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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

News Roundup on the American Energy Innovation Council

Crossposted from

On June 10th, a group of the country's top business leaders including Bill Gates and Jeff Immelt launched a new initiative, the American Energy Innovation Council, calling for major new federal investments in clean energy technology research, development, and demonstration -- at least $16 billion annually, more than triple the current level.

Their report, "A Business Plan for America's Energy Future," was released a day after the Breakthrough Institute and Americans for Energy Leadership published a new policy brief on the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act, "The Power to Compete," providing the most comprehensive assessment of the bill's energy innovation provisions to date. It finds that Kerry-Lieberman does not contain a comprehensive innovation strategy would only increase federal clean energy RD&D investment by as little as $2.2 billion per year.

Below is a roundup of news coverage on the American Energy Innovation Council to date:

New York Times, "A Call to Triple U.S. Spending on Energy Research," Jun. 9, 2010.

"Mr. Gates and his fellow executives are stepping forward at what may prove a pivotal moment in American energy policy. Oil continues to spew from a crippled well in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration is pushing for a new approach to energy and climate policy and the Senate is about to embark on a debate on a set of conflicting proposals that pit not only Republicans against Democrats but different regions of the country against each other."

Washington Post, "Gates coming to White House to appeal for more energy research dollars," Jun. 9, 2010.

"The group is arguing that, while the United States spends $80 billion a year on military research and $30 billion a year on health research, it devotes between $2.8 billion and $4.8 billion on energy research, depending on how you count it...The emphasis on direct government spending reflects, in part, the group's realization that a climate bill isn't likely to pass Congress this year; there will be no national market for carbon emissions to push companies toward renewable energy. The group argues that the United States is falling behind other nations that spend more on their domestic energy companies."

Associated Press, "Gates seeks more spending on clean energy research," Jun. 10, 2010.

"Billionaire Bill Gates is urging the government to triple spending on what he says everyone, rich and poor, will need in the future: clean, cheap energy. Gates and other business leaders were meeting with President Barack Obama and lawmakers Thursday to pitch their plan to increase the annual federal spending on clean energy innovation to $16 billion, from $5 billion now. But tight budgets make it a tough sell... The report outlines several funding options, such as reducing fossil fuel subsidies, adding fees on offshore oil and natural gas production, an oil import fee, increasing the gas tax and setting a price on carbon dioxide emissions. But the group didn't specifically endorse any of them."

Bloomberg Businessweek, "Immelt, Gates Push to Boost Clean Energy Spending," Jun. 10, 2010.

"General Electric Co.’s Jeffrey Immelt and Microsoft Corp.’s Bill Gates called today for the U.S. government to more than triple its spending on clean energy research and development to $16 billion a year... Energy investments are necessary for more than environmental reasons, according to a report released by the council. Gates said expanded research is necessary to reduce the U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Immelt, chief executive of GE, said it’s needed if the U.S. is to match efforts of foreign competitors."

USA Today, "Obama meets with Bill Gates, other business leaders about energy," Jun. 10, 2010.

"As President Obama pushes a new energy agenda, he is calling in one of the world's most famous and richest men, Bill Gates. The co-founder of Microsoft is one of several business leaders heading to the White House this afternoon to discuss energy alternatives to oil... "If you want to have the highest possibility of reducing oil dependence you would fund an aggressive research and development program," Gates told reporters."

Greenwire, "Corporate Heavies Urge Tripling U.S. Clean-Energy Funding, Jun. 10, 2010

"A new council composed of General Electric Co. CEO Jeff Immelt, Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates and other corporate executives is urging the federal government to more than triple investments in clean-energy technologies to boost the nation's economic competitiveness and protect the environment... 'The world is not going to wait for the United States to lead," [GE CEO] Immelt said. "This is about innovation; this is about competition; this is about energy security.'"

WSJ Washington Wire, "Bill Gates: U.S. Must Expand Energy Research," Jun. 9, 2010.

"Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates, who’s put more of his money behind clean energy technology during the past year, is now lending his voice to a business group pushing the government to sharply increase federal spending on energy research...“Cheap energy is key to the poor. It’s the price of fertilizer, or getting to the hospital, or getting a C-section at the hospital,” Gates said. “The world needs us to lead on [energy research]. Other countries aren’t funding it well, or aren’t equipped to do it.”

ABC News Political Punch, "Bill Gates: 'We'll have more crises like the oil spill' if we don’t invest in clean energy innovation," June 12, 2010.

"In an exclusive interview on “This Week,” Bill Gates, the co-founder and chairman of Microsoft, called for a dramatic increase in federal funding for clean energy innovation and warned of significant consequences – more environmental crises, oil supply disruptions, increased energy costs and climate change – if the United States fails to embrace the challenge of finding cheaper, cleaner energy."

CNET, "Gates, other execs call for more energy spending," June 10, 2010.

"In its findings, the group pointed out that the nation spends $80 billion a year on military research and $30 billion a year on health and medical R&D, but only around $5 billion each year on new energy R&D. With such a small amount of the national budget devoted toward energy research, the group believes the U.S. lags behind other countries in spending on alternative energy."

GreenTechMedia, "Washington's Big Money for Green Tech, " Jun. 11, 2010.

"On the surface, this flood of money makes obvious sense. But from another perspective, it is nothing new. Contained in proposed federal legislation that is now awaiting congressional approval is clean-tech spending that will increase to $50 billion a year by 2020, according to Mark Trexler, director of climate strategies and markets at risk management firm DNV."

The Breakthrough Institute, "U.S. High-Tech Leaders Call for Tripling U.S. Public Investment in Energy Research and Development," Jun. 10, 2010.

"The authors note, as the Breakthrough Institute has long argued, that the "innovation intensity" of the U.S. energy sector--the portion of industry sales reinvested in R&D--lags far behind other technology-dependent sectors, such as pharmaceuticals and aerospace. Indeed, the energy industry invests only 0.3% of annual sales in R&D, two orders of magnitude lower than pharmaceuticals, at 18.7%, according to the report."

The Energy Collective, "CEOs to Washington: Spend on energy R&D!," Jun. 10, 2010.

"Can a massive government spending program bring us closer to a clean energy economy and help fight climate change? Absolutely, say some of the America’s most powerful CEOs and ex-CEOs, capitalists all...“Our job is to keep agitating and be a force for positive change,” [Jeff] Immelt said at the press event. "If America doesn’t get its clean-energy industry going," the GE chief said, “everybody else around the world will. This is a primary pillar of national competitiveness.”

Previous Coverage:

Wired Science, "Bill Gates and Friends Make Case for Energy R&D," April 23, 2010.

"Gates and former DuPont CEO Charles Holliday heralded the launch of the American Energy Innovation Council with an unusually clear and concise argument for increased government support for green tech R&D... Many independent groups like The Breakthrough Institute have been pushing for increased energy R&D funding, but none have the roster of heavy hitters of the council."

Grist, "Why Bill Gates is Right," Teryn Norris, Feb 23, 2010.

"If you gave me only one wish for the next 50 years," declared the world's wealthiest man during last week's TED 2010 conference, "I can pick who is president, I can pick a vaccine ... or I can pick that [an energy technology] at half the cost with no CO2 emissions gets invented, this is the wish I would pick. This is the one with the greatest impact." Bill Gates is right. And he is not just talking about the impact on climate change, which does of course present a major threat. He is also talking about one of the most critical global imperatives to make poverty history: making clean energy cheap."

Breakthrough Institute, "Innovating to Zero: Bill Gates' push for Energy R&D" (article series), Spring 2010.

This post collects the articles surrounding Bill Gates recent push for an innovation focused R&D agenda that aims to bring down the carbon intensity of energy production to zero CO2 within the next fifty years.

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