Here is the first part of a two-part interview with Jock Gill, whom I can only partly describe as a technologist, philosopher, humanist, media hacker, and alternative energy entrepeneur. We met in a wonderfully serendipitous way. I was on a bicycle tour through the White Mountain National Forest last month, staying overnight with a friend of a friend, when the subject of pellet heat arose — as it frequently does nowadays in New England. My friend’s friend showed me this article about an entrepeneur who’s exploring the conversion of grass into fuel. But not liquid fuel for transportation. Rather, solid fuel for thermal applications, mainly heating (in the near term) but also potentially local power production. His name sounded familiar. Jock Gill? Where had I heard that before?
When I invited Jock to do this interview, I learned there were a couple of possible connections. During the early Internet years, he was director of special projects in the Office of Media Affairs at The White House. I had probably heard about that.
Going back a bit further, though, we discovered that we were both at Lotus Development Corp. at end of 1980s, by way of two separate acquisitions. He arrived with BlueFish, a company that did indexing and search. I arrived with Datext, a company that aggregated business information. We worked in the same division and it seems we must have met at some point, but perhaps not. Funny how that goes.
Anyway, twenty years on we connected for a fascinating conversation. It begins with grass as a potential source of solid-fuel biomass. Jock then expands to consider micro combined heat and power (MicroCHP). He ties that to decentralization, relocalization, and peer-to-peer resource sharing. He reminds us that while Al Gore did not invent the Internet he did presciently advocate the electranet. And in general, he connects the dots with respect to information, energy, technology, networks, markets, and society.
2 thoughts on “Jock Gill on energy, information, technology, networks, markets, and society (part 1)”
England was fast using up its forests for creating these
products, and potash became a valued export for the American
Pearlash (Pure Ash) was another matter, made by manufacturers
using kilns that burned off all impurities, they were left with
pure sodium hydroxide. There was a global demand for the New
By the 1770’s England was so deforested due to
industrialization, they couldn’t make soda for soap making
without imports. Pearlash, or pure potash, was a product
England needed so badly it restricted the colony’s export of
all New World Pearlash to English buyers.
Potash-making became a major industry in British North America.
Great Britain was always the most important market. The
American potash industry followed the woodsman’s ax across the
country. After about 1820, New York replaced New England as the
most important source; by 1840 the center was in Ohio. Potash
production was always a by-product industry, following from the
need to clear land for agriculture.
By 1850, potash had gained popularity as a fertilizer, but
forests available for indiscriminate burning were becoming ever