Andy Karsner, the President Bush appointee that manages the DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) program, is saying farewell. This week the Assistant Secretary of Energy said he will step down at the end of August after spending 2 and a half years trying to establish renewable energy and energy efficiency programs for the Bush administration. Anyone who’s seen Karsner speak on the conference circuit knows he’s an affable, lively guy, who was often times frustrated with Congress and didn’t always agree with the way his administration got things done. Never-the-less his legacy will also be tied to an administration that is being accused of dropping the ball on fighting climate change at this crucial time.
While cleantech investors have been frustrated with the current administration’s clean energy policies, (one reason they are backing Obama to McCain 6 to 1) Karsner, who formerly was a private sector energy developer, made an effort to reach out to Sand Hill Road on many occasions throughout his tenure. Some of his more innovative work came in the form of trying to use the VC model to drive energy technology progress, through the Department of Energy’s Entrepreneur in Residence program, which placed entrepreneurs from venture capital firms at three of the DOE’s National Laboratories.
We will miss Karsner’s controversial statements like how Japan and China couldn’t possibly compete with something as sexy and appealing to middle America as GM’s electric vehicle the Volt. As Tom Friedman said at that plug-in vehicle conference earlier this year, “Until you’ve heard Andy debate Al Gore, you haven’t lived.”
So what’s Karsner up to next? If he has motivations like former director of the Central Intelligence Agency James Woolsey, or Al Gore, or Colin Powell, perhaps he’ll join a venture firm and make cleantech investments.