October 17 News: Venture Investor Vinod Khosla Increases Clean Technology Bet With $1.05 Billion Fund

Other stories below: China Resource Tax Goes National; Perry Slashed Environmental Enforcement in Texas; California has 1 in 4 U.S. Solar Energy Jobs; Renewable “Gold Rush” Powers Germany’s North Shore.

Khosla Increasing Clean Technology Bet With $1.05 Billion Fund

Vinod Khosla, the billionaire venture capital investor, is increasing his bet on clean technology.

Khosla Ventures, the venture capital company he formed in 2004, will steer as much as 65 percent of its new $1.05 billion fund to support businesses developing renewable sources of power, energy-efficiency technology and LED lighting products, Khosla said.


In supporting early stage companies working on unproven technology, Khosla expects some to fail. Lawmakers in Washington have criticized a U.S. Energy Department program that followed the same strategy by offering a loan guarantee to Solyndra LLC, a solar-module maker that filed for bankruptcy Sept. 6.

“When you’re trying new things, some things just don’t work,” Khosla said in a phone interview yesterday. “Solyndra wasn’t cost competitive with other companies in the Valley; there are other companies that are doing fine.”

The company’s Khosla Ventures IV fund, announced Oct. 13, will also support Internet, mobile communication and information technology companies.

Khosla is seeking companies that are striving for scientific breakthroughs, such as Soraa Inc., which he has backed since 2007. Soraa has “fundamentally changed the materials on which LEDs are built,” he said. That means there’s “more science risk than just a little bit of engineering.”

China Resource Tax Goes National; Adds Coal, Rare Earths

China will extend a regional resource tax on domestic sales of crude oil and natural gas to the whole country and widen it to include coking coal and rare earths from November 1, the government said on Monday.

The move, billed as a way of conserving resources and limiting environmental damage, is part of a long-awaited tax reform that would enrich the coffers of local governments but slash the earnings of resource companies, such as PetroChina Co , China National Petroleum Corp and Baotou Steel Rare Earths by billions of dollars each year.

The sales of crude oil and natural gas sales nationwide would be subject for a tax of between 5–10 percent, the State Council, or China’s cabinet, said on Monday. It would also impose a sales tax of 0.40–60 yuan per tonne on rare earth ores and between 8–20 yuan a tonne on coking coal.

The government did not give details on why there was such a wide range in the tax levied on rare earths but analysts said heavy rare earths, which are more scarce, would likely face heavier taxes.

Taxes on other types of coal remained unchanged at 0.30–5.00 yuan per tonne.

“China’s oil and gas sector is still monopolized by state-owned companies which have enjoyed good profitability … this new tax system will shift profits from companies to governments in poorer provinces,” said Wang Aochao, head of research at UOB-Kay Hian in Shanghai.

Perry Slashed Environmental Enforcement in Texas

Gov. Rick Perry likes to say the best way to promote economic growth is to reduce regulation. When it comes to the environment, Perry has made Texas one of the most industry-friendly states in the nation.

Perry has cut funding for clean air programs and sued the Environmental Protection Agency to avoid enforcing laws to make the air cleaner. As part of his Republican presidential campaign, he routinely blasts the White House for tightening environmental standards.

“As president, I would roll back the radical agenda of President Obama’s job-killing Environmental Protection Agency,” Perry wrote recently in an op-ed for the New Hampshire Union-Leader. “Our nation does not need costly new federal restrictions, especially during our present economic crisis.”

Those positions get big applause at Republican debates and fundraisers, and also provide insight into how he would govern if elected, particularly when it comes to the EPA.

In Texas, Perry signed a state budget that slashes funding for the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality from $833.3 million to $565.5 million over the next two years. In his budget proposal, Perry had provided even less: $552.5 million. Texas boasts the second largest environmental agency in the world, behind only the EPA; the state agency had requested $882.6 million just to maintain current programs.

California Has 1 in 4 U.S. Solar Energy Jobs, Study Says

One in every four solar energy jobs in America is held by a Californian, and growth in the clean-tech industry is burgeoning nationwide, a new study said.

