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Vinod Khosla's Posts

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Clarifying my position on lithium ion batteries

The limits of today’s electric car technology

Recently, there has been some blog chatter about my comments on the future of lithium ion batteries -- my goal here is to clarify my stance. I do believe that these batteries have been over-hyped in terms of technology available today. However, little focus was given to my statement that Khosla Ventures is backing the technology because the "lithium-ion markets are here today. We're investing because there are great markets." So what kinds of technology are we investing in? I think the traditional approach to lithium ion battery making, such as A123, is going to be competing in an overheated, …

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How biofuels are like drugs

Not all biofuels are the same; we can do biofuel well or poorly

To my surprise, recently I found myself the subject of an editorial by the Wall Street Journal which characterized me as a strong advocate of subsidies for food-based ethanol, and as a recipient of "federal dole" who ought to "take a vow of embarrassed silence." I have not advocated subsidies for food-based ethanol. In fact, I strongly believe any nascent technology that cannot exist without subsidies beyond an introductory period will not gain market penetration, and is not worth supporting. I do look forward to the WSJ's complaints about oil's subsidy bonanza, from tax breaks for drilling, loopholes that allow …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Biofictions

Wall Street Journal editorial mischaracterizes both my position and biofuels

To my surprise, on Tuesday I found myself cited by the Wall Street Journal as a strong advocate of subsidies for food-based ethanol, and as a recipient of "federal dole" who ought to "take a vow of embarrassed silence." While I appreciate the Journal's foray into fiction writing (and I'd love to discuss my status on the dole with my accountant, who recently filed my taxes), I would like to clarify a few facts and offer a more rounded view of biofuels and ethanol in general. A few facts: I have not advocated subsidies for food-based ethanol. In fact, I …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

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Biomass, part III

The most critical assumption on cellulosic biofuels: yields

My most critical assumption with cellulosic biofuels is on land efficiency: tons of biomass per acre, and hence gallons of fuel produced per acre, and more accurately, miles driven per acre. I believe biomass yields per acre will multiply by two to four times from today's norms. The lack of genetic optimization and research on cultural practices, harvesting, storage, and transport with would-be energy crops -- miscanthus, sorghum, switchgrass, and others -- means that there is significant potential for improvement. The application of advanced breeding methods like genetic engineering and marker-assisted breeding, limiting water usage through drought resistant crops, and …

Read more: Food

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Biomass, part II

Better agronomy for energy crops

I believe improved crop practices are a vital aspect in meeting our cellulosic feedstock needs. There are a few areas that offer significant potential: crop rotation, the use of polyculture plantations, perennials as energy crops, and better agronomic practices. We address all four issues here. Though none of these have been extensively studied, early studies and knowledgeable speculation point to their likely utility. Further study of these techniques is urgently needed, especially the use of grasses or other biomass-optimized winter cover crops. Crop rotation I have proposed the usage of a 10 year x 10 year energy and row crop …

Read more: Food

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Biomass, part I

Where will biofuels and biomass feedstocks come from?

When it comes to biofuels we have choices. We can do it poorly, using short-run approaches with no potential to scale, poor trajectory, and adverse environmental impact. Or we can do it right, with sustainable, long-term solutions that can meet both our biofuel needs and our environmental needs. We do need strong regulation to ensure against land-use abuses. I have suggested that each cellulosic facility be individually certified with a LEEDS-like "CLAW" rating, and that countries which allow environmentally sensitive lands to be encroached be disqualified from CLAW-rated fuel markets. We think a good fuel has to meet the CLAW …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

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Pragmatists v. environmentalists, part III

Hybrids and biofuels: The road ahead

Many people make the mistake of comparing apples to oranges. One has to compare futures to futures and current status to current status. All technologies improve, but some improve more than others. The Prius gets 46 mpg, while a similar-sized Toyota Corolla gets 31 mpg. One of our investments (Transonic) is trying to make an engine that (if it works!) can be placed in a Prius to produce a vehicle that will have lower carbon emissions than the hybrid Prius at below $1,000 in marginal cost. Other efficient engine efforts abound. If battery technology efforts like Seeo (one of our …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Pragmatists v. environmentalists, part II

Hybrid emissions: Facts and numbers

Having laid out my views in part I, let me turn to the actual data regarding hybrids -- both from an environmental and economic perspective. How do carbon emissions per mile driven compare for various cars? The Volt is expected to be "less than $30,000" with a 1.0L engine. Compare this to the Corolla, with a 1.8Lengine (peak hp of 126; 31 mpg) and a price of $14,400. It's worth noting that this is in the optimistic, no-gasoline-use scenario for the Volt, computed below along with carbon emissions for the Volt running on cellulosic ethanol and gasoline, and emissions for …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Pragmatists v. environmentalists, part I

Prius: Green or greenwash?

I have been accused of dissing hybrids. I was mostly discussing Prius-type parallel hybrids and all the support they get, when one can get the same carbon reduction by buying a cheaper, similar-sized and -featured car and buying $10 worth of carbon credits. I was objecting to greenwashing (powered by a large marketing machine) that suggests hybrids can solve our problems. Corn ethanol, which has been heavily maligned in the mainstream media, reduces carbon emissions (on a per-mile-driven basis) by almost the same amount as today's typical hybrid. Despite the similar environmental profiles, one is a media darling and the …

Read more: Climate & Energy