TechNet Summit: Going for green tech

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.

TOPICS: Emerging Tech

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. 

Topic: Emerging Tech

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  • Using nuclear to create fossil fuels

    We could use nculear energy combined with our abundant coal supplies to create synthetic oil and natural gas with the well-known Fischer-Tropsch synethesis process, and stop importing oil completely while reducing CO2 emissions.
  • Not unless they can do it reliably with fusion.

    Nuclear fission has been proven to be a dangerous energy source countless times. How many more 3-Mile Islands and Chernobyls do we need to experience before we get a clue?
    • get a clue?

      Nuclear power has one of the better safety records of all forms of energy. Are the risks great should an accident occur, yes, but do your the safety records of the various methods and see which one has a better safety record.
      • Depends on who's data you beleave

        Depends on who's data you believe

        I have worked in the nuclear power generating industry for over 35 years! I have held positions with the NRC and the USAEC (one in the same)

        The only reason people believe the nuclear power industry is safe is because there is no recent public data to prove otherwise. As the old saying goes "if a tree falls and no one is around to hear it fall, does it still make a sound! There's a reason why so little data has been collected since 1986.

        The truth is nuclear power plants are far more dangerous today then they were back in 1976. The only thing the government learned from TMI-2 and Chernobyl was how to more effectively cover up and hide the severity of the incident's. Very few people even know that there have been over 200 nuclear accidents in this country! Each and everyone requiring cleanup and damage control.

        In 35 years working in the industry I have been personally involved with the investigation, clean up and documentation of over 190 nuclear accidents and 2 nuclear disasters. Unfortunately do to contractual constraints I am prohibited from discussing in detail most what I seen. But what I can say with the utmost certainty is "What you don't know, is Hurting you"

        After the meltdown down at TMI-2 the US government started and active disinformation campaign. An example of what was done. Prior to TMI there where over 10,000 active monitoring Geiger counters in the US. After TMI researchers used hard data from those Geiger counters to prove the NRC lied about the level of fission product's released into the atmosphere. The US governments answer to this situation was to deactivate every last monitoring Geiger counter in the U.S. The US government now relies on computer modeling to determine the level of fission product contamination and the direction and density of moving radio active clouds. Researchers are now dependent on data from a single source, data that can be easily manipulated.

        Another source of information that was used to prove that the Government lied about the severity of the TMI-2 incident was vital statistic data retrieved from local hospitals. Independent researchers where able to collect data directly from local hospitals. This data proved that infant mortality rose to over 300 percent in the three quarters following TMI. The NRC spent the next 10 years juggling numbers trying to lower that 300 percent. Every time they did, researchers where able to go back to the original data and show how the NRC deceptively manipulated the data. The governments answer to this problem. Classify all vital statistic data as restricted! Researchers can no longer get vital statistic data directly from the source but rather have to obtain it from the GOVERMENT!

        Not including TMI or Chernobyl, obstacles such as this have prevented experts from determining the impact and severity of nuclear accidents. Researchers and even people directly involved such as myself have no idea as to the severity of many of the 200 nuclear accidents that have taken place.

        As A final thought: It is estimated that TMI and Chernobyl will eventual be responsible for anywhere between 33 million and 100 million deaths. Both the US and Russian Government have spent millions trying to cover this number up. Russia still has the audacity to claim that Chernobyl was only responsible for a handful of deaths. The truth is over 5000. people living within the restricted zone died within the first 5 years. I personally know more than a handful of people who died.

        I speak from experience The sad truth is I have been diagnosed with terminal thyroid cancer! Most likely a result of Iodine 131 exposure from working on the cleanups at both TMI and Chernobyl.

        Don't let government's lie to you. Nuclear power is the most expensive source of power on the planet. Unless of course you consider human life to be cheap. Human life is the largest cost associated with nuclear power.
        • Utter nonsense

          We get hundreds of coal miner deaths a year (including some in the USA). No one in the modern world has died from Nuclear power. Even Chernobyl barely registered any deaths.

          Dams have flooded and killed tens of thousands of people in the past.

          I don't know where you get this nonsense.
  • Nuclear Fission=Best Efficiency

    More power per square foot, more power per dollar spent. Everything else is a hopeless pipe dream.
    Too Old For IT
  • Brazilian ethanol correction (from a Brazilian)

    [i]"Brazil has adopted biofuels, reducing oil use by 70 percent, Doerr said."[/i]

    Well, that is grossly incorrect! While the Brazilian ethanol-fuel program (which in addition to pure ethanol-fueled cars also includes the mixture of 20% ethanol into gasoline) still has the merit of being the first (and as far as I know, so far the only) biomass fuel large-scale program ever implemented, it has suffered from problems right from the start, and almost went dead in the late '90s.

