Gore and the greens plot to clean up
Bush's oil barons are about to be replaced in Washington by a new economic cartel: the green energy advocates
As America's oil men prepare to shuffle out of Washington DC after eight glorious years of George W Bush and Dick Cheney, a new economic cartel is about to take their place. It is one which promises to be as significant to the Democratic Party as oil as been to the Republicans, and one built on a similarly unappetising web of personal, political and financial relationships.
Welcome to the era of clean technology.
Barack Obama has promised to reform America's energy system by investing some $150bn of government money over ten years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to improve energy efficiency and develop renewable energies. Not only will this benefit the environment, he argues, but it will also reduce America's dependence on nefarious oil-producing regimes in the Middle East and Latin America.
Obama’s policies will line the pockets of clean technology advocates like Al Gore
His actions will also rain money into the pockets of a handful of clean technology advocates and investors, most notable among them, Al Gore.
Since leaving the White House, Gore has built a fortune estimated at north of $100m through advising Google, sitting on the board of Apple, setting up an investment firm designed to invest in 'sustainable' companies, and since November 2007 as a partner at Silicon Valley's most prominent venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield Byers.
His remit at Kleiner Perkins has been to uncover and promote clean tech investments, which he has done with gusto. Kleiner Perkins has invested more than $1bn in clean, green and life science firms, sectors which it believes have the potential to become the biggest gold rush since the arrival of the internet.
The major difference between the internet and clean tech from an investor perspective, however, is the amount of money it takes to get going. A giant internet business could be started with just a few hundred thousand dollars. To start a clean technology business, making, say, solar panels, or converting algae into fuel, requires factories, heavy equipment, not to mention the enormous marketing costs of winning over consumers.
The advocates of clean technology have also blamed the oil industry for having such a lock on the energy business, from drilling to delivering power to homes.
Consequently, they have been pleading with government for years to provide tax breaks and other stimuli to help their businesses. They cannot drive the clean tech revolution alone. They need government help.
Fortunately for them, Obama, egged on by Gore and others, is poised to provide it. Green businesses which have been rumbling along for years now, struggling to gain traction because of their cost or complication, could take off with the right tax credits or other government support.
Gore's supporters say that he is simply doing all he can to safeguard the future of the planet, pushing his agenda through business, government and the media. He was an active environmentalist long before he entered business. Now, as a private citizen, he recognises that government cannot change America's energy policy without business and vice versa, so he is playing a role in both. And he stands to become even richer from changes which are overwhelmingly positive for society.
A more cynical interpretation is that he is seeking to profit from the climate change alarmism he has done so much to stoke.
Set aside for a moment the arguments over the facts and opinions expressed by Gore's Oscar-winning film, An Inconvenient Truth. Does it change your attitude to the film if you know that Gore will make an enormous amount of money if governments and investors act on it? Does he still seem such a selfless advocate of the planet's good health?
Perhaps, but there is no doubt that in the coming Obama years, Exxon and Chevron will be replaced in Washington by Kleiner Perkins, Gore and the rest of the clean technology gang and good for the planet or not, it should be very good for them. ·
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