crisis of public trust, low tide, house gets hydrogen fuel cell

Americans and the economy: Angry feelings, fear exceeds terrorism risk

EUGENE, Ore. — (Oct. 10, 2008) — In the first three days of the country’s economic meltdown that began Sept. 29, 81 percent of Americans surveyed in a national poll agreed or strongly agreed that the financial crisis “poses a greater threat to the quality of my life than does the threat of terrorism.” And researchers found little trust in the government and even less in business leaders.

[  ]…Asked a series of questions to gauge who participants trust to meet the economic challenge, respondents gave no one a firm endorsement. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama received the highest nod, but at only 23 percent. His Republican rival John McCain drew 16 percent of their trust. Support of President Bush, Congress and the Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson ranged from 5 percent to 7 percent. Business leaders drew only 2 percent.

Not to put the politics completely out the discussion, but rather put it off to the side. While economies run on real products and services provided by real labor, our economy also runs on confidence and trust. If I tried to sell you on a new business venture you might, despite that poker face, be jumping up and down inside thinking this sounds like the next YouTube. You do some background checks and find that I’m not an street criminal, but I’m known to hedge on the truth and consequently investors have made some bad decisions based on my manipulation of the facts. Despite the possibility of being a mini-Bill Gates you decide you will not invest in my new company. When our political leaders repeatedly bend, play, distort and hide the truth, or as Catholics call it, commit a sin of omission, malicously withholding information over a period of years, there is a crisis of confidence. So the falsehoods about the courts, national security, taxes, the economy, education and natural resources in addition to a regular series of revelations about what the public was not told, had their immediate consequences, but they also created a culture of distrust. If people don’t have faith in the institutions that we need to run the country then it becomes all that much more difficult to respond to a crisis. Some distrust or skepticism is healthy. As a semi-professional skeptic I hope so anyway. As a culture we seemed to have passed from the healthy level to the toxic. Who’s to blame. Judging by the stats in this study this might be one of those times the wisdom of crowds has a good idea who.

low tide

Warm welcome for house powered by hydrogen fuel cell

There is no way yet to pipe hydrogen directly into homes, so the demonstration house will use natural gas that comes in via the existing mains supply. This is first passed through a steam reformer that generates hydrogen. The hydrogen is then combined with oxygen in a fuel cell unit, made by German company Baxi Innotech, that produces both electricity and heat and without producing carbon dioxide. Although creating the hydrogen from gas does produce some carbon dioxide, using the fuel cell cuts overall household emissions by 40% compared with running on gas alone.

I think it was last year that a group of scientists called for a kind of Manhattan Project for our energy problems. Seeing that hydrogen is so abundant and burning it is so green, hydrogen fuel and fuel cells seems like a good place to put emphasis. Wind power and solar are both good partial solutions, but in a world with over six and half billion people and growing, land use issues have become a concern.

the new omen.

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