Environment Forum

Steve Jurvetson on clean tech innovation that will change the world

(This article by Felicity Carus first appeared on Clean Energy Connection and has been edited for length. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

What venture capitalists really think and what they say aren’t always the same thing.

Steve Jurvetson, from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, last week gave his overview of disruptive innovation in clean tech at the Always On Going Green conference in San Francisco.

The man who famously invested $300,000 for a 30 percent stake in Hotmail and made $250 million for his VC firm when Microsoft bought the company two years later says there is an “explosion of possibilities” of synthetic genetics in clean tech.

In August, one of Jurvetson’s portfolio companies, Genomatica, filed an S-1 form with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The company uses computerized biotechnology modeling to design high-volume chemicals from renewable sources such as cellulosic biomass.

Vehicle-to-grid: Genius or waste of energy?

 

A professor at the University of Delaware has patented a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology for parked electric vehicles to return power to the grid and teamed up with NRG Energy to commercialize it.

Professor Willett Kempton, who has been testing V2G technology that lessens the load on natural gas plants, told the New York Times utilities would not be interested in buying electricity from individual cars but from groups of perhaps 100 vehicles.

The idea is not without its critics.

The only way this will take off is for users to have a financial incentive to allow the power company to do this, i.e. the power price during peak demand must be so high that it’s cheaper to deplete your EV battery rather than draw from the grid,” writes hackertourist on listserv slashdot.

Who hates Al Gore?

Whenever Al Gore raises the bull’s-eye of global warming, darts start to fly — aimed at him.

Google the phrase “I hate Al Gore” and 42,000 entries appear, including a Facebook page called “Telling Al Gore he’s full of crap” that has 17,000 fans.

Critics of the former vice president and Nobel laureate point to his multiple homes and use of a private jet as hard-fast hypocrisy, and his investments in clean technology as a conflict of interest. Add to that the specter of an old misquote from a CNN interview that won’t go away, about “inventing the Internet.”

Green apps that can save you money

Media members try out the new "iPad" during the launch of Apple's new tablet computing device in San Francisco, California, January 27, 2010. REUTERS/Kimberly White

As the market for applications running on mobile devices like Apple’s iPad and iPhone grows, so do ways to save you money and cut your carbon emissions.

Among them is Avego, a ride-sharing app for the iPhone that lets you offer vacant seats in your car to others and search for free seats if you’re car-less, all in real time. You receive updates on how far away your ride is, so you don’t have to wait around. And it even calculates how much gas-money each passenger should pay. Users create a publicly viewable Avego profile and their reputation can be rated by other members. Paul Smith of Triple Pundit calls the service “brilliant” and an example of “what can be done to reduce traffic, right now, at no additional cost and disruption to our current transportation infrastructure”.

3rdWhaleMobile’s FindGreen app gives GPS-equipped Android smartphones, BlackBerry, and iPhone owners a guide to local retailers and services listed in GenGreen’s Green Business Directory. TechCrunch’s Matylda Czarnecka thought the iPhone version was one of the “top ten apps to make you more green“. But some users in Google’s Android Marketplace complain of few or no listings in their area.

from Entrepreneurial:

Innovation is how we make our living: Is China buying?

A wind turbine is seen near a gate of the ancient city of Wushu in Diaobingshan, Liaoning province January 18, 2011. REUTERS/Sheng Li

-- Tom Lyon is the director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, and Peter Adriaens is a professor of entrepreneurship at the Zell Lurie Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies, both at the University of Michigan. The views expressed are their own. --

President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union speech, called for America to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” But who is the competition, exactly? Who is presenting “our generation’s Sputnik moment”? Who are we racing against to put a million electric vehicles on the road? The president’s answer: China.

Encouraging American innovation is a major piece of the president’s strategy to win the future. And a global leadership position in innovation is ours to lose.