    Alcohol is a less efficient fuel per volume than gasoline. You need more liters (or gallons, if you prefer) of alcohol than you would need to run the same distance with gasoline. For this reason, for alcohol to be competitive with gasoline, there is a price ceiling it cannot reach.

    Our alcohol is made from sugarcane - a devastating crop in terms of depleting nutrients from the soil, and that means a lot of chemical fertilizers that in the end degraded the soils of producing areas and caused soil and river pollution. At the height of the ethanol program, in the mid-'80s, sugarcane also displaced other crops and caused a price increase in some basic food staples - and that hurt the pockets of the poor, who can't afford to have ANY car and are still the majority of Brazilians...

    But I digress. Balancing the alcohol production with the traditional sugar production (and Brazil used to be a major sugar exporter) was, and is, a hard task, especially at times when sugar prices rose in the international market. And like any crop, sugarcane production is subject to fluctuations due to weather, economic and social factors, etc.

    Now add the fact that an alcohol plant is a very expensive facility that only very large agribusiness corporations can afford to build and run. The result was an obvious and inevitable cartelization of production. Try to keep alcohol prices competitive under such conditions. The only way was for the government to pay huge subsidies to keep prices low. The alcohol plant owners laughed all the way to the bank, of course. But the subsidies helped fuel the already crazy hyperinflation we experienced at the time (we had seven currencies in 8 years, cutting 12 zeros from the first of the series!).

    When by demand from the International Monetary Fund the Brazilian government was forced to cut subsidies, in the late '80s, the program crashed. Alcohol prices skyrocketed and became non-competitive with gasoline. Now subject to market laws, there were also shortages, as producers manipulated supply to gamble with prices. This led to widespread anger among consumers who had trusted the program, and the ethanol program became so discredited that you would be considered crazy if you said you were going to buy an alcohol-fueled car. Alcohol cars never completely ceased to be produced, and alcohol has always been available at our service stations, but by the late '90s less than 1% of new Brazilian-made cars were alcohol-fueled.

    Now two factors are reviving the program. The first is the persistant high prices of oil in the international market. Gasoline is simply too expensive now, and alcohol is again competitive - not because it's cheap, but because gasoline is too expensive.

    The second was a real major technological breakthrough developed in a rare case of joint cooperation between government research institutes and ALL the carmakers with plants in Brazil (GM, Ford, FIAT, Volkswagen, Renault, Toyota, Honda, Peugeot-Citro?n, etc.). It's called the "Flex" motor. It's a microprocessor-controlled motor that can run on both alcohol and gasoline, as well as on a mixture of both in ANY proportion. The MP automatically adjusts all motor calibrations to the mixture, analyzed by sensors. This way, consumers are assured that their cars will always run on the most competitive fuel available, or on an economically optimal mixture of both. The Flex motor is a tremendous success and by next year it will be in nearly 100% of Brazilian-made cars.

    The Flex motor is the real deal. It turns the game against the formerly almighty alcohol producers, because now they HAVE to be competitive if they want to sell - as it should be in a healthy market economy. And it gives the government, the market, the consumers and technology advances the time and stability to plan whatever fuel strategy is best for the economy and the environment. It amazes me how the Brazilian ethanol program is so unanimously praised abroad, when it was such a monumental failure in its first incarnation, and only now, with the Flex motor, it has a chance of being a healthy and sound biomass fuel program.
  • Uranium Nuclear Power is a bad idea

    There was a technology developed in recent decades that fuses two hydrogen atoms together into helium. The Technology used in the process is a combination of magnetic fields and lasers that emulate the nuclear fission in the sun. It would take about 50 years of use before the nuclear waste produced starts to become harmful. What I don't understand is why we are so fixated on using Uranium to generate electricity when the new technology is so much safer and lasts longer.

    I heard that France has a joint contract with a Japanese company to install a plant that uses the laser fusion technique.

    We should abandon the use of uranium. Who cares if in the next 50 years we can store it better. It's still space rendered useless that will needlessly suck up billions of dollars in Tax money. Not to mention that uranium can be used to make bombs and our security has been historically pathetic at best.
    • Fusion not viable yet

      All your other points are quite valid.
  • Uranium bad; Thorium good.

    Uranium and Thorium reactors are current technology. Helium (fusion) is not, and won't be until at least 2050. Thorium has many advantages, such as short half-lives and being able to consume Plutonium. Two political disadvantages. One: a USA president decreed that there be no "breeder" reactors, which precludes Thorium. Two: Thorium process will not produce weapons.
    • Thorium breader == N Weapons...

      The US produced and tested several U-233 weapons back in the mid 50's.. (operation teapot.)

      U-233 can be made into effective gun type weapons with higher yield that those based on U-235.

      As for Thorium breaders.. They need an initial load of fissionable material LEU, Pu or MOX to get started.