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Prospectus Blog John Doerr: Obama Should “Kick Start” Green Energy Research

Legendary Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr of Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield & Byers sat down for an interview at the recent Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco and shared some thoughts in this video from ZDNet (click here or on embed below):

The money quote:

The most important thing (President-elect Barack Obama) has got to do is kick start a huge amount of innovation and research in energy. We invest less than a billion dollars a year in renewable energy research and that’s contrasted with health care which is $32 billion, and I think we’ve just scratched the surface in terms of clean ways to use energy, to create energy. It’s the challenge of our generation. It’s the scourge of our economy.

Doerr also said the nation must figure out ways to increase the number of graduates in science and engineering and ensure that foreign nationals educated here in those fields are able to stay here as legal residents and help address clean-tech challenges such as renewable energy.
Developing vehicles that can run on clean electricity and second-generation net-green bio-fuels remains a high priority despite sharp drops in the price of gas from this summer’s record highs. Cascadia Senior Fellow Steve Marshall and Bullit Foundation President Denis Hayes explain why in a recent Seattle Post-Intelligencer op-ed on the promise of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Five years ago oil cost $23 a barrel. Despite the recent wild swings, oil prices remain historically high. Last year the U.S. paid $300 billion for imported oil, and this year we will double that. According to Henry Kissinger, our foreign oil purchases have resulted in the “largest transfer of wealth in human history.” What’s worse is that a major share of the world’s oil revenues ends up in countries hostile to our interests, undemocratic or both….With 97 percent of all transportation fueled by oil, we have had no choice other than to pay up until now. But with recent advances in more powerful, lighter-weight and durable batteries, we can begin to replace oil with electricity in light-duty transportation.
Every new internal combustion car that’s sold will make it more difficult for us to reduce our oil dependence. And over its lifetime each such vehicle will also generate several tons of global warming gases a year. Around Puget Sound, transportation produces more greenhouse gases than all other sources combined.
….Cleaner, cheaper domestic electricity offers our best available opportunity to move beyond oil in transportation. A (state fleet) moratorium on buying new gasoline vehicles with a plan to buy the coming plug-ins would be an added incentive to automakers to speed up the transition we need for the economy, national security and the environment.

Earlier this fall, Cascadia Center – with co-sponsors including Idaho National Laboratory and Microsoft – staged a conference titled “Beyond Oil: Transforming Transportation,” which explored new paradigms in transportation and energy. A rich archive page of the event is here, including speaker presentations, videos and media coverage. Under “Day Two Video Segments,” don’t miss electric car visionary Shai Agassi; former CIA director James Woolsey; and Microsoft’s Chief Environmental Strategist Rob Bernard.