Oil and the future of cleantech are NOT separable

Courtesy Gordon Murray & Mohr Davidow.I recently blogged about one VC's efforts in cleantech as it relates to finding renewable replacements for petrochemicals and coal-based products.
Written by Harry Fuller, Contributor

Courtesy Gordon Murray & Mohr Davidow.

I recently blogged about one VC's efforts in cleantech as it relates to finding renewable replacements for petrochemicals and coal-based products. That same company, Mohr Davidow, has invested in an auto design firm. Why? Because Gordon Murray has moved on from high performance cars, to highly efficient cars. Ways of using fossil fuel more efficiently have become most attractive, a fast growing area of cleantech. If you can re-design the personal vehicle to make it lighter, more fuel efficient, less resource thirsty, you could be a big financial winner in the future.

Another Mohr Davidow investment is in Jadoo Power System. They're a fuel cell company. They make products aimed at replacing traditional batteries for industrial applications. Military expedition and field video crews, law enforcement communicatons and construction site electronics. Jadoo wants products that provide steady, efficient power with reduced battery weight.

To Mohr Davidow, Jadoo and Gordon Murray it's clear that finding ways to use less fossil fuel, or perhaps none at all, is worth investing time and money. FOSSIL FUELS AND CLEANTECH INSEPARABLE

When I write a blog that reflects (often badly) on the fossil fuel industry, there are inevitably those who write comments saying this doesn't belong on a tech blog site. I will try to make this connection as clear, as concise as possible.

Everything that happens in the fossil fuel industry either helps or hinders development of cleantech. Any change in the political or economic situation with regards to oil, natural gas or coal directly affects how investors, consumers and regulators see clean tech alternatives. The world of energy and hydrocardon compounds is NOT a series of closed compartments. Every political or economic or consumer decision necessarily helps reshape, however subtly, the future of fossil fuels and cleantech at the same time. As oil prices rise, so does interest in cleantech from solar to fuel cells. And the potential for more use of nuclear also becomes greater and the nuclear-related issues more intense.


These comments were posted after I wrote about the ducks killed in a pond of water laced with hydrocardons in the Alberta, Canada, tar sands region.

"There is certainly no news here to Canadians. We've been struggling with the problem for decades. Stick to emerging technologies and computer geek stuff please."

"...Oil is a dirty business politically and environmentally. It was like that 100 years ago, and it will be even worse 50 years from now. If you are really worried about ducks, you can always buy the oil elsewhere... lol"

Both comments exemplify the inevitable clash of values that the rising financial cost of energy and the rising environmental cost of energy are bringing to prominence. For decades the U.S. has been able to lead the world in resource consumption per capita. Now there's less and less cake to go around because it's being shared with so many more mouths. Fewer major countries are involved in military wars, economic competition has become far more popular even among "communist" nations. Those who cling to the old days of use and throw it away conflict with those who say more conservation, less waste, less entitled resouce use is necessary or inevitable. That clash and the hunger for resources is where cleantech can provide some relief, some solutions, and thus some profits for investors.

Not everybody will care if thousands of ducks die in hundreds of oil ponds, but many people and some governments will care and that will increase the market for electric cars, or nuclear fuel or efficient electric grids or low-energy cell phones or biodiesel from wood chips.


As the talkback writer said, oil is messy. Syncrude of Canada is now trying to get the tar and feathers off their corporate image. They've officially apologized for the dead ducks. But let's not be too snide toward our northern neighbors, as we Yanks are pretty good duck-killers ourselves. We also host thousands of acres of open ponds full of oil industry wastes. Here's a link to a paper written on the problem by a federal scientist. The conclusion: open oil pits in America kills thousands of animals annually. Of course, that's against the law which is unevenly enforced. The oil pits are called a "significant, preventable, and illegal source of avian mortality in the United States."


Is oil tarred with an unkind brush? They have little to fear from King Koal. Here's the latest in a battle over water pollution from coal mines in Ohio. The Koal Kings tell Ohio they'll shut their mines before they'll clean up their wastewater. Now there's some serious corporate governance going on there. To hell with the ducks, and the fish, for that matter. Whose planet is this anyway?

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