In a story reported by the San Francisco Chronicle and New York Times, a group led by Intel and 24 Venture Capital has pledged $3.5 billion in private investment for tech start-ups.  This effort will go hand in hand with a commitment by Intel, Google, Microsoft, and Cisco to hire 10,500 engineers and computer scientists from American universities.

The investments, which will include clean energy as a main focus, are meant to serve a dual purpose in stimulating technological innovation while sending a message to the government about the need for public funding.  One prominent executive frames the push this way:

“This investment is one step forward, but also an important bridge-building step with the public sector,” said Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a trade organization representing employers. It says “Silicon Valley is serious about putting our wallets where our words are.”

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Matt Dernoga from the University of Maryland and Danny Sptizberg and Stephen Collins from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have published op-eds in the The Diamondback and The Daily Cardinal, their respective student newspapers, exhorting local politicians to support funding for RE-ENERGYSE and calling on young people to make their voice on the issue heard.

Read the full pieces here and here.

Highlights of the columns include:

In order to lead the world in global energy technology this century, we have to do more than invest in green-collar jobs for today. We need to create an unparalleled clean energy education initiative to give our up and coming scientists the support they need to innovate for America. This will ensure the green jobs of tomorrow are ours. RE-ENERGYSE is an important step in the right direction – The Diamondback

Some are calling it the biggest market opportunity in history. Experts of all stripes have repeatedly stated that the nation that wins the clean-energy race will be the nation that leads the 21st century economy. Discovering and implementing cheap, clean and reliable energy technologies is our generation’s final frontier. But, how do we get there? President Obama has proposed doing so by increasing funding for energy education and training through a program called RE-ENERGYSE (short for REgaining our ENERGY Science and Engineering Edge).

Now or in the near future, Wisconsin and the U.S. need to increase energy education. Gaining a strong, competitive edge in clean energy requires more than opening markets with policies like a RPS, but taking advantage of those markets by creating talented researchers and a skilled workforce. As the saying goes, if you teach a man to fish, he will build a clean energy economy. If we fail to invest in today’s students, we will miss a critical opportunity and give other countries a head start in the global clean energy race. This is our chance to lead the generation of a low-carbon economy.  - The Daily Cardinal

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Make Poverty History: Make Clean Energy Cheap

Originally published by The Stanford Daily

“If you gave me only one wish for the next 50 years,” declared the world’s wealthiest man during last week’s TED 2010 conference, “I can pick who is president, I can pick a vaccine… or I can pick that [an energy technology] at half the cost with no carbon emissions gets invented, this is the wish I would pick. This is the one with the greatest impact.”

Bill Gates is right. And he is not just talking about the impact on climate change, which does of course present a major threat. He is also talking about one of the most critical global imperatives to make poverty history: making clean energy cheap.

“If you could pick just one thing to lower the price of to reduce poverty, by far you would pick energy,” said Gates in his introduction. Gates should know as well as any development expert, since the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – the world’s largest transparent private foundation – has invested billions of dollars in extreme poverty alleviation since 1994.

Nearly 1.6 billion of our fellow human beings have no access to electricity, and around 2.4 billion people – over one third of global population – meet their basic cooking and heating needs by burning biomass, such as wood, crop waste, and dung. “Without access to modern, commercial energy, poor countries can be trapped in a vicious circle of poverty, social instability and underdevelopment,” concludes the International Energy Agency.

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The Council of Graduate Schools has issued a statement strongly supporting the Obama administration’s FY 2011 budget request for higher education, specifically endorsing RE-ENERGYSE as an important step in regaining U.S. globally competitiveness.  The statement says:

The budget proposes funding increases for a number of programs that support graduate education and research, which are critical to maintaining America’s global leadership in the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century.  The priorities outlined in the FY 2011 budget also recognize that support for graduate education is essential to the development of a highly-trained workforce…

As the budget proposes a freeze for most discretionary spending, CGS especially appreciates the following key provisions that support graduate education and research… Funding for the RE-ENERGYSE program, a new partnership between the Department of Energy and NSF that will include graduate fellowships for both master’s and doctoral students in clean energy fields.

For more on RE-ENERGYSE see here.

 

From the Harvard Business Review blog, “The U.S. Must Grab the Lead on Green“:

After the Copenhagen Summit, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman wrote about the importance of sustainability to America’s future competitiveness: “An Earth Race led by America — built on markets, economic competition, national self-interest and strategic advantage — is a much more self-sustaining way to reduce carbon emissions than a festival of voluntary, nonbinding commitments at a U.N. conference.”

First the bad news. We’re already behind on the Earth Race.

Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant,” a report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and the Breakthrough Institute, gives a bleak outlook. ITIF founder Rob Atkinson says that, between 2009 and 2013, the governments of China, Japan, and Korea will out-invest the U.S. three to one in CleanTech: $509 billion vs. $172 billion.

How did we get to this place? Have we lost the will to compete?

The full post is well worth reading here.

 

“Bill Gates wants clean, cheap energy more than he wants to pick the next 50 years worth of presidents, even more than he wants a miracle vaccine,” reports the Breakthrough Institute. “At least that’s how he ranked his number one wish while describing climate change as the world’s greatest challenge to a rapt audience at the TED conference last week.”

Just weeks after lending his voice to a growing “innovation consensus” by writing on his blog, Gates Notes, that innovation, not just insulation, must be the focus if we are serious about “getting to zero,” Gates’ TED speech expanded on what we need to get there:

“We need energy miracles. The microprocessor and internet are miracles. This is a case where we have to drive and get the miracle in a short timeline.”

Gates emphasized the need for an energy miracle portfolio that includes carbon capture and storage and nuclear as well as wind and solar. According to CNN’s coverage of the conference (the video is not posted yet), Gates showed particular interest in the potential for nuclear waste reprocessing as a source of clean, cheap energy.

Read the full post and watch Bill Gates’ TED talk here:

 

Two weeks ago, the Stanford Political Union hosted a climate and energy policy debate featuring Teryn Norris, Director of Americans for Energy Leadership, who spoke about the global clean energy race and its implications for U.S. policy:

 

Remaking the Global Climate Framework

Originally published by The Stanford Daily

Two months ago, hundreds of world leaders and tens of thousands of activists gathered in Copenhagen to craft a new global treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol in 2012. Green groups put on a spectacle – yes, Greenpeace even docked two of its famous boats nearby to “help in pushing the delegates” – and some observers declared it a make or break event in global climate history.

Today, there is strikingly little to show for the whole affair, momentum has slowed to a crawl and hardly anyone is discussing the aftermath. For good reason: the Copenhagen Accord is basically a voluntary agreement with obscure objectives, and its impact will be negligible. Michael Cutajar, the former chairman of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiation group, said that “Beyond the lack of clarity in its drafting, its main weakness is the lack of ambition and identifying responsibilities… Who should do what, and when, in order to limit warming to two degrees?”

What went wrong at Copenhagen? As I recently argued on BBC World View, the outcome was primarily the result of a flawed UNFCCC process and policy framework. The first and most obvious problem was imagining that 192 countries – some of which represent thousands of times more people than others – could produce a meaningful climate mitigation treaty. The UNFCCC process is kind of like the U.S. Senate (today one of the most dysfunctional national legislative bodies in the world) but at least four times as complicated.

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