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Why Cleantech Investors Love & Back Obama

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Presidential hopeful Barack Obama’s green energy platform has gained him fans among that industry’s most powerful players — its investors (see chart below). According to the presidential campaign donation database of the Center for Responsive Politics, the investors backing cleantech companies are backing Obama as well, over six times that of John McCain.

We ran through the donation database the names of over a hundred investors that have led the funding of at least one cleantech company and came up with 25 names that have also contributed money to either the Obama or McCain campaigns. The individual contributions themselves were small (the max is $2,300 for the primary and general election), but the discrepancy was huge — $55,500 to Obama and $8,900 to McCain. (See our chart below the jump). That’s more than 6 to 1 for Obama, and a lot higher than the national split; as of June 30 of this year, Obama had raised $339.22 million and McCain had raised just $145.47 million.

It’s hardly surprising that those pushing next-generation alternative energy projects are placing their bets on Obama. The Illinois senator has proposed doling out $150 billion over 10 years to fund projects in a broad swath of cleantech sectors, including biofuels, plug-in hybrids, clean coal, smart grid and renewable energy. He’s also calling for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 and plans to introduce a cap-and-trade system to manage carbon emissions. McCain has a less aggressive emissions reduction plan, and has been a big advocate of building out nuclear to provide clean power. [digg=]

The cleantech investors that donated to Obama said they did so because Obama’s clean energy plans are just that much more aggressive and forward-thinking than those of McCain. Jon Staenberg, a partner with Rustic Canyon Partners who donated $2,300, told us that Obama’s stance on cleantech was “at the center” of his belief in him:

“I believe leadership in cleantech is the tidal wave (bigger than IT was/is) that can propel this country back to a position of world leadership and enable a more peaceful planet. With Gore advising him and his personal commitment to this area, he continues to get my support.”

And Mohr Davidow partner Josh Green, who donated $2,300, said one of his motivations for backing Obama was the candidate’s aggressive energy plan:

It is a plan which transitions us away from fossil fuels far more aggressively than Senator McCain’s plan in terms of time and dollars. It also focuses as much on the long term as the short term. This is critical to give investors assurances that his programs will remain stable over an extended period, and allow large investments to be made in reliance upon such programs.

Paul Holland, a partner with Foundation Capital, attributed his $2,300 donation to dissatisfaction with the policies of the current administration:

Generally speaking, cleantech investors are by definition very interested in the environment, carbon management and energy policy. Many of us are dissatisfied with the current administration’s positions on these topics and for better or worse, Senator McCain is closely identified as being generally supportive of those policies. Senator Obama offers a clean break from the current administration and so I believe that many of us are giving him the benefit of doubt for that reason among many others.

But for some cleantech investors, the progressive energy plan is just a small part of Obama’s overall appeal. Steve Jurvetson, a partner with Draper Fisher Jurvetson, who donated $4,600 said he is simply supportive of what Obama represents. “He ignites the imagination,” Jurvetson told us. “I think I am mainly drawn to him because of his skill at symbolic leadership – to rebuild brand America and the American Dream, and to garner respect on the world stage. And I respect his process of thinking and synthesis of divergent views.”

Image courtesy of Steve Jurvetson’s Flickr feed.

First Last Investment Firm Obama McCain
Jeff Barnes Clean Pacific Ventures $500
Forest Baskett New Enterprise Associates $2,300
David Blood Generation Investment $2,300
Jack Crawford Velocity Venture Partners $1,300
Fahri Diner Sigma Partners $2,300
John Fisher DFJ $2,300
Nancy Floyd Nth Power $2,300
Josh Green Mohr Davidow $2,300
Paul Holland Foundation Capital $2,300
Steve Jurvetson DFJ $4,600
Oleg Kaganovich DFJ Frontier $500
Vinod Khosla Khosla Ventures $2,300 $4,600
Justin Label Bessemer Venture Partners $2,300
Jim Matheson Flagship Ventures $2,000
Chuck McDermott Rockport Capital Partners $2,300
Michael Moritz Sequoia Capital $2,300
Elon Musk Private Investor $2,300
Sunil Paul Spring Ventures $4,600
Nate Redmond Rustic Canyon Partners $1,800
Zeb Rice Angeleno Group $2,100
Scott Sandell New Enterprise Associates $2,300 $1,000
Ted Schlein Kleiner Perkins $4,600
Jon Staenberg Rustic Canyon Partners $2,300
Daniel Weiss Angeleno Group $2,300
Tom Unterman Rustic Canyon Partners $2,300
Total $55,500 $8,900
The max donation for the primary and general election is $2,300 each — so $4,600 for both.

