The Yamas and Niyamas of Renewable Energy

January 25th, 2008

Journalist, journalism professor and media consultant Jeff Jarvis posted a couple of blog entries from the Davos Economic Forum comparing the approaches of Al Gore on one hand with Google founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin on the other.

Gore, says Jarvis, favors raising carbon taxes, while Google is pressing for investment in alternative energy to reduce its cost. “Tax versus investment” is how Jarvis describes it. This appears to be a common theme these days, but I think it is a false choice.

At the VLAB event I attended this week, I was amazed to hear Kleiner Perkins’ John Denniston saying in extremely strong terms that government policy is needed to get alternative energy businesses moving as quickly as they need to. It surprised me that a prominent VC would feel this need so strongly.

He’s right, though. Private capital is a drop in the bucket compared to what government incentives can do for industries. But for favorable privacy, publicity, tax and other regulations I bet the Internet would not have become the essential fabric of life that it currently is. Denniston’s argument was that government has the power to increase the attractiveness of renewable energy sources, and to decrease that of coal and oil energy.

The yogis figured out the need for this kind of balancing thousands of years ago and laid out a set of five “dos” and five “don’ts” for a healthy life- the yamas and niyamas. Balance is critical to keep us on the right path in life and business.

I’ll give credit to Jarvis for not having his thoughts completely together since he was liveblogging. If his point is that “the discussion is too much about what we should not do rather than what we can do” then ok. More yamas, fewer niyamas. If by “tax versus investment”, though, he means that we need to choose then he’s dead wrong. We need both. Investment (yama) by the Googles (and Wal-Marts) that have serious industry leverage, and tax policies (both yama and niyama) from government to run that lever as far out as it will go.

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