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Doerr, McNealy offer tech solutions to global warming

Sun Microsystems' Chairman Scott McNealy and tech investment guru John Doerr speak about potential remedies to the problem.

PALO ALTO, Calif.--If scientific predictions are correct, Silicon Valley could be underwater within a half a century. Green tech may be the life raft.

That was the caution and promise offered at an executive panel Wednesday here at the TechNet Innovation Summit hosted by Stanford University. Sun Microsystems Chairman Scott McNealy, Bloom Energy Chief Executive K.R. Sridhar and tech investment guru John Doerr spoke about the dangers of global warming and potential remedies to the problem.

For Doerr, much can be solved if the U.S. government takes the lead. "Our country needs a new energy policy," he said.

Ready with advice, Doerr outlined a four-point policy that he believes President Bush should adopt, come January. That policy includes a mandatory goal for all organizations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 25 percent by 2010; the adoption of renewable sources of energy like solar and wind; a lesser dependence on oil by invigorating the biofuel industry; and investing in technology that can remove existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

McNealy's solution to the energy consumption problem was entirely more personal. Half of , which helps reduce the energy generated by driving, McNealy said. And technology further helps encourage people to drive less (and therefore pollute less) through activities such as online shopping, remote banking and distance learning, he said.

"There are lots of individual things we can do," McNealy said. "I only shave once a week."

Both McNealy and Doerr, who's known for investments in Google, and Sun, referred to themselves as "raging capitalists" during the panel, as a way to highlight the view that being green can save costs and ultimately prove profitable.

"This is the biggest economic opportunity of this century," Doerr said.

Take Bloom Energy, which is developing fuel cell technology in the energy market that's worth more than a trillion dollars.

Sridhar said his venture aims to distribute energy production much like distributed computing, putting it in the individual's hands in order to boost efficiency of the whole network. For example, a house fuel cell working with a solar panel could produce enough energy to refuel your car, Sridhar said.

"It will come down to the way we distribute (energy) and consume," Sridhar said.

Doerr, whose venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers last year created a $100 million fund dedicated to green technologies, said that although public policy is key, he believes that small companies and entrepreneurs will lead innovation in this arena. Oil companies, he said, spend roughly 1 percent of their revenue on research and development.

"(The author) Margaret Mead said, 'Never underestimate the power of a small group to change the world,'" Doerr said. "I believe that's what will happen with green technology."