Paterson in Niskayuna – GE Sodium Batteries

Today was a pretty awesome day–I went to a press conference at the GE Global Research Center in Niskayuna (where my Dad works by the way) because Governor Paterson was there with GE CEO Jeff Immelt and a few other congressmen to announce that GE is going to launch a new $100 million factory in the capital district (potentially with NYS stimulus money) to manufacture highly efficient and energy saving sodium-lithium batteries. The new facility should employ 350 local skilled trade workers.

The whole point of these new batteries is that they’re cheap to make, can store lots of energy in a small space, and will help green-up transportation.

It was a pretty impressive presentation, though I don’t have much basis for comparison, this being my first official press conference and everything. I like the idea of efficient battery power to be used in plug-in hybrid cars and such, so I think it’s a necessary change and a good one for the Albany and NYS economy–perhaps we can get out of this rut? All I’m wondering now is where they will build this facility? On the GE Global Research campus? Maybe. In downtown Schenectady? Probably not, GE is not really a fan of unions, and they’re all union workers down there. The facility needs 10 acres of land so I’m not sure where else they could put it…bulldoze the Clifton Park suburban soccer fields and make all the minivan moms cry perhaps?

This lack of answers is exactly why I learned a lot today. The whole press conference (while obviously important for its subject matter) was just a bunch of congressmen blowing smoke up the Governor’s ass while the CEO of GE blew smoke up the congressmen’s asses and the Governor made his token “blind joke.” One of the Gazette writers confirmed my suspicions by saying “it’s about who can stroke the other one harder.” No one really gave a straight answer to a posed question. For example:

*Will this create local jobs or will you be bringing people from elsewhere in?* Answer: I COULD create local jobs. There are qualified trade workers here.

My favorite part was when one of the congressmen, Paul Tonko, kept comparing this whole sodium lithium battery thing to Sputnik…uh, not really dude. Last I checked Sputnik almost caused an extension of the Cold War, and I really don’t see these batteries launching another communist threat considering the only real rival to this technology is currently in Japan. Talk about a doomsday outlook from Mr. Tonko, though…what’s next, Battery Wars? The new Marvel comic Max Battery? Darth Battery vs. Luke Battery-walker, only Darth is really his FATHER!!!??

Right now the whole situation is just a nice shiny facade. I’m interested to see if GE gets the stimulus money, where they decide to build the factory, and how quickly this gets in motion. Immelt said by 2011…we’ll see.

Oh, and in other NYS news, the Sate Assembly passed a Gay Marriage bill tonight. Let’s see what the Democratic Senate does with it.

Personal side note: my story about the CSX worker who was killed on the job WAS published…on page B7.


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