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Common Purposes

What are the Common Purposes? I've dwelt on that question since first reading my alma mater's founding principle "for the purposes of instructing persons, who may choose to apply themselves, in the application of science to the common purposes of life". The question, more than any answer I may ever offer, has guided me through many personal and professional endeavors. And, if I have learned anything it is that I have derived my greatest joy when I, as part of a team, have made a lasting difference to improve the lives of others. Should the thoughts I share here and the ensuing discussion lead others to ask the same question, to seek their own answers and to experience the same joy as I, then I shall consider this effort of value.

Image: "The New Shoes" by Jane Bucci. This work is based on the touching photo snapped by Gerald Waller in 1946, in Austria. The little boy, who lived in an orphanage, had just been given new shoes by the American Red Cross.

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And the Ground Beneath Our Feet, It Shifted

Posted April 07, 2013 12:12 PM by MillMatt

"Game On" is the title; "all in" is the message. The article is a LinkedIn posting made by Jeff Immelt, the now long-tenured chairman of venerable General Electric (NYSE: GE). Immelt has presided over restoring the company to its glory in manufacturing based upon leading edge technology for a vast array of industrial applications. In the post he writes, "[it] has to be one of the biggest game-changers I've seen in my career." Well, Jeff, there's a strong statement! I've spent my life in various facets of advanced materials (full disclosure: I worked for a GE business, since divested, during one summer while in college) and it was Jeff Immelt who helped me grasp the commercial significance of nanotechnology during an interview on the Charlie Rose show. I doubt there is much that Mr. Immelt hasn't seen during his illustrious career with what is certainly one of the most global and far-reaching businesses ever to exist. So, when he (or his ghost writers?) states that something is the biggest game-changer of his career, I've got to perk up my ears and take note. Shouldn't I?

And, here is the topic of his comments: "the availability of shale in the United States and around the world…" Really? Yes. Well, OK, it isn't the shale, as such, but the gas and oil trapped in that shale. It has always been there but, based upon the current price of crude oil, distribution cost of natural gas and improving extraction technology, there is already a major boom underway. Given Mr. Immelt's comments, it sounds like GE might be a little late to the party but scanning their press releases, I'd say they've been investing for some time now and are well positioned to make a significant contribution to the development of this new and very important source of energy. Still, in the LinkedIn posting, he asks, "…can we tap it? Can we develop the technologies to extract it sustainably? If we do, we'll have cheaper energy. We will power a manufacturing renewal." Great vision, Jeff, I hope you're right.

He then goes on to say, "And it is incumbent on innovators and businesses to develop technologies that ensure reliable, safe and efficient extraction and use of unconventional oil and gas. We'll do our part!" Indeed, his company is already doing its part and I have no doubt that the new Global Research Center in Oklahoma City will spawn many new products, capabilities and services. I'll go so far as to say that this source of energy will be developed sustainably; even though sustainability is a hotly debated issue, that Mr. Immelt incorporates it into his business proposition is a good sign.

But, is the extraction of shale gas (and what also includes tight oil) really "the biggest game changer" of a generation? Is it the harbinger of an economic boom? Does it signal the beginning of a new America? Maybe. Or, maybe it's necessary but not sufficient (as my teachers used to say). It is certainly an important new driver for the world economy and already a source of employment that matters. But what of the semiconductor that debuted during Mr. Immelt's lifetime? What of the internet and the communications revolution that, by some estimates, has improved the lives of a higher percentage of humans than the car, radio, television, medical technology and more?

And, what of the Maker movement? The what movement? In essence, the Maker movement is a shift away from factories back to cottages where production of mass merchandise on dedicated equipment is replaced by discrete, custom-oriented production by individuals using personal computers and open source technology. The prospect here is for a New Industrial Revolution that will improve the lives of all and not just those in the major economic zones.

Mr. Immelt is making a very important statement about his company's commitment to a topic of great importance to all who read this blog, who read his postings on LinkedIn and well beyond. He is aiming high, taking on considerable risk for his shareholders (and all of us) and will no doubt help to ensure a secure future. But, there are those individuals who I believe are aiming even higher, with more limited resources at their disposal and who may never make a notable post on LinkedIn or elsewhere. And, it is they who will be the true game-changers - not just of a generation but of an entire era.