In August, California had an estimated 25,575 solar-related jobs out of 100,237 for all 50 states, according to the National Solar Jobs Census 2011. The census is scheduled for release Monday by the Solar Foundation, a research and education organization in Washington.

California’s solar jobs tally was more than four times greater than runner-up Colorado, which had 6,186 solar jobs.

The Golden State ranked first in the nation for generating electricity from both photovoltaic solar panels and concentrated solar power systems that use mirrors to create steam to run turbines, the study said.

“This report shows that the solar industry is not only creating green jobs across California but that the industry is forecast to continue growing at a much faster pace than the overall U.S. economy,” said Michelle Kinman, a clean energy advocate for Environment California. “California industry and policymakers have a tremendous opportunity to build on this solid foundation and make solar a centerpiece of the state’s energy policy.”

Analysis: Renewable “Gold Rush” Powers Germany’s North Shore

Renewable energy has created a “gold rush” atmosphere in Germany’s depressed north-east, giving the country’s poorhouse good jobs and great promise.

The natural resources attracting investors and industry are of a simple variety: wind, sunshine, agricultural products and farm waste such as liquid manure.

The rush to tap green resources in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state is reminiscent of the frenzies that came with gold or oil discoveries in past centuries. The buzz can be felt in towns and sparkling new factories across the Baltic shore state.

“Renewable energy has become extremely valuable for our state,” said its premier, Erwin Selling, in an interview with Reuters. “It’s just a great opportunity — producing renewable energy and creating manufacturing jobs.

“From an industrial point of view we’d been one of Germany’s weaker areas. But the country is abandoning nuclear power. That will work only if there’s a corresponding — and substantial — increase in renewables. It’ll be one of Germany’s most important sectors in the future. We want to be up there leading the way.”

African Continent’s Position on Climate Change

One of the major causes of inequalities in the world today is the manner in which human beings respond to life’s situations.

The difference is in the choices that people make. Faced with the challenge of climate change and global warming, it is up to the world to choose to remain frustrated or come out of the frustration, to swim or sink, to remain stuck in the hole of political and social indecisiveness or be pragmatic and free themselves.

The first steps of addressing climate change in the world and on livelihoods were taken during the landmark Earth Summit in 1992.

A concrete and legally binding treaty at Kyoto followed five years later after the summit.

Two decades after the first inclusive global climate conference, progress has been painstakingly slow, frequently punctuated by unnecessary disputes and broken promises on limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

In the mean time, climate change manifesting in increased droughts, floods, erratic rainfall patterns etc accelerated havoc on millions of poor souls, particularly in Africa and other least developed countries.

The world cannot continue to look aside. African ministers of environment made that position abundantly clear last week.

Though absolving Africa from any tangible commitments, the ministers want developed countries to deliver on their Kyoto promises and pay for the pollution they have caused.

African ministers have proclaimed their expectations for Durban, which in fact is a euphemism for demands made through a communiqué titled Bamako Declaration on Consolidating the African Common Position on Climate Change.

Wind Power has Lowered CO2 Emissions by 23 Million Tons in Spain

Installed wind farm capacity in Spain reached 20,676 MW in 2010 with the addition of 1,515.95 MW, according to the Spanish Wind Energy Association’s Wind Observatory.

Such smaller growth was expected after the 2,461 MW increases in 2009 in which companies made a big effort to keep the planned number of wind farms after spectacular wind power capacity growth in previous years. The 20,676 MW of capacity establishes Spain as the fourth country in the world in terms of installed capacity and reaches the 2010 objective (20,155 MW set by the Renewable Energies Plan 2005–2010). The total electricity produced from wind turbines in Spain in 2010 reached 42,702 GWh.

The creation of the new mandatory Pre-allocation Register by the Spanish central government has operated as a bottle neck to 2010 wind energy sector deployment.

Because of this, the wind farm capacity increase has been moderate compared with the last few years. The addition of 1,515.95 MW in 2010 is an increase of 7.9%. Electrical energy demand in 2010 was 259.94 TWh, an increase of 1.01% from 2009. Wind energy met 16.4% of this demand and was the third largest contributing technology in 2010. Other big contributors to the system were gas combined-cycle power plants (24.85% of total demand) and nuclear power plants (23.74%).