Color Me Skeptical About the Bloom Energy Hype

There has been a lot of chatter on tech sites about Bloom Energy after a friendly 60 Minutes story last night.  Like a lot of people on Hacker News, I’m very skeptical.

I realize that a lot of that skepticism is driven by the fact that most of the information about Bloom Energy’s technology has been filtered through 60-Minutes and other mainstream news sites who reduce everything to lowest common denominator terms, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about the company.

The fact that we only have the vague hype via mainstream news outlets is primarily the responsibility of the company.  They’ve been orchestrating this coverage and they are deliberately making us wait for more details.  Their website has no information, thought here is a timer that promises more this Wednesday.

There is plenty of “blame” to go around though.  We can start with 60-minutes, for their dumbed down coverage.  How difficult would it be to include some concrete numbers along side the symbolic representations they offer?  Rather than just saying “this refrigerator sized unit produces enough power for two average US homes” say “it produces 20 kW (or whatever), which is enough power for two average US homes…”

Of course, 60-minutes is just trying to deliver information that can be understood by its audience, but that’s actually even more distressing to me.  The 60 Minutes audience has, at least historically, been better educated than the average american, and yet it still seems that they are largely illiterate when it comes an even slightly rigorous treatment of anything involving math, science, and technology.

My guess is that there isn’t really anything revolutionary about what Bloom Energy is offering compared to whats been available from other commercial fuel-cell products.  My guess is that this press campaign is largely about capturing a favored position for government “green energy” funds and legislation.

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