Jabari Zakiya [opinions]

Power to the people

fsmsh.com/2181 [eestor] [ultracapcitor] [zenn] [supercapcitor] [epa]

What do a super secret ultracapacitor and a recent Supreme Court ruling have to do with providing viable clean electric energy to the masses? Well, if things are allowed to gravitate toward their logical conclusion, they provide the technical and political impetus to finally bring cheap, clean, and renewable power to the people.

For those who haven’t heard, there’s a Cedar Park, Texas-based company (smack dab in oil country) which has been flying low under the radar for the past ten years (they’ve only recently registered a website). The company is called EEStor, and what they are developing will shatter the oil economy as we know it. Check out this directory of EEStor articles, particularly this, and this, and also this.

While the American car industry (GM, Ford, Chrysler) has made a plethora of excuses and produced no significant increase in the fuel efficiency of the “internal combustion engine” in the past 40 years and while resisting all legislative efforts to mandate it, this small Texas company is about to obsolete the ICE altogether. It’s first major use will be to power ZENN (Zero Emissions Noise) cars, which will be designed to go 500 miles on a charge, and recharge within 5 minutes.

EEStor’s technology obviously isn’t limited to automotive usages. It’s also already being targeted to power tools, industrial machines, and, of course, laptops and consumer electronics. Within a couple of years we may have laptops which go weeks (or months) before needing recharging, which would exponentially raise the status of developing countries, and such projects as the OLPC.

But good, even breakthrough technology, doesn’t always make it on its merits, as powerful entrenched business interests often can use their political clout to limit, or even destroy, potentially disruptive technology. One need only study the case of Henry Moray and his development of a Radiant Energy Device in the early 20th century as a sober example of how Big Oil (et al) will seek to destroy the development of technology it can’t control. This is where the recent Supreme Court ruling on the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases enters into the equation.

On Monday, April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court released its ruling in Commonwealth of Massachusetts et al. v. Environmental Protection Agency et al. As reported by the Washington Post, and others, the EPA ruling rebuked the Bush Administration’s contention that the EPA couldn’t regulate greenhouse gas emissions. What this hopefully will translate into is Congress passing more stringent legislation to reign in the production of greenhouse gases, particularly vehicle and power plant emissions. More specifically, EEStor’s technology can create the political leverage to force the EPA to set significantly higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards (before all vehicles eventually go full electric), and eventually eliminate the use of coal powered generating plants.

The widespread availability of cheap, clean, renewable electrical power will also boost the importance and use of FOSS. Reduce the power (and its cost) necessary to run computers, and you will see an increase in their use in places where they are now prohibitive and/or unsustainable. This is particularly true in economically marginalized communities, and in developing countries. And where people who never had computers finally can get them, and use them for long periods of time, they too will eventually become developers, and not just users, of FOSS.

Next year, 2008, will be a critical year to make this all happen. It is, of course, a presidential election year in the US, and whoever is the new president will almost certainly be more cognizant of the need to make major real changes in the energy policy of the country. Even if political activity stalls, EEStor’s technology will ultimately force market considerations to respond without political mandates.

Ultimately, a fundamental electrical device, given a 21st Century makeover, may finally deliver, decades ahead of other more exotic technologies, true ubiquitous power to the people.


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