"Bloom Box" promises cheap, clean energy. Too good to be true?

K.R. Sridhar of Bloom Energy shows off a component of his "Bloom Box" to 60 Minutes' Leslie Stahl.

K.R. Sridhar of Bloom Energy shows off a component of his "Bloom Box" to 60 Minutes' Leslie Stahl.

60 Minutes aired this report last night on Bloom Energy, a California company officially launching this week that says it has perfected a fuel-cell technology that is capable of making the conventional energy grid obsolete and producing clean(er), cheap(er) power. I get the strong whiff of bullshit off this whole story, and yet there’s something still irresistible about it: the idea of putting a refrigerator-sized box in your basement that’s capable of powering your whole house is just so enticing.

The thing that appears to set the “Bloom Box” apart from run-of-the-mill cold-fusion swindlers is that the technology is already in use, powering a Google datacentre with natural gas and the headquarters of eBay with landfill biogas. So actual people have paid actual money for these boxes and use the electricity they produceā€”and are willing to show them off to a CBS camera crew. So, with the usual caveat that when something seems too good to be true, it usually is, and also that highly choreographed public relations campaigns by self-proclaimed “revolutionary” companies make me want to puke, this is still totally worth a few minutes of viewing time.