This post was updated at 8:30 a.m. PDT with additional material from Khosla's speech on Wednesday and photo from the event.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--Famed investor Vinod Khosla is one of the clean-tech industry's most vocal cheerleaders. But most of today's clean technologies fall short of his 1-billion-car test.
"If it doesn't scale, it doesn't matter," says Khosla. "Most of what we talk about today--hybrid, biodiesel, ethanol, solar photovoltaics, geothermal--I believe are irrelevant to the scale of the problem" of climate change.
Khosla delivered the keynote speech at the EmTech08 conference (formerly called the Emerging Technology Conference) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Wednesday, where he talked about energy, policy, and investment.
On Monday, he spoke to MIT student energy fellows covering many of the same topics.
On the whole, Khosla is highly optimistic about the potential for technology to address climate change and other environmental problems. He challenges people to imagine cars and cement factories that actually remove, rather than add, carbon dioxide from the air.
But he views climate change as a global problem that requires an overhaul to today's energy infrastructure. That means displacing oil and coal in a world where consumers from Asia and other fast-growing regions will be adopting a more energy-intensive lifestyle similar to that in the West.
"We will ship a billion cars on this planet in the next 15 years or so. Unless a low-carbon technology gets into 80 percent of those 1 billion cars and over time causes an 80 percent reduction of carbon per mile driven, it's not going to be a solution. Everything else is just a toy," he said Monday.
He places wind and solar photovoltaics in the "toy" category because, without storage, they will remain a small fraction of electricity production, only 5 percent to 15 percent.
That's because, without a breakthrough in storage technology, solar and wind power cannot replace "baseload" electricity during peak times because of their intermittent nature. … Read more