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Home > Feature Articles > Alternative Energy Solutions

Will the Clean Energy Boom Generate TOO MUCH Energy?

Proposition 23 is an important issue for our green and sustainable future in California. AB 32 is at stake, along with 500,000 cleantech jobs.

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Ages don't wax and wane quietly. And past energy conversions from horse power to petroleum wasn't a nice, quiet transition. The conversion from petroleum to electricity isn't quiet and smooth, either!

Vinod Khosla, one of the leading California-based clean-tech venture capitalists is daring to ask the question, "Will the U.S. Generate Too Much Electricity?" Khosla stole the show at Google's Silicon Valley campus held to discuss the implications of California's Proposition 23. His outlook for the clean-tech innovation and energy use is akin to predicting peak oil.

"In 10 to 15 years, we will be shutting down (power) plants" because of an excess of electricity in this country, Khosla said.

And that's not all. Khosla also observed that nuclear energy generation at $7,000 a kilowatt is no longer more cost effective than renewable wind and solar energy generation.

Khosla is focusing his money on energy efficiency innovations because there is an "infinite" opportunity for technological innovation.

With some energy-hogs such as computer server farms are cutting their energy consumption by as much as 50% to 80%. That cuts future demand! So, all the emphasis on energy generation might create a glut.

My concern over time has been the conversion of organic matter to energy -- and the impact that will have on soil quality, water retention and even food nutrition. Maybe this warning will help us refine our energy rush into a more balanced approach to the various needs of a complex society.

Propostion 23

California's Proposition 23 is a threat to more sustainable energy transitions because it will kill the clean-energy markets that California's A.B. 32 created.

Both Khosla and Google Green Energy Czar William Wiehl concur on this point.

Proposition 23, which will go to the California ballot in November, 2010 would suspend A.B. 32 -- the state's climate change bill that has cut pollution across the state -- until the state's unemployment rate drops to 5.5% or less for four consecutive quarters.

The aggressive roll-back proposed with this resending of California's sustainability standards is being waged by Texas oil companies Valero and Tesoro who want to roll back the measure.

A.B. 32 sets reporting guidelines for polluters, establishes a statewide limit for carbon, and guides emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020.

Researchers and proponents of the implementation of A.B. 32, such as Google's Wiehl, state that the bill helped create 500,000 cleantech jobs in California.

Industry best practices aren't enough in this economy, and this climate. Wiehl explained that Google has made cost effective strides with energy efficiency. The company builds its own data centers and servers, and as a result, energy use is half of what it would be in their data centers if the company followed industry-standard best practices.

Balance, says Mom!

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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