John Doerr, the high-profile Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner, closed Silicon Valley Projections 2008, a sold-out forum on responses to climate change, with a call for greater participation by the government in driving greentech forward.
“More than anything else, we need the political will among mainstream America and our political leaders to challenge us. And then I think we’ll rise to the challenge,” Doerr said.
He called on the largely suit-and-tie crowd to lobby Sacramento, Washington DC, and Beijing to come up with innovative energy policies that, presumably, would benefit greentech companies like the 9+ startups in the area that Kleiner Perkins backs.
“The changes we can reasonably expect from consumers are not enough. . . Policy matters when it comes to green. It really, really matters,” he said. “We need policy entrepreneurs. This is surely a project that is not going to be solved in a garage.”
A host of other speakers from the public and private sectors, including SunPower CEO Dr. Richard Swanson, California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, and Andy Ball, CEO of the commercial builder Webcor, echoed Doerr’s sentiments. The speakers emphasized the necessity for government to lead the way with tax policies and other incentives that reward companies for using clean technology. The largely Californian panels praised California Assembly Bill 32, passed last year, which aims to institute a carbon cap-and-trade system in the state.
Though Doerr’s passionate talk stuck mostly to the familiar refrain that the scale of global climate change requires governments, companies, and individuals to innovate together, he did single out synthetic biology and geothermal power as promising greentech areas for further research and investment.
The forum was sponsored by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a David Packard founded group that focuses on economic health and quality of life in the region. The trade association, which represents 210 companies, also published a report describing their members’ efforts to go green.