Clean Power

Published on December 13th, 2016 | by Tina Casey

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The Gloves Are Off! Breakthrough Energy Coalition Loaded With Trump Opponents

December 13th, 2016 by  

President-elect Donald Trump just got a demonstration of the forces that have come together to decarbonize the global economy. Word broke yesterday that the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a pet project of Microsoft’s Bill Gates, has launched its new Breakthrough Energy Ventures Fund. The new fund will coordinate with government clean energy initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in power generation as well as in the transportation, agricultural, and industrial sectors.

Coincidentally or not, several of the key partners in the new fund have already established an oppositional attitude toward PEOTUS Trump and members of his Administration, with a bonus China connection as well.

breakthrough-energy-ventures-vs-trump

The Breakthrough Energy Ventures Fund

Before we get into the backers behind the Breakthrough Energy Ventures Fund, let’s take a look at what they’re trying to accomplish.

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition crossed the CleanTechnica radar last year, when it announced its presence with a splashy press conference during the 2015 Paris climate talks.

BEC has positioned itself as a key private sector partner for Mission Innovation, an initiative that also launched during the 2015 talks.

Mission Innovation aims to accelerate decarbonization by leveraging both government and private sector assets:

Through Mission Innovation, 22 countries and the European Union are taking action to double their public clean energy R&D investment over five years. In addition, MI members encourage collaboration among partner countries, share information, and coordinate with businesses and investors.

In yesterday’s announcement, BEC cemented its role in meeting the decarbonization goal:

Today, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition (BEC)—a group of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and institutional investors committed to help bring promising new zero-emissions energy technologies to market—has announced a commitment to invest more than US$ 1 billion in a fund called Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV)

The BEV fund focuses its investments in Mission Innovation countries, knowing that the foundation of many energy innovations will likely come through government research pipelines…

Trump Gets Parting Shot From Energy Secretary Moniz

The Breakthrough Energy Ventures announcement was timed with a companion statement by US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Here is Secretary Moniz enthusing over the potential for rapid decarbonization:

…the establishment of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition fund highlights the opportunity for countries participating in Mission Innovation to capture this investment potential, and then establish a strong position in that massive market.

Moniz also warned that the US is going to miss out on that market if it gives clean energy development the cold shoulder. According to Moniz, the US has a “head start” on developing next-generation technologies, but…

…if the United States chooses to back away from a redoubled commitment to innovation, it will be American entrepreneurs, manufacturers, and workers who will be put at competitive disadvantage in developing breakthrough technologies and creating jobs.

Ouch!

Breakthrough Energy Backers Do Not Heart Trump

So, here’s where it gets interesting. Scroll through the Breakthrough Energy list of board members and investors, and you’ll find several who have publicly feuded with Trump and/or who have criticized his positions on a variety of issues, or who have found themselves targeted by Trump on social media.

Topping the list would be Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon, whose company is the object of a Trump-initiated boycott. That’s also significant because, like a growing number of tech-centered companies, Amazon is depending on decarbonization to sustain its business model.

Then there’s Bloomberg CEO and clean energy fan Michael Bloomberg, who weathered a slew of insults from Trump over the summer.

Virgin’s Richard Branson also makes the list. Branson brought the hammer down on Trump in his blog on the Virgin website in October. Then, following a “bizarre” lunch date with Trump later in the month, Branson spilled the beans (cited here in Fortune magazine):

“Even before the starters arrived he began telling me about how he had asked a number of people for help after his latest bankruptcy and how five of them were unwilling to help. He told me he was going to spend the rest of his life destroying these five people.”

A-list investor Vinod Khosla also has a bone to pick with the PEOTUS. Last summer, Khosla signed on to “An open letter from technology sector leaders on Donald Trump’s candidacy for President” with 144 other tech leaders. Here’s a snippet:

We believe in an inclusive country that fosters opportunity, creativity and a level playing field. Donald Trump does not. He campaigns on anger, bigotry, fear of new ideas and new people, and a fundamental belief that America is weak and in decline. We have listened to Donald Trump over the past year and we have concluded: Trump would be a disaster for innovation…

Ouch!!

There are probably a few others in that list. If you’d like to pick through and find some others who have crossed paths with Trump, drop a note in the comment thread.

Breakthrough Energy Coalition And The China Connection

Here’s where it gets really interesting. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition casts a wide net when it comes to decarbonization, but it does have a particular focus on nuclear energy.

That’s evident from the involvement of BEC co-founder Bill Gates. Gates is one of the financial forces behind the next-generation nuclear firm Terra Power (Secretary Moniz is also a fan of Terra Power’s business model, which involves reclaiming existing nuclear material).

Last year Terra Power inked a deal with — you guessed it — China, to collaborate on new nuclear technologies.

Not coincidentally, China has big plans for its nuclear sector, with the expectation of 400 new reactors within the next several decades.

Now take another look at that Breakthrough Energy List, and see how many board members and investors are based in China.

When Mission Innovation launched, it set up Breakthrough Energy Ventures to focus on 22 countries and the EU, which are poised for rapid clean energy acceleration. China made the list, but Russia is conspicuously absent.

Now consider that Trump, weeks before taking office, has already aligned the US against China in favor of Russia.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan movement has finally been growing for the US Senate to investigate “overwhelming” circumstantial evidence that Russia interfered with the US presidential election, and did so in order to tamp down the Clinton vote in support of Trump.

It looks like our next President is going to have his hands full from Day One.

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Image (screenshot): via BEV.





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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



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