Thursday, August 14, 2008

Review of Earth: The Sequel by Frank Krupp and Miriam Horn

I've been doing research on CleanTech lately and read Earth: The Sequel. If you are a newbie to this area like me, I think it is actually quite a good read.

I have been contemplating going into green tech, and given all the media buzz and hype around the topic, wanted to see what the hell was going on and determine whether or not it is just hype and BS, or if there is actually something interesting going on.

Well, I do think there is something interesting happening, but I don't know if I believe that a lot of the exciting new venture-backed cleantech companies are going to make any money. A lot of these companies need significant amounts of capital just to prove out their technology and unfortunately they will NOT be signing up customers until they have a product to sell. And even though a lot of these technologies are cool and interesting, they are just not cost competitive as compared to "dirty" sources such as coal and oil.

Actually, it makes me recall something Vinod Khosla said at a talk I attended. Basically, with energy you have three tradeoffs - cost, reliability, clean. His view is you can have 2 out of the 3, but not all 3. I think that observation is just spot on.

I feel as though a lot of the things discussed in the book will only work once there is a carbon cap trading system in place. And yes, that is likely, I guess, but I don't know if you can assume that. I think I have those sorts of feelings with a lot of non-fiction books. Especially if they are written more by laypeople versus PhDs or researchers. One of the authors, Fred Krupp, is the president of the Environmental Defense Fund. So yes, he does have some biases and asumptions. I think he spent a lot of time talking to Kleiner Perkins about what's going on, since a lot of the companies he describes are Kleiner portfolio companies.

Some of the areas he discusses in the book are:

  • Solar power including solar voltaics and solar thermal

  • Power from the ocean and center of the earth

  • Biodiesel players including algae and ethanol energy sources

  • Energy efficiency

For more information, check out Amazon's page on Earth:The Sequel