From: Richard Martin, Matter Network, More from this Affiliate
Published September 28, 2011 11:16 AM

Billionaires Get Behind Cleantech Funding

It's the fall, and the discontent of American billionaires, like that of New York Mets fans, is rising. Not only has laconic investment guru Warren Buffett demanded that the U.S. levy more taxes on the privileged, i.e., super-wealthy people like him; but also another group of billionaires (or at least hundreds-of-millionaires) has stood up to demand a more active role for government in creating a cleantech energy economy for the 21st century.


In Washington, D.C., a group calling itself the American Energy Innovation Council unveiled a manifesto calling for "energy innovation and proposed reforms of government programs to yield greater economic benefits." Among other things, the report calls for sharp increases in federal funding for cleantech R&D and a Quadrennial Energy Review that will identify "market failures and technology choke points in order to better orient federal programs and resources."

The AEIC is headed by Bill Gates, legendary Silicon Valley investor John Doerr, former national security adviser Gen. Jim Jones, GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, and other luminaries. "Unfortunately, the country has yet to embark on a clean energy innovation program commensurate with the scale of the national priorities that are at stake," the group declared in a briefing hosted by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "In fact, rather than improve the country's energy innovation program and invest in strategic national interests, the current political environment is creating strong pressure to pull back from such efforts."

Another group created by wealthy individuals, called Advanced Energy Economy, is calling on business leaders from the cleantech sector as well as "other industries that are committed to American leadership in advanced energy" to catalyze regional and state efforts to expand clean energy business opportunities and R&D. The group was founded by Tom Steyer, the founder of Farallon Capital Management in San Francisco (disclosure: Steyer was a college classmate of mine and remains an acquaintance), and Hemant Taneja, a managing director of General Catalyst Partners, a tech VC firm in Cambridge, Mass. AEE's mission is "to usher in an advanced energy economy driven by America's business leaders and entrepreneurial thinkers."

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