Environmentalists to use new Google 3D Trees mapping tool to preserve forests

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Environmentalists have long used Google Earth to keep tabs on mountaintop mining and to monitor deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. Now with the release Monday of the latest version of Google’s virtual world maps, they’ll be able to literally see the trees in the forest  — in 3D.

Among other new features, Google Earth 6 has initially mapped more than 80 million trees in seven cities, from olive groves in Athens to the flowering dogwoods of Tokyo. Viewers can also fly through a section of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil.

“Google wants to create a more accurate and real model of the world and we want to make sure we’re adding in more information to make the planet more alive and more complete,” Peter Birch, product manager for Google Earth, said in an interview. “Trees provide context wherever you go and this allows you to tell the story of forestlands.”

‘Friendly’ push for Facebook to dump coal

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, delivers a keynote address at the company's annual conference in San Francisco, California July 23, 2008. REUTERS/Kimberly White

With half a million signatures backing it up, Greenpeace fired off a letter to Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg today calling for the world’s largest social network to cut ties to coal-fired power at its new data center in Oregon.

“Other cloud-based companies face similar choices and challenges as you do in building data centers, yet many are making smarter and cleaner investments,” executive director of Greenpeace, Kumi Naidoo, writes. He points to Google and its a recent agreement to buy wind power from NextEra Energy for the next 20 years to power its data centers.

The letter adds to what’s turning into a miserable week for Zuckerberg, who is also fighting a civil lawsuit by a man who claims to own a huge chunk of the social network site and is seeking to uncover “unnecessary details” about Zuckerberg’s private life.

How green are your gadgets?

A Blackberry mobile device, made by Research in Motion (RIM), is seen on a shelf in Toronto, July 13, 2010. The company will hold its annual general meeting of shareholders today. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

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This article by Teri Schultz originally appeared in GlobalPost.

Do you know how much of your beloved BlackBerry can be absorbed back into nature? Have you envisioned the end-of-life plan for your precious new iPad? Considered cradle-to-cradle care for your webcam?

High-tech entrepreneurs Marc Aelbrecht, Jean-Pierre D’Haese and Xavier Petre are betting that if you haven’t factored these questions into your purchasing choices yet, you soon will — and you’ll go looking for companies like theirs.

The three Belgians are the brains and consciences behind United Pepper, the first electronics producer in the world to receive certification for “fair trade,” signifying the sustainability of its production process and good working conditions in its manufacturing facilities in Vietnam.

Newsweek’s Green Rankings: Perception meets reality

Three Greenpeace activists wearing bio-hazard suits, hold old laptops and wear face masks depicting Hewlett-Packard (HP) Chief Executive Officer Mark Hurd during a protest outside the computer company's China headquarters in Beijing June 25, 2009. REUTERS/David Gray

Newsweek, encroaching on territory usually mined by activist groups like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, has unveiled its innaugural NEWSWEEK Green Rankings, which ranks the 500 biggest U.S. companies based on their “actual environmental performance, policies, and reputation.”

The magazine pointed out that compiling such a list was a challenge “because comparing environmental performance across industries is a bit like analyzing whether Tiger Woods or LeBron James is the world’s greatest athlete—there’s an inevitable apples-and-oranges element.”

Still, it believes it’s system makes sense. To come up with the greenest company, the magazine assigned each a “Green Score” that was then compared to the average score of the collective group. You can find out more about Newsweek’s methodology here. But, in terms of weighting, Impact and Policies were each given 45 percent and Reputation received 10 percent.

IBM supercomputer reuses heat to warm buildings

IBM’s latest green venture is a highly efficient supercomputer that uses water to siphon off  waste heat, and then uses the excess energy to warm up a building.

High-tech giants from Microsoft to Google are eager to cut the huge amounts of power used to run their data centers, particularly now that the recession has companies leaving no stone unturned to slash costs and global warming is driving them to think green.

Developed by IBM jointly with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) — a sort of Swiss version of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — the new supercomputer’s microchips avoid cooling with energy-sucking air conditioning.

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