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Kevin Bullis

A View from Kevin Bullis

Bezos Invests in Fusion and BP Funds Biofuels

Also this week: the UN says renewables could provide as much as 77 percent of world’s energy.

  • May 9, 2011

Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos is lending his support to fusion, the power source of the sun, H-bombs, and, starting 30 to 50 years from now, local utilities. His personal investment company, Bezos Expeditions, contributed an unspecified fraction of a $19.5 million venture capital fund raised by General Fusion, a company that is developing an approach to fusion that combines two leading fusion designs, magnetic confinement of plasma and inertial confinement. The company had previously raised $13.75 million.

BP and DSM have also invested in Verdezyne, a biotech startup that is engineering yeast to make ethanol and adipic adic, a basic chemical used to make polyester, and that companies have been trying for decades to make from sugar rather than oil. Several other biofuels companies are trying to break into chemicals markets, since their biofuels are too expensive to compete with conventional fuels.

A123 Systems, a company that’s developed batteries with nanostructured electrodes and is one of the poster-children for DOE investment in R&D, says it’s got a new customer: Smith Electric Vehicles, which sells cars to the likes of Frito-Lay.

Duke Energy has demonstrated self-healing grid technology in which digital equipment successfully rerouted power to prevent a blackout for 700 of its customers. Such self-healing networks are part of the “smart grid” that’s slowly being rolled out in the U.S. and elsewhere.

And finally…the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report suggesting that renewables could provide 77 percent of the world’s energy supply by 2050, up from 13 percent in 2008. But that’s the most optimistic scenario, where energy demand is kept in check, and renewables get serious policy support. In the organization’s worst case, renewables might account for just 15 percent of energy by 2050. In most of the scenarios studied, solar will only supply a tenth of global electricity supply by then.

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