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Silicon Valley's Khosla pushing clean-tech politics

oil tax.jpg
oil tax
Well-known Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla is joining with Hollywood producer and political activist Steven Bing to bankroll a campaign for a ballot initiative that, if approved, could raise up to $380 million a year to develop alternative fuels.

Are Californian's ready for on oil tax? That is, on oil pumped from California wells, and for use to support alternative energy programs to wean the state from its dependency on petroleum -- cutting use by 25 percent in a decade?

It makes a lot of sense. The LA Times reports on it; it is worth a try. Good for California tech companies, good for environment, good for all kinds of...

reasons -- see our rant on the latest clean-tech stuff here, including comments from Khosla's colleague, John Doerr.

Vinod Khosla
The new independent agency would earmark 60% of the money for programs designed to develop alternative vehicles and fuels to reduce gasoline and diesel use, 27% to pay for research at California universities, and the rest mainly to help companies put new products on the market.

Khosla, 50, a Silicon Valley Republican and founding chief executive of Sun Microsystems Inc., also is a big campaign contributor, having given $3.5 million to state campaigns since 2000.
Khosla, a partner in prominent venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, now invests his money in select deals with so-called clean technology industries such as biofuels, fuel cells and solar power.

Though he's been a major campaign contributor, Bing is better known for his movie production credits and social escapades. Besides helping to finance "The Polar Express," he has produced such films as "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World."

Here's our piece on Khosla's move away from his previously active investing with Kleiner, to do more stuff like this.

(Hat tip to Felix for this)

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There is a great movie coming out on this exact topic called "Who Killed the Electric Car?" It got excellent reviews at a pre-screening at the Sundance festival two weeks ago, and should be in theaters this Spring or Summer!


Byron Deeter on February 3, 2006 10:12 AM
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Makes a lot of sense?! Khosla is in essence saying the following:
1. I see a business opportunity in clean-tech
2. Bonus - I think these investments will make for a better world.
3. But the market, despite high oil prices, doesn't seem to be rushing there (people - the market aren't smart enough yet)
4. So I'll use my personal value-judgment (#2) as an excuse to make market conditions more conducive to the investment, via taxes
5. Every Californian will have to pay for my value judgment. I'm a smart guy. I see these things before the market. It'll be good for them. Besides, if I play this right, I look like a hero for saving the environment.

Frankly, I agree with Khosla that there are great opportunities in clean-tech. Of course I also agreed that Asera was a good investment made by a smart guy who saw these things before the market.

But the market knew differently, didn't it? And every good capitalist knows that all his investments are made becuse the product/service makes the world better. We know it's better because people buy.

But distorting the market through taxes is illusory and diverts money from the most efficient pursuit of what really matters (and if Kholsa knew that, he'd be a rich... ahem).

Makes a lot of sense for him, but not for everyone else. VK - good luck on your investments, I hope they are huge home runs. Please don't ask me to finance them.

mike on February 3, 2006 12:27 PM
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IMO, ethanol is the best solution not hydrogen as it dont require massive changes in distribution or vehile design...The federal govt should devote atleast a couple of billions/yr in ethanol research

Gopi on February 3, 2006 12:33 PM
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Ethanol can help at the margins, but it is not a replacement for gasoline. It's too costly to produce, is not dramatically cleaner than gasoline (especially once you factor in production - e.g. transportation of fertilizer), and we will never be able to produce it in anywhere near the quantities we need to meet demand.

David Gal on February 3, 2006 5:59 PM
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Khosla is talking about cellulosic ethanol (from corn stalks, sawgrass, other agricultural waste products). It requires very low energy inputs to produce, and from a greenhouse gas perspective, it can be a "carbon sink," cumulatively sequestering carbon (when you count the roots).

The new Advanced Energy Initiative announced by Pres. Bush in the State of the Union pairs development of cellulosic ethanol and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). For vehicles, ethanol works best if we use PHEVs to power most of our miles electrically. Otherwise we'll need more ethanol than we can make sustainably. A complete solution: increasingly renewable electricity as the primary fuel and ethanol as the range extender.
-- Felix Kramer, founder, CalCars

Felix Kramer on February 5, 2006 8:22 PM
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Can I have Email ID of Mr. Vonod Khosla

M.Alam on February 18, 2006 9:45 PM
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I generally don't give out email addresses for my sources, in an effort to protect their privacy. But if you send me a note, I'll gladly forward it on to him for consideration,


Matt Marshall on February 19, 2006 9:19 PM
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Mr. Marshall --

I know you do not give out email addresses for your sources, but, if you could forward my information to Mr. Khosla as you said you could for MAlam, I would be very greatful.

I saw Mr. Khosla on Dateline NBC and he mention the biggest logistical concern was to get the Ethanol85 distributed. I have an idea that would potentially make that a non-issue and by-pass any problems with the oil industry.

Again, if you could forward this, It could possibly be beneficial to Mr. Khosla as well as America and the American public.

Thank you!

K.A. Cambern on May 7, 2006 8:51 PM
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