Khosla Ventures Signs On Former British PM Tony Blair

Vinod Khosla’s high profile greentech venture firm Khosla Ventures announced this morning that it will sign on former U.K. prime minister Tony Blair as a Senior Advisor. Blair, through his organization Tony Blair Associates, will provide advice and connections for Khosla Venture’s portfolio companies, like carbon capture company Calera and motor efficiency company EcoMotors.

Live blog excerpts of their comments:

Blair: I’m absolutely thrilled and delighted to team up wth Vinod. When you’re not in office, you meet some unusal and creative people. I’ve been working for two years since leaving office in the private policy. I did breaking the climate deadlock. Policy makers, particularly after Copenhagen, need to know what’s going on in the technology area. I’m neither a tech expert nor a financial expert, but I find the conversation I had to contemplate the vast expanses of my own ingnorance. The answers to climate change and energy security lies int he technological innovations. I am thrilled to play whatever small part I can.

Note: Bill Gates just walked in the room (he’s a Khosla Venures LP)

Samir Kaul: Can we get your thoughts on governemnt subsidies and cleantech.

Vinod Khosla: You can not invest in technologies that are based on subsidies. Any of our techs can get to scale with 5 to 7 years. Subsidies help companies start and get scale, but can’t rely on subsidies.

Blair: When you look at the facts of what will happen over 10 or 15 years, 70 percent of power plants will be coal fired in China, India. One of reasons to look at CCS, if we can’t resolve this question, we can’t resolve the global issue.

Vinod Khosla: I chose to work on energy because it is a solution to poverty. If we can put all the money from oil into biofuels, we can do more for Africa than we can for any other publc policy. Most industrial tech increases urban and industrial GDP. Biofuels can increase rural GDP.

Blair: The challenge in energy is enormous. In the schools they have no electricity. One thing that is exciting about these technologies is they are disruptive. They change the rules of engagement.

Khosla: What has surprised me is the diversity of the technology. That’s why we need people like Tony. The effects of policy on innovation and innovation on policy is invaluable.

Soraa: Shows off its LED lighting technology. 75 percent less energy for lighting. This takes a bite out of coal.

New PAX: Trying to reinvent air conditioning. 75 percent less energy for cooling. Tom CEO: The system has its root in rocket propulsion. Water as a refrigerant, and it’s 5 to 6 times more efficient than what’s out there. Tom ran a large air conditioning division at WhirlPool.

Cogenra: Multiplying solar energy efficiency at utility scale. Distributed solar generation, produces electricity and hot water.

Calera: While everyone else thinks carbon dioxide is a problem he thinks it’s a valuable feedstock. Eliminating the problem of cement and CO2 at the same time. This is something we can do profitably for the Chindia test. Tony Blair rolled up his sleeve and stuck is hand in the large vat of cement (there’s a plant in Monterey Bay). Goal is most plants will have this in a decade.

EcoMotors: Don Runkle did the EV-1 at GM (developed it, didn’t kill it), and partnered with Peter Hoffbrau. We’ve already achieved the Chindia price point. The engine has less than half the parts of a normal 4-stroke engine. Comes in gas, diesel and natural gas. Bringing out of lab and into commercialization.

Kior: “Recrude” drop in replacement for crude. Oil used to be biomass and converted to crude oil. Could we catalytically accelerate that reaction out of today’s carbon rather than yesterday’s carbon? Yes. In a ew seconds we convert that biomass to a renewable crude oil. Fred considers himself competing against Hugo Chavez.

Tony Blair Interviews Khosla Companies:

Blair: Kior, your process works. Can you do this catalytic process that is cost effective of hte whole range of biomass materials? Can it be scaled up in a way to be commercially competitive?

Fred Cannon, CEO Kior: We’re now making 15 barrels a day at a plant in Houston. We scaled over last year from a few liters a day to a few barrels a day. Even on the more expensive feedstocks we’re competitive on oil prices at this scale.

Blair: To Calera, what’s the hitch to manufacturing cement with CO2? Is it that it only works with certain materials, why wouldn’t people be wanting to do this anywhere?

Brett Constantz, CEO Calera: No one was considering cement to be a problem before. Aside from the technical questions, CCS hasn’t been profitable it will always require subsidies.

EcoMotors CEO Don Runkle: We have one fundamental advatage. Liquid fuels have 100 times energy and power density of batteries. There is no contest. We started with electric cars and the internal combustion engine is what ruled in terms of efficiency and cost, etc. I think we have the cell phones of engines in China. China skipped over land lines and went to cell phones. They could duplicate that for motors. It has a lower carbon footprint than electric cars. Our first paying customer is in China, Zhongding Holding (Group) Co. (see story here). We’ll have another announcement in June, and hopefully commercialize this technology in 2 years.

New PAX: This is the Nano of air conditioning. We can put it everywhere. Not just comfort but also safety — refrigerate foods, medicine. We’re inventing the science as we go. We have one that works, it works pretty darn good, but we haven’t even tapped how good it can be. It’s a rocket engine that by the way cools.

Cogenra CEO: Solar combined heat and power. Customer doesn’t need to buy elecricity or gas. The greenhouse gas impact is three times as much. Today we’re focusing on medium to small scale, multi-residential, apartments, jails, where people need heat. Cogenra CEO formerly at Applied Materials, semiconductor company.

Image courtesy of World Economic Forum’s photostream.

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