Renewables investor Khosla: “I’m a Republican, but…”

October 8, 2008

khosla.jpgVinod Khosla is a card-carrying Republican. But, the billionaire venture capitalist and alternative energy entrepreneur said, Democrat Barack Obama would be better for green businesses.

“I am a Republican, but I do believe Barack Obama will be a much bigger supporter of clean tech and renewable energy than John McCain will,” Khosla said at the Reuters Global Environment Summit in San Francisco. To see a video of the interview, click here.

Khosla stopped short of saying whom he would be casting a ballot for on November 4th, but added of McCain: “Unfortunately over the election cycle he’s gotten very beholden to some of the traditional energy interests. ”

Still, Khosla said renewable energy and climate change legislation was slowly garnering support from his party, too.

“A Democratic majority would be very good for renewable energy, but  it is a bipartisan issue — there are many many Republicans who support it also,” Khosla said. “I think we are headed in the right direction. Maybe too slowly for my liking, but I think we are heading in the right direction.”

(Reporting by Ruben Ramirez)

One comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

McCain may believe the global warming theory, but that won’t do much good if so many Republicans are deniers.
Congressional Republicans will fight against constructive legislation, just like they voted against renewable tax credits eight times this year. They don’t need help in the Whitehouse on these issues.

Are you confused about our energy crisis? It’s no wonder, given the amount of dis-information that is being pedalled by Republicans and those with a vested interest in oil, coal and nuclear energy. What they want you to believe is that solar and wind cannot replace our current energy sources. John McCain repeated these lies in his recent debate with Barack Obama. Their calls of drill baby drill are absurd and misleading. For example, the amount of oil reserves estimated to exist off California’s coast are 10 billion barrels. The U.S. consumes about 7.5 billion barrels per year. So what they are advocating is risking the long term health of the coastal ecosystem, in exchange for about 16 months worth of oil.

Republicans have been taking Senator Pelosi to task for not bringing up a vote on offshore drilling. Meanwhile, Republicans have voted against renewing the tax credits for solar and wind eight times this year. Talk about shortsightedness!
As T. Boone Pickens says, whether we drill or not, “this argument misses the point.”
It’s a bandaid at best.

What is needed is long term energy solutions.
Here is what they don’t want you to know.
Using less than 1% of our southwest desert lands, solar power plants could power the whole country. This is an area 92 miles by 92 miles, an area which is less than the land now used for coal mining. The January 08 issue of Scientific American featured an article called “A Solar Grand Plan”, a proposal, which you can read online, to do just that.
It proposes building solar thermal and concentrating photovoltaic power plants and a network of high voltage DC transmission lines to distribute the power to other parts of the country. This HVDC distribution system is the same thing that T Boone Pickens is recommending to move wind generated power from Texas to the rest of the country. This will have the added benefit of beefing up the grid, something that is needed anyway. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. At setamericafree.org, you will find another plan called “A Blueprint for U.S. Energy Security”. This plan shows how we can achieve energy security and meet the goals of reducing the threat of global warming, using current technology. It calls for plug in hybrid cars, which would achieve an overall 100 mpg for the average driver. Once the grid is clean energy, it can power much of our transportation as well.
At that point, electric cars will make perfect sense and will have had more time to perfect the technology.
If you study these two plans and that of T Boone Pickens, you will see they have much in common. By combining the best ideas of these and other similar plans, we can get the job done. For instance, Pickens wants to use natural gas as a cleaner alternative to gasoline in cars. How about plug in hybrid natural gas powered cars? Plug in Partners website has good information on plug in hybrids.
Those in power want you to believe that these solutions will be too expensive. Nothing could be further from the truth. For example, the solar proposal published by SciAm calls for spending about $400 billion in public money, over a period of about 40 years. This is less public money, than we spent to build the high speed information highway over the last 35 years. And that is about how much we give to oil companies, in the form of tax credits and subsidies, every five years. So by spending about 1/8 of what we now give away to oil companies, we could power the entire nation with solar energy in the southwest.

As further proof that we are misinformed, most Americans probably haven’t even heard of solar thermal energy. Solar thermal power plants use the heat from the sun to generate electricity, usually by boiling water to drive a steam turbine generator. The heat from these plants can be stored and electricity generated at night.
This is so low tech that we could have done it 100 years ago. If you can build parabolic mirrors or Fresnel lenses to concentrate sunlight, and if you can build a steam driven electric generator, you can build a solar thermal power plant. They do need intense sunlight to be cost effective, hence the emphasis on the southwest. With 1% of the Sahara Desert, you could power the whole world with current technology. 3% of Morroco would power all of Europe.
Green Wombat’s website has many articles on solar power plants being built or on the drawing boards in California and Arizona. The three power companies in California have already signed on for about 3 gigawatts of solar power plants. About 2 gigawatts of this is solar thermal. It’s just the beginning.
Republicans keep pushing nuclear energy, claiming it is a simple solution and good for the environment. I don’t rule out nuclear power altogether, but it has numerous problems, and is not as green as it’s promoters claim.