18 Responses to “Why Cleantech Investors Love & Back Obama”

  1. Prof.Hans-Jürgen Franke & Prof. Pengcheng Fu


    University of Hawai’i Professor Pengchen “Patrick” Fu developed an innovative technology, to produce high amounts of ethanol with modified cyanobacterias, as a new feedstock for ethanol, without entering in conflict with the food and feed-production .

    Fu has developed strains of cyanobacteria — one of the components of pond scum — that feed on atmospheric carbon dioxide, and produce ethanol as a waste product.

    He has done it both in his laboratory under fluorescent light and with sunlight on the roof of his building. Sunlight works better, he said.

    It has a lot of appeal and potential. Turning waste into something useful is a good thing. And the blue-green-algae needs only sun and wast- recycled from the sugar-cane-industry, to grow and to produce directly more and more ethanol. With this solution, the sugarcane-based ethanol-industry in Brazil and other tropical regions will get a second way, to produce more biocombustible for the worldmarket.

    The technique may need adjusting to increase how much ethanol it yields, but it may be a new technology-challenge in the near future.

    The process was patented by Fu and UH in January, but there’s still plenty of work to do to bring it to a commercial level. The team of Fu foundet just the start-up LA WAHIE BIOTECH INC. with headquarter in Hawaii and branch-office in Brazil.


    Fu figures his team is two to three years from being able to build a full-scale
    ethanol plant, and they are looking for investors or industry-partners (jointventure).

    He is fine-tuning his research to find different strains of blue-green algae that will produce even more ethanol, and that are more tolerant of high levels of ethanol. The system permits, to “harvest” continuously ethanol – using a membrane-system- and to pump than the blue-green-algae-solution in the Photo-Bio-Reactor again.

    Fu started out in chemical engineering, and then began the study of biology. He has studied in China, Australia, Japan and the United States, and came to UH in 2002 after a stint as scientist for a private company in California.

    He is working also with NASA on the potential of cyanobacteria in future lunar and Mars colonization, and is also proceeding to take his ethanol technology into the marketplace. A business plan using his system, under the name La Wahie Biotech, won third place — and a $5,000 award — in the Business Plan Competition at UH’s Shidler College of Business.
    Daniel Dean and Donavan Kealoha, both UH law and business students, are Fu’s partners. So they are in the process of turning the business plan into an operating business.

    The production of ethanol for fuel is one of the nation’s and the world’s major initiatives, partly because its production takes as much carbon out of the atmosphere as it dumps into the atmosphere. That’s different from fossil fuels such as oil and coal, which take stored carbon out of the ground and release it into the atmosphere, for a net increase in greenhouse gas.
    Most current and planned ethanol production methods depend on farming, and in the case of corn and sugar, take food crops and divert them into energy.

    Fu said crop-based ethanol production is slow and resource-costly. He decided to work with cyanobacteria, some of which convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into their own food and release oxygen as a waste product.

    Other scientists also are researching using cyanobacteria to make ethanol, using different strains, but Fu’s technique is unique, he said. He inserted genetic material into one type of freshwater cyanobacterium, causing it to produce ethanol as its waste product. It works, and is an amazingly efficient system.

    The technology is fairly simple. It involves a photobioreactor, which is a
    fancy term for a clear glass or plastic container full of something alive, in which light promotes a biological reaction. Carbon dioxide gas is bubbled through the green mixture of water and cyanobacteria. The liquid is then passed through a specialized membrane that removes the
    ethanol, allowing the water, nutrients and cyanobacteria to return to the

    Solar energy drives the conversion of the carbon dioxide into ethanol. The partner of Prof. Fu in Brazil in the branch-office of La Wahie Biotech Inc. in Aracaju – Prof. Hans-Jürgen Franke – is developing a low-cost photo-bio-reactor-system. Prof. Franke want´s soon creat a pilot-project with Prof. Fu in Brazil.

    The benefit over other techniques of producing ethanol is that this is simple and quick—taking days rather than the months required to grow crops that can be converted to ethanol.

    La Wahie Biotech Inc. believes it can be done for significantly less than the cost of gasoline and also less than the cost of ethanol produced through conventional methods.

    Also, this system is not a net producer of carbon dioxide: Carbon dioxide released into the environment when ethanol is burned has been withdrawn from the environment during ethanol production. To get the carbon dioxide it needs, the system could even pull the gas out of the emissions of power plants or other carbon dioxide producers. That would prevent carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere, where it has been implicated as a
    major cause of global warming.
    Honolulo – Hawaii/USA and Aracaju – Sergipe/Brasil – 15/09/2008

    Prof. Pengcheng Fu – E-Mail: [email protected]
    Prof. Hans-Jürgen Franke – E-Mail: [email protected]

    Tel.: 00-55-79-3243-2209

  2. Aiken Blue

    Barack is the leader of the future, he’s a visionary who is inspiring. Please help us support him. Visit WHYOBAMA08.oRG!!! Vote for OBAMA!!!