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John Doerr has gone half-Green; gets word to President

John Doerr, one of the valley's most successful venture capitalists, has been on the green tech warpath for some time.

It's hard not to listen. He's a moving evangelist. He pumped up the Internet boom of the late 1990s, saying it was the greatest legal creation of wealth in history -- and there was truth to that (despite the pain after the crash).

Now we're choking the planet to death, he says. Sure, he's said this before. But he's really been pulling out the stops lately. Turns out, Doerr and his team were responsible for getting the "end-oil-addiction" wording inserted into President Bush's state-of-the-union address. We had no idea how accurate we were with our headline at the time: "Bush echoes Silicon Valley's Doerr -- It could be the stalk" (stalk referring to the stalk of corn, for ethanol).

The factoid came to light in comments Doerr made today at another of his green talks at the Four Seasons in San Francisco. There were a bunch of green bigwigs there, from Amory Lovins, to Brazil's environment secretary (to talk about Brazil's ethanol miracle) to NYT columnist Tom Friedman, who has been advocating a new green tech policy (and scheduled to talk later today). In fact, it was a full blown "network" conference, though closed in the afternoon to the media; Doerr announced a $100,000 annual prize to be awarded for the best technology or policy innovation in green tech.

Doerr also answered a question about how much time he spends on green stuff: About half.

Sure, this is all in Kleiner's interests. Doerr's sermons will rally entrepreneurs into Kleiner's offices, and perhaps help maximize the firm's profits. But that's partly Doerr's point. All the interests are aligned. Everyone wins by pushing green tech. Consumers, agriculturalists, politicians, technologists, environmentalists. To his credit, Doerr is pushing policy change too, and his marketeering prowess can only help. He and about eight other partners (of about 19 partners at Kleiner) are active on a press to push legislation (oil tax, subsidies for alternative energies) on both the state and federal levels, he said. They're working with the Environmental Defense Fund, trying to push forward a carbon emissions-trading scheme, and visiting the offices of numerous U.S. Senators and Reps. Kleiner partner Floyd Kvamme is their agent in D.C.; he sits on the President's tech committee, and was apparently the guy who helped get the green-tech message to Bush. The firm is working with Schwarzenegger, as well as Westly and Angelides, Doerr said.

Doerr's got nose for timing: The industry is suddenly very hot. Even blogger Day can't keep up with all the action lately.

By the way, Doerr told us he was misquoted in this article in the Red Herring. The planet isn't heating up by one degree a year. It is carbon emissions that are rising by one percent a year, he clarified.

Related: This is scary: Unless greenhouse-gas emissions are curbed, warns James Hansen of NASA, global temperatures could climb 2 to 3 degrees Celsius by 2100: "The last time the earth was that warm, sea levels were 80 feet higher than today." Such a rise, which could take hundreds of years, would leave little of Manhattan but the skyscrapers. Original photograph by Cameron Davidson; photo illustration by John Blackford.

By Cameron Davidson/John Blackford

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I hope John Doerr can make the case to the Politicians and the President that nobody so far has been able to make--we need to change our energy production, consumption, and development. Someone with the business credibility of John Doerr is much more difficult to dismiss, as I'm sure some in the Oil & Gas business will try to do.

But Doerr has big competition, namely ExxonMobil, Shell, ChevronTexaco, and BP. For example, ExxonMobil recently aired a commercial that says CO2 is OK because, heck, that's what we breath out and what tree need. This type of inverted thinking just amazes me. I just hope that voters and politcians do not buy into that non-sense.

Jim Hillhouse on May 20, 2006 10:17 AM
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