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#1

Re: And the Ground Beneath Our Feet, It Shifted

04/08/2013 8:05 AM

Is this a joke?

Immelt is the worst type of crony capitalist. He has used his position and cozy relationship with Washington to soak the American taxpayer for billions.

http://theeprovocateur.blogspot.com/2009/07/general-electric-and-obama.html

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/22/business/la-fi-obama-immelt-20110122

http://greencorruption.blogspot.com/2012/07/general-electric-making-bank-off-obamas.html

The maker movement? Yeah right.

Have you ever attempted to make a product and sell it in the US? The regulatory process makes it all but impossible. Do you honestly think that people like Immelt want to make it easier for others to compete with his own company? Doubt it.

http://smallbiztrends.com/2011/01/small-business%E2%80%99s-problem-with-government-regulation.html

I can provide link after link, showing how Immelt used his position to funnel stimulus dollars into his own company, garnered massive tax breaks for GE, etc.. If you want to write blogs that tout corporate greatness, you should do some research on Jack Welsh.

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#4
In reply to #1

Re: And the Ground Beneath Our Feet, It Shifted

04/08/2013 2:57 PM

I think you completely missed the point here.

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Re: And the Ground Beneath Our Feet, It Shifted

04/08/2013 3:50 PM

Apparently so. What is it?

It looks to me, like GE is ramping up to get into the shale oil and gas industry.

I'm not a huge fan of crony capitalism, and GE's Global Research Center managed to land millions in federal stimulus grants, while Immelt was working in Washington for the current administration. Doesn't seem right to me.

Besides, no one else was commenting; I figured I'd get the ball rolling. Might as well start with a bang.

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#2

Re: And the Ground Beneath Our Feet, It Shifted

04/08/2013 9:49 AM

Come to think of it; this administration has been anything but friendly to big oil, and fracking in particular.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/brighammccown/2012/08/10/fracking-regulations-stalled-despite-lack-of-evidence/

I find it odd that GE has decided to invest in shale oil and gas research, at a time when the rest of the industry feels as if they are on shaky ground.

Is it possible that Mr Immelt knows something that the rest of us don't?

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#7
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Re: And the Ground Beneath Our Feet, It Shifted

03/16/2014 4:11 AM

Do you really think pumping the remainder of our fresh drinking water into the ground mixed with 700 different chemicals in order to get natural gas out to sell overseas is a good idea?

I only drink beer so I don't care but my dogs need water.

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#3

Re: And the Ground Beneath Our Feet, It Shifted

04/08/2013 12:42 PM

if GE is getting in to the fracking game it will be to sell their water purifier systems developed in large part in Burlington,Ontario Canada..Again tinkers in a garage come up with the technology,develope it to a fine degree, and then sell it to the large corps for what seems an enormous amount of money at the time but over a very short period of time that spent corporate money has blossomed into multi percentages return into perpetuity or until a better mousetrap comes along.and then they consume it too..If Immelt is taking GE to fracking sites its fricking easy to see what the long term goal will be...To install and charge those areas whose fracking has caused serious water table pollution requiring either fresh palatable water to be brought in at enormous cost or to try high definition reverse osmosis to get at least H20 out of the muddied/polluted ground water with perhaps mineral additives to ensure brittle bones don't develope from consuming pure water...also at enormous cost but less travel required...fracking is frickin ridiculous...and we thought shale oil was nuts...

Multinationals Can't Help Themselves..they are too big to think clearly but can due to shear size miss a turn and go off a cliffl

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#6

Re: And the Ground Beneath Our Feet, It Shifted

05/11/2013 9:36 PM

Hydro-fracking is designed to take a huge amount of drinking and farming water with an unknown amout of unknown chemicals added to it, pump it into the ground into old wells thereby pushing the old oil up into the water table tainting the aquifers while the un-recoverable tainted water put into the ground with chemicals added to sequester the methane thereby doing harm to the US environment, energy resources, ground water supplies, and our surface waters too.

The proper way to frack is with nitrogen gas being pumped into the oil bed after holes have been punched through the pipe just above the old oil bed, thereby filling the voids above the remaining oil deposits and forcing the remaining oil back to the area around the base of the well.

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