John Doerr: Salvation (and profit) in GreenTech

This was a talk given in 2007. His catch phrase in the talk is “…but I’m afraid it’s not enough.” At the end of this talk, John Doerr was in tears. I wonder what he’s feeling and saying now when things are looking so much worse for the climate.


Been reading this 2012 article about “Why the Clean Tech Boom Went Bust.” It’s about the USA clean tech boom in particular.

No surprises then than fracking, lower gas prices and fossil fuel industry opposition are involved.

“….Perhaps the biggest force working against … clean energy in general is this: Because natural gas has gotten so cheap, there is no longer a financial incentive to go with renewables. Technical advances in natural gas extraction from shale—including the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking—have opened up reserves so massive that the US has surpassed Russia as the world’s largest natural gas supplier.

The price of natural gas peaked at nearly $13 per thousand cubic feet in 2008. It now stands at around $3. A decade ago, shale gas accounted for less than 2 percent of America’s natural gas supply; it is now approaching one-third, and industry officials predict that the total reserves will last a century. Because 24 percent of electricity comes from power plants that run on natural gas, that has helped keep costs down to just 10 cents per kilowatt-hour—and from a source that creates only half the CO2 pollution of coal. Put all that together and you’ve undone some of the financial models that say it makes sense to shift to wind and solar. And in a time of economic uncertainty, the relatively modest carbon footprint of natural gas gets close enough on the environmental front for a lot of people to feel just fine turning up the air-conditioning.”

Being undercut by Chinese low prices for solar echnology  is also involved in undermining the clean tech industries. But the positive effect of that is to have helped solar panel installation companies and make solar installations cheap and immediately profitable.

But maybe the biggest threat is the vested interests of the fossil fuel companies. US is not alone now in chopping the subsidies to clean energy sources whilst maintining those to the old dirty ones. UK is doing the same.

Despite the fact that renewable energy received only a quarter of the subsidies that fossil-fuel-based electricity received between 2002 and 2007, it’s wind and solar that are on the chopping block.

Even solar’s biggest allies on Capitol Hill—people like Edward J. Markey, a top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee—fear the industry’s oil and gas foes may have gotten the upper hand now that the clean-tech bubble has burst. “We are not Panglossian about what lies ahead,” Markey says. “The fossil fuel industry and its allies in Congress clearly see the solar and wind industries as a threat and will try to kill these industries as they have for the preceding two generations. They want this to be a five-year aberrational period.”

In other words, John Doerr may once again have a good reason to shed a tear.



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