Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Vinod Khosla on Biofuel and Solar Investments

...Amid all the hype – and the hype, at this point, may be justified – it's fair to ask whether all clean-tech investments are created equal.

Some investors have strong views on this, including Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures and a long-time partner with venture capital titan Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (the firm that made early and successful bets on Google, Amazon.com and AOL).

Khosla more or less divides clean-technology investments into two camps: those that can make real but relatively small changes and those that can make huge changes to the world's environmental problems, most notably climate change.

"There's a difference between a good green investment and a climate solution," he told me last week in an interview. "I came into it from the point of view that asks what the large solutions are that actually matter to climate change.

"I love PV (solar photovoltaics), and we have investments in PV, but I don't think it will be relevant to climate change in the next 20 years."

...He calls conservation a "nice habit." He refers to hybrid cars as "great" but incremental. Biodiesel he considers "completely irrelevant." Solar PV is "sexy" but immaterial, partly because it's an intermittent source of energy, similar to wind. And while he sees an important role for new battery technologies, "to call that a climate change solution is an environmental hallucination.

"I think we should stop playing with toys," says the self-described pragmatist, who never hesitates to engage in online debates with environmentalists and idealists who believe solar rooftops and wind power can wean us off coal. "If you're not solving 50 per cent of the problem it's not material."...MORE from the Toronto Star