TechNet, a bipartisan, political action group of high tech senior executives that promotes the growth of technology and innovation, hosted a dinner last night in Palo Alto to discuss some of its agenda items, which have included stances on education, patent reform, stock options and broadband and Internet policy.
The newest agenda, a Green Technologies Initiative, was the subject of discussion last night. Floyd Kvamme, co-chair of President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), said the group would be making recommendations on energy policy next month to the President. In a preview of the findings, Kvamme said, "Bottom line is we will need 50 percent more electricity by 2030. We are recommending a return to the nuclear world—it’s the greenest of the green."
Currently, nuclear accounts for about 20 percent the energy supply, Kvamme said, and that level will need to be maintained to make progress, he said. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 has provisions for new nuclear power plant as well for investment in biofuels, such as ethanol and butanol. Kvamme likened the biofuel debate, as to which substance would dominate it to the early days of Silicon Valley, when the germanium and silicon were vying to be the of the semiconductor industry. Ethanol may end up being germanium, but the jury is still out.
John Doerr, of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, said there is "no silver bullet," to reduce greenhouse gases and energy consumption. "Biofuels are part of the solution, and we need to accelerate adoption of those alternatives, replacing coal, which is the biggest culprit," Doerr said. Solar energy is a mere .02 percent source of energy today, Doerr said. Less than one percent of sales from oil companies goes into R&D, Doerr cited. He proposed an E-ARPA, modeled after DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) to manage and fund basic and applied R&D in green technologies. The Internet, for example, got its start as part of government funded research.
Doerr, who invested in Google, Amazon, Sun and other major hits, and many others in the VC community are betting heavily on green technologies as a next major profit windfall.
Sarbannes-Oxley and HB1 visas also came under fire from the group at dinner. SOX has had an adverse effect on companies going public, which the VCs don’t appreciate, and the one size fits all regulation penalizes small- and medium-sized companies. As a result, there are more mergers and acquisitions as liquidity events, and companies are going public on foreign exchanges, such as London Stock Exchange. "SOX is a gross overreaction, especially around the definition of 'materiality,'" Doerr said. "It is the accountants full-employment act."
Robert Grady, who heads the Carlyle Groups VC fund and is president of the National Venture Capital Association, said that 25 percent of companies that have recently gone public have at least one founder who is foreign born. For high-tech IPOs, the number is 40 percent. "We are closing the door to the best minds," said Aart de Geus, CEO of Synopsys.
Stay tuned for coverage from the TechNet Innovation Summit at Stanford University, where Charlie Rose will talk with Bill Gates, John Doerr, Jerry Yang, Scott McNealy and other high-tech executives.