California Sen. Barbara Boxer, chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee had NYT columnist Tom Friedman and Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr speak with that committee on Wednesday. The two gentlemen warned the Senators that the U.S. risked falling even further behind the world in green technology if Congress failed to act. However, the message was lost on the Republican contingent of the committee which did not attend, as it was not a formal hearing.
Nonetheless, Doerr and Friedman both encouraged the Democrats in attendance to adopt a cap-and-trade system or carbon tax, as the best means of promoting what Friedman regularly calls “ET” (Environmental Technology).
Doerr, who is a partner at VC giant Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, warned that of the top 30 companies in solar, wind, and advanced battery technologies in the world today, only six of them are U.S. firms.
Both gentlemen urged that a predictable price tag be put on greenhouse gases in order to encourage the massive investment and innovation necessary to make the American economy competitive in coming years.
Friedman pointed out that while around $5 billion was invested in green tech projects in the U.S. last year, this paled in comparison to the $80 billion that was invested during the height of the information technology boom. He added, “We can only innovate our way out of this problem by shaping the marketplace with the right rules, incentives and price signals to stimulate the kind of innovation we need – which is 10,000 innovators in 10,000 garages trying 10,000 things.”
“It is the mother of all markets – perhaps the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century.” Doerr said.
Too bad only half of this key Senate committee was in attendance to hear this important message.