One of nuclear’s biggest problems is water. It takes billions of gallons to cool a reactor. We are already seeing the potential problems with this. One reactor in Alabama had to be breifly shut down last summer during a drought in that region. How reliable will the sources of cooling water be in a changing climate?

Every nuclear power plant will require about $500 million to dismantle it, when it has outlived it’s useful life.

Every nuclear reactor represents about $200 million for it’s share of Yucca Mt. in Nevada, to dispose of the waste. These numbers are from cleanwisconsin.org

Nuclear power doesn’t give us energy independence. We import 65% of our oil and 90% of our uranium. And now Russia is being lined up as a future source of 20% of our uranium.

Nuclear power is not safe. According to Argonne National Laboratory, an airliner crashing into a nuclear power plant could cause a complete meltdown, even if the containment building isn’t compromised. Think the twin towers disaster was bad? The more nuclear reactors are build all over the world, the more fissionable material there will be, which can be stolen by terrorists and used against us. The transportation of radioactive waste from all over the country to Yucca Mt. is potentially dangerous, as well as expensive.

There is no accountability with nuclear power. The Price-Anderson Act places most of the liability for nuclear accidents on the backs of taxpayers, not the nuclear power industry.

A nuclear power plant costs about $4,000 per kilowatt hour to build, compared with $1,400 per KWH for wind energy.

Wind and solar are much quicker to get up and running than nuclear or coal. And both can start generating power before large wind or solar farms are completed, because they are modular in design.

Nuclear power is heavily subsidized. According to Earthtrack, Federal subsidies to new nuclear power plants are likely between 4 and 8 cents per kWh (levelized).

If you want to know more, read “The Lean Guide to Nuclear Energy” pdf online. It’s a real eye opener.

Wind and solar can provide most of the power for our future energy needs. They never need any fuel, to mine, transport, refine, store, burn or clean up the mess from. It’s our future. Oil and other fossil fuels will only go up in price. The prices of solar and wind are falling fast and will soon be cheaper than fossil fuels. The American Wind Energy Association forecasts that installed capacity could grow from 11,603 MW today to around 100,000 MW by 2020. That’s 100 gigawatts. One gigawatt would power San Francisco. Hoover Dam produces about 2 gigawatts, as does a medium size nuclear reactor. So in the next twelve years we could get as much power from new wind farms as McCain’s plan for 45 new nuclear plants would achieve in thirty years, at less cost and way less risk. And that’s just wind!
Solar can do more. Add photovoltaic panels on rooftops etc to the solar plants in the southwest and you have both distributed and centralized solar energy on a vast scale.
Denmark already has 20% wind power. We are told that wind and solar are too intermittent. Why isn’t that a problem in Denmark. Could it be because they have no oil company lobby?

That’s why we should start building up this new energy infrastructure now. As we build, the costs will fall. Photovoltaics are becoming more efficient and cheaper to make. Economies of scale will kick in as these industries grow, further reducing prices.
One company on the cutting edge, Nanosolar. says their thin film PV solar systems can be built for less than the cost of a comparable coal fired plant, without the need for any coal.
In many parts of the country solar prices are already competitive. This is particularly so in sunny areas that also have high electricity prices. We can’t afford to wait. Oil is ruining our economy. SetAmericaFree estimates the annual hidden costs of oil, including the subsidies mentioned above, at over $800 billion. If these costs were reflected in prices at the pump, gasoline would be close to $12 a gallon.
Their estimate of oil and gas company tax credits and subsidies is over $80 billion annually. The mililtary costs of protecting oil shipments are estimated at $100 billion annually. And oil adds $700 billion annually to our trade deficit, mostly with nations we don’t get along with. Throw in the costs of the two wars in Iraq in both lives and money and oil starts to look pretty expensive.

McCain wants to give $4 billion more in tax credits to oil companies. Exxon/Mobile made $40 billion in profits last year, and the top five companies made a combined $123 billion. We are subsidizing the past, when we should be subsidizing the future. How many times have you heard people question the subsidies for solar and wind, which are actually miniscule by comparison?
That’s just more of the dis-information being fed to the American Public.

Posted by Richard Mercer | Report as abusive