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Region needs a clean fuels standard

Posted by Marjorie Pritchard  September 19, 2011 02:19 PM

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By David Berry

When deciding where to invest, venture capitalists like me look for businesses that have tremendous potential for growth. The whole point is to get in early to be in at the beginning of something big.

There are times when what applies to companies applies to entire sectors of the economy. Years back, for example, information technology was a game-changer. Not every dot-com succeeded, but in the transition to a new way of doing things, plenty of businesses grew and prospered. Plenty of fortunes were made.

That is where the clean energy sector is today. It is an emerging economic sector with fast-growing global potential, and it has opportunity written all over it. So when stakeholders gather in Boston on Tuesday to talk about a possible regional clean fuels standard for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, we will be listening.

I believe a regional clean fuels standard is an opportunity not just for business people, but for all the people of our state. Sensible clean energy standards provide a clear signal to investors, entrepreneurs, and business leaders that there will be a market for clean energy technologies. It gives them the motivation they need to invest, to take chances, to innovate, and to grow.

Massachusetts has seen this happen before. The state's policies, including the Renewable Portfolio Standard as well as its participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative &emdash; coupled with its world-class research institutions and scientific and entrepreneurial talent &emdash; have led to a vibrant clean energy sector in the Bay State. A regional clean fuels standard would be yet another spur to our state’s growing clean energy sector.

A clean fuels standard is designed to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels. It would encourage alternative fuels &emdash; and give us a chance to develop and manufacture some of them in-state. Advanced biofuels, electricity, and other alternatives would help our region be more energy independent. It would ease the effects of oil price volatility, and strengthen our economy.

It would also help boost employment. There’s been a smear campaign against green jobs lately, but the truth is, many Americans are finding promising careers in clean technology.

Take me, for example. I earned an MD/PhD from Harvard Medical School and MIT, and assumed I'd go into research or academia. But then I saw the possibilities in the emerging clean-energy economy. In the past few years, I have co-founded three clean-energy companies, and advised or invested in four more. These firms have created more than 400 jobs.

The clean energy sector is just getting started. In the long run, oil will only get harder to find, demand for fuel will only go up, and petroleum prices will only rise. Developing alternative fuels is the smart play. And a regional clean fuels standard will help us get there.

David Berry is a partner at Cambridge-based Flagship Ventures, and founder of leading clean technology companies LS9, Joule Unlimited, and Essentient.

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