight efficiency advantage over a natural gas fired engine coupled to a generator set that one can buy from Caterpillar or several other well established electric gen set manufacturers. The Bloom Box has a thermal efficiency of 50% and the Caterpillar engine 41% when both a fired on natural gas. The Caterpillar gen set can be installed for $1,000 per kilowatt of capacity, the Bloom box for over $10,000 per kilowatt of capacity. Natural gas will need to increase 15 fold to $120 per mmbtu for the Bloom Box to use its energy savings to pay for the additional first cost. But your government is coming to the rescue to stop the Bloom from rapid natural death. Our mighty but bankrupt State and Federal governments will pay half of the upfront cost of this money waster and will allow companies to rapidly depreciate the fool cell. Perhaps that is where Arnie the Gangrene Governator and Alfalfa got together to help Bloom and screw you out of your tax dollars.

Let’s compare the carbon emission from the fool cell and the Cat engine. The carbon dioxide emissions per kilowatt hour of electricity generated are 0.84 pounds for the fool cell and 1.02 pounds for the Cat engine. The planet will save 0.18 pounds per kilowatt hour of power generated if generated on the fool cell. At a cost difference of $9,000 per kilowatt of installed capacity that is amortized over five years and is operated for 8,500 hours a year the saved emissions cost the consumer $1.17 per pound. This translates to $2,340 per ton of carbon dioxide. Old Alfalfa who flies around in his private jet and buys carbon credits for his Sasquatch sized footprint only pays some $15 a ton for these credits. Perhaps the way to kill Bloom and get Alfalfa to fly in coach on a scheduled commercial flight is to charge him and his VC and political buddies $2,340 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions for their cap and trade. The carpet bagging eco opportunist emits about 400 pounds a year of carbon dioxide by the simple act of breathing so let’s charge him $600 dollars a year as a living tax. I have often said he makes me puke and my barf has more chance of becoming a bio fuel and greening the planet than the junk science he promotes as a convenient untruth. I hope this blog put this thorny matter to rest.