Bob Metcalfe, general partner with Polaris Ventures and the inventor of Ethernet, got on stage today at the Green:Net conference in San Francisco to call for “a squanderable abundance of cheap and clean energy,” that will crib from the development of the Internet.
Among his points:
Don’t let things harden into categories: In the early days of the Internet, the consumer devices (phones) and the network were controlled by the same company. There were divisions in regulatory environments with computers controlled by the Department of Justice and communications regulated by the Federal Communications Commission and divisions between video, voice and data that are now meaningless. So when it comes to energy we need to avoid the same hard categories, such as thinking our focus on corn-based ethanol won’t disrupt our food production.
We used the Internet to build the Internet, and we can use the Internet to build the Enernet: The web can reduce energy consumption in a variety of ways, partially by serving as a proxy for for travel, as well a backbone of the smart grid. Taking advantage of Silicon Valley for company creation is also important. “It’s easy to teach energy to the entrepreneurs than to teach entrepreneurship to the energy industry,” Metcalfe said.
It is not our goal to darken the Earth; it is our goal to lighten it. We now use more bandwidth than ever; we should turn the idea of conservation on its head and create “a squanderable abundance of cheap and clean energy.” Metcalfe proposes space travel, clean water and removing C02 from the atmosphere as some of the future drivers of energy consumption calling them the “YouTubes of the Enernet,” after the bandwidth sucking online video application that comprises a ton of web traffic today.
Learn from the mistakes that were made: The mistakes of the Internet were the lack of security, guaranteed quality of service and an economic model, which has meant that the web now runs on advertising. Metcalfe calls on the creators of the Enernet to make different mistakes.
There will be bubbles: The Internet bubble predicated the growth of the web and many services today. The global warming bubble that is inflating an energy bubble today should actually be separated from the energy crisis. Solving global warming will not change the need for clean and cheap energy in the future.
He ended by calling on Washington to fund research into clean energy while we create an Enernet that mimics the layered approach and distributed network of the Internet.