Connecting dots: clean tech, diapers, and the energy bill

I spent yesterday and today at the Future Fuels conference in DC, where I'll be giving this presentation  (2.5MB file) shortly. There are some other interesting presentations here, that I believe will be on the conference web site soon. I'll link or post them here soon if I can.

In between presentations, I've been trying to catch up on my favorite blogs. Every time I turn my back, there are over 1000 new entries on the 30 or so blogs that I read periodically. As I scan through the last 12 hours or so of entries (looking further back is just overwhelming), here are some dot's that I connected:

  • According to the European Wind Energy Association, Europe will need greatly increase its investment in offshore wind to meet the EU's goal of getting 20% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020. Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reported last week on an project to put offshore wind turbines in water 150 feet deep. This would be dramatically deeper than any other project. The project is just a pilot effort at this point and is going to be very expensive both due to the length of the transmission cable and because of the towers are more expensive, but that hasn't stopped the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound from pointing to it as an excuse for its opposition to Cape Wind. Don't get me wrong; I'm excited about deepwater offshore wind and hope it gets here soon, but delaying offshore wind and making it more expensive is exactly the opposite of what the Cape and Islands, Europe, and the world need now.
  • I've written a little about my fear that the softening market for corn ethanol plants will spill over to the broader cleantech sector, causing a bubble burst. I stumbled across an unrelated post that linked me to this great post all about the idea of a cleantech bubble by Cai Steger, our former business school fellow extraorinaire. The scale of the cleantech challenge is truly staggering (e.g. spending on imported oil is about $1 billion per day), but deals and investments keep hitting high-water marks (e.g. $2.6 billion in the first quarter of '07). But this post over at Earth2Tech makes a good observation and has a good quote from Vinod Khosla: far ethanol investments are a pain point for the venture world, with Vinod Khosla giving a clear-headed quote when he says:

Overall, in clean energy, “I think there’s a lot of investment on little information.”

....No doubt we’ll see some savvy (lucky) investors find a “Google of cleantech” in the next few years, but perhaps what no one is really fully anticipating yet is the sheer size of losses that cleantech venture investors will likely face. One thing to remember, though, is that when it comes to cleantech, there’s always that underlying positive effect: the good of the planet.

  • On the lighter side, I wonder if the company mentioned in this post that's developing greener diapers is in touch with the company mentioned in this post that's planning to pyrolyze poopy diapers and make biodiesel with the pyrolysis oil? 
  • On a more serious note, the energy bill continues to make its way through the House. The latest I've read (subscription) suggests that it may make it to the floor for debate tomorrow and thus could be up for a vote as early as Friday. It is very comprehensive bill with CAFE increase, renewable fuel standard, renewable electric standard, and a tax package of incentives for clean energy and increased taxes on oil. The last two parts of this--the renewable electric standard and the tax package--have elicited threats of filibuster in Senate and veto by the President. Recall that given the ping-pong process, if the Senate doesn't pass the same bill as the House, there's no conference, they just start again, but with only two weeks left in the session before the holiday break, failure in the Senate would be a big set back. This post captures my worst fears:

With that in mind, cynics allege that legislators on both sides of the aisle baited the veto threat, allowing each to go back to their constituents and blame inaction on the other side. Boondoggling, bureaucracy and brinkmanship abound!

Rep Markey captures my optimistic view with this quote:

"My hope is that once that gets the big attention in all the Thursday's papers, emblazoned above the fold, that we will have a lot of momentum," he said. "We really are of the opinion that once the whole package is fully understood, that it will be able to move through the Senate as well."