Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Joe the Plumber, the EU and the Revolution

Not an ideal match, I know! But Joe was evoked recently by Stavos Dimas, European Commissioner for the Environment in a letter, asking President Obama to take leadership on climate change, given that we are the bigger contributor. As Commissioner Dimas has taken it upon himself to prove European leadership on climate change in the past few years, his tenure as commissioner has essentially been a rebuke to a Bush administration that refused to take its own leadership stance.

Considering that Joe was no fan of left-leaning policy in the first place, I'm sure that Obama considered the allusion nothing more than a light-hearted mention in the middle of a serious letter. Judge for yourself:

"If someone's basement floods and they lose their job on the same day it is certainly an
unlucky day. But they would not wait until they found a new job before pumping the
basement and fixing the leak. If they did, then not only would they be unemployed, but they
would also have a house that is starting to fall apart. Common sense says that the longer you
leave a problem unsolved the harder it becomes to find a solution. I am quite sure that even
Joe the Plumber would agree with this. Climate change is similar. We know there is a
problem and it would be short-sighted foolishness to not address it immediately."

The guy drives a good point.

Bravo Europe and bravo Stavros. The world has, in fact, been looking to the US for climate leadership for far too long with little leadership. If we consider arguably the two largest climate policies enacted by the EU recently - automobile efficiency mandates and a cap and trade market - they are right in line with Obama campaign promises. Already, President Obama has shown willingness to let individual states (notably California) pass their own efficiency standards for vehicles sold in their states. Given the precedent for states to be allowed to be more agressive than the federal government in climate policy, what Obama has essentially done is mandate a faster timetable (2016 for California instead of 2020 for the federal government) for automobile efficiency standards in less than a week in office. Instead of the "patchwork of regulations" that Detroit lobbyists feed us, the most likely outcome is that a single regulation will take precedence througout the US. On the cap and trade side, the President now has the opportunity to work with Congress to have this be the key piece of climate legislation in his first year an office. Furthermore, any potential links to/synergies with the EU carbon market could create a potentially global market for carbon trading markets as other market-based polluters would most likely want to trade based on mutual US-EU standards.

So let's get on it. The US has stalled too long and the price of carbon is still too cheap. Let's have the world's two largest polluters take mutual leadership on setting things right.

Monday, January 12, 2009

$100M at Stanford for Revolutionary Research

Seems the ol' Alma Mater is announcing a new $100M research initiative focused on renewables. Some are skeptical. Considering the "huge" drop off in renewables funding in the last quarter of $1.7B, that $100M doesn't sound like much. So does Mr. Bitter have a point? Is this simply a waste of money?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What Bubble?

So some have said that the recent decline in cleantech investing is a good things since something of a bubble was forming.

But is it a bubble if it was barely visible? Let's face it, energy is not the web. Instead of thee "endless possibilities" that web investments presented in the late 90's, energy is very quantifiable. Just take a look at this observation by VantagePoint Venture Partners' Alan Salzman.

"In the big picture, our investments have been dwarfed by the investments and incentives that have gone to traditional energy sources. While petroleum companies may sink $390 billion per year into upstream oil investments, Ernst & Young counts only $3.3 billion in venture investments in cleantech over the first three quarters of 2008 – less than the cost of one nuclear power plant."

It's good to keep a little perspective sometimes.