The continuation of Skiing Uphill and Boregasm, Zug is 'the little blog that could.'

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Name: Ed Waldo
Location: of The West

I am a fictional construct originally conceived as a pen name for articles in the Los Angeles FREE PRESS at the 2000 Democratic Convention. The plume relating to the nom in question rests in the left hand of Hart Williams, about whom, the less said, the better. Officially "SMEARED" by the Howie Rich Gang. And now, smeared by Fox News and Sean Hannity, as well! Plus, FEARED by Ted Nugent! AND Hated by the Freepers!

Saturday, April 7, 2007


America's Achilles heel is electricity. Here in the Northwest, where our electrical grid was initially based on hydroelectric power, a three-day power outage is a sobering experience.

We use everything to make electricity, coal, oil, solar, wind.

I used to live on the San Ildefonso Pueblo reservation in New Mexico, in the shadow of Black Mesa, and a good stiff wind would crash the black & white Mac every time. I learned to back up whatever I was working on every couple minutes.

But the technology was still (or could be) Neolithic: Thick adobe walls to trap heat in winter and cool in summer; a wood-burning stove.

The loss of electricity was an annoyance, but we had candles. Computers, however, well, too bad.

Now, the end of the world comes when the battery dies. Without our little electricity transporters, constantly plugging into the Central Grid to recharge, most of us end with that little chirp that says "battery dead."

Yes, there are a few with propane technology. Some with gas generators. A few with solar power, but the great problem with electricity is that you can't store it.

So, whoever knocks out our electricity knocks out the country.

I worked in a defense plant in Santa Ana, California, where we were fulfilling a Navy contract to provide UPS units for our embassies around the world. There were, in the parking lot, several autos with 'Pat Robertson for President' bumper stickers, which means that it must have been the spring of 1988. I rode a bicycle to work, which confused the denizens of the factory, but that isn't important here.

Someone in Washington, D.C. had realized that all a hostile country had to do to grab a whole bunch of U.S. Secrets was shut off the power to the embassy, capture the computers, and turn them back on again. Passwords would be broken. So, the UPS units were to give embassy staff (I think) an hour to unleash the shredding 'bots. Or, I seem to recall -- in the parlance of the bureaucratese -- to 'secure' them.

There was another thing about that plant that gave me great hope. We had workers from every continent, religion, and civilization, but you COULD not tell their status by their surname. It was truly the Starship Enterprise.

Well, except for the fact that the refrigerator-sized UPS units-- Uninterruptible Power Source units -- were actually assembled as far as legally permissible in the Mexicali plant, and we were basically to do a smidge of final assembly, and then to perform 80-hour burn in tests -- which were required by the contract and above my pay grade. Mostly, the Official Embassy Sekurity Devices were Hecho En Mexico.

That border has never been closed, nor will it ever be. (Sorry, conservative dudes.)

But the idea is a good one, no matter how corruptly and ineptly carried to fruition, and UPS has become a fact of life in computerland. (I'm typing on one right now.)

So, we are at the mercy of the magic juice that can't be stored and must constantly be generated (peak capacity, recall, is that quality that inherently causes 'brownouts' whenever EVERYBODY turns on their air-conditioner at the same time). And with plants and substations everywhere, they can't possibly ALL be protected.

You take my point.

The problem is, electricity as a secondary fuel source is great for computers, but lousy on every other generating and distribution model.

How about hydrogen?

You see, hydrogen is, like electricity, a SECONDARY energy. You use whatever technology you use to make electricity to make hydrogen. Hydrogen CAN be stored. So, during the times of little consumption, you can store up a reserve. Then, when 'peak' demand occurs, you have plenty of hydrogen. When you burn it, its 'residue' is distilled water, so burn as much at peak as you want -- and save that water; it has 1001 household uses.

But the security issue is putting a fuel cell in every home. Decentralizing the electricity economy. If you want to use solar power to crack water during the day, you can 'burn' that hydrogen at night.

By 'burn,' I mean fuel cells. Each home can have its own fuel cell bank, and the hydrogen can be piped in like natural gas, collected in home generators, et al.

The savings would more than offset the costs on many levels, not the least of which being the ability to threaten the power supply. One of the ways that Electric Americans dealt with the power outage was to retreat to their RVs and automobiles, and heat and cool themselves, and listen to music, sleep, etc.

You could deliver it the same way you deliver propane. You could deliver it the same way you distribute natural gas. You could deliver it the same way you get gasoline. And you could deliver it the same way you cook up your own moonshine.

Then run your TV off your fuel cell. Run your dryer off your fuel cell. Your lifestyle doesn't change. All that changes is the manner in which your electricity is delivered.

It's an easy concept: Electricity is a secondary energy source (you make it from primary energy sources, it doesn't occur naturally: no 'electricity mines,' 'electricity trees,' 'electricity springs,' etc.)

Hydrogen is a secondary energy source.

You can't store electricity. You can store hydrogen. Electricity requires a huge, vulnerable, centralized distribution system engineered to be capable of delivering 'peak' capacity, but mostly unused because excess electricity is simply wasted.

A significant portion of electricity is lost in transmission, creating ozone, frying the occasional bird, and kite enthusiast. Our landscape is scarred with electrical wires and erector sets.

Wouldn't it be great to take them down?

But, in creating energy independence by giving each household energy independence, you would TRULY benefit the long term security interests of the nation.

Not 'Fortress America.' UPS America. (NO, not those parcel post people -- but 'Backup Battery America' sounds kind of dumb.)

UPS America.



Blogger Catmoves said...

You might be interested in Terry Tamminen's book "Lives Per Gallon".

April 11, 2007 5:12 PM  
Blogger ed waldo said...

Thanks. I'll check it out.

April 14, 2007 8:11 AM  
Anonymous battery comfort said...

spam removed with extreme prejudice

May 21, 2008 7:03 PM  

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