TechNet Summit: Going for green tech

Summary:During the second TechNet Summit panel, Going Green--Technology Solutions for the Future, John Doerr said that a perfect storm exists for green technology and initiatives. Green matters to environmentalists, evangelicals, the Bush administration, he said.

During the second TechNet Summit panel, Going Green--Technology Solutions for the Future, John Doerr said that a perfect storm exists for green technology and initiatives. Green matters to environmentalists, evangelicals, the Bush administration, he said. "The U.S. is shipping billions of dollars to nations that have a target on our back, China is rising and all scientists agree there is a global climate problem unless we do something in the next ten years. It requires policy and innovation and is a very scary situation," he said.

Doerr, the well known partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and investor in alternative energy technology, was joined by Scott McNealy, chairman of Sun, and KR Sridhar, co-founder and CEO of Bloom Energy, in the interview hosted by Charlie Rose.

Doerr brought up the extreme example, citing the latest fear from global warming, according to scientists from CalTech, as the possibility that Greenland could "slip off the rocks" and oceans could eventually rise by 20 or 30 feet in this century putting coastal cities underwater.

McNealy gave the Sun pitch, talking about savings from making datacenters and PCs more energy efficient, and that every company should take an eco-friendly stance. "It can't hurt to reduce your energy consumption--you can make money and not hurt the environment," he said. He also gave a commercial for Sun's Niagara processors and datacenter in a shipping container.

Doerr gave the example of Wal-Mart as a company that is reducing its energy costs for stores and its distribution channel and in stocking more energy efficient items, such as fluorescent light bulbs.

Rose set up his friend Doerr with a question about how to change consumer behavior. Doerr replied that what's needed is a new energy policy, and listed four points that he recommend that President Bush put in his next State of the Union address.


 Good friends: premier VC John Doerr and premier interviewer Charlie Rose

First, a mandatory rule to reduce CO2 emissions by 25 percent by 2020; second, encourage the adoption of renewable, such as wind, solar, fuel cells and solar thermal; third, less dependence on oil with higher efficiency standards and kick starting the biofuels industry; and fourth, more investment in carbon sequestration, taking emissions out of coal burning plants to generate stationary power, which is biggest source of greenhouse gases. 

Doerr doesn't think that a gas tax is feasible, but he thinks that offering benefits for reducing carbon emissions is a way to go forward.

Sridhar said that the majority of consumers want the cheapest energy possible, but he believes that consumers want to do good when it comes to the environment and energy. He advocates moving the source of energy, such as fuel cells equivalent to residential power plants, that his stealth-mode company is developing, closer to the consumer. "The fuel cell becomes the gas station, working with solar," he said. He pointed out that two-thirds of greenhouse gases come from stationary, not transportation, power sources.

"Green technology is not a one trick pony," Sridhar said. "If we wave a magic wand and global warming goes away, there are still a billion people coming out of poverty and 2 billion without electricity. We don't have the resources to address that." 

McNealy said that if alternative energy is not economical, it is hard to make a change is consumer behavior. "It has to be made economically apparent as to how you save money or the whole thing is a house of cards," he said.

Nuclear energy and waste came up, and echoing Floyd Kvamme's remarks, Doerr said that it should be about 20 percent of the energy grid. "The question is not where to store the waste for the next 10 million years, but just for the next 50 years. " He expects within 50 years a solution will be found for the longer term storage of nuclear waste material.

Doerr said the next Congress and next presidential election will bring about changes in energy policy and nuclear solutions. Brazil has adopted biofuels, reducing oil use by 70 percent, Doerr said. However, for the U.S. market, Brazilian ethanol is taxed at 54-cents a gallon as a result of the corn lobby, he added. 

"All academics agree that to 2050, we are going from 2 to 6 billion people moving to urban areas, mostly in Southeast Asia, China. The urbanization of those people will determine whether we pollute and poison this planet," Doerr concluded. 

Topics: Emerging Tech

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