Monday, April 20, 2009

you've got to pay you dues to your past and your future

Forget about the hybrid auto -- Shai Agassi says it's electric cars or bust if we want to impact emissions. His company, Better Place, has a radical plan to take entire countries oil-free by 2020.

This was at a time in my life when I was at SAP and asked to be president if I should want it. While I was considering this, I was invited to join the World Economic Forum's Young Global Leaders where they asked us all to come up with a project or a vision for how we want make the world better by 2020. I took it really seriously. I began to think, "What do I do best? What are my passions? And where do these meet to create economic interest?" Basically, I was using Jim Collins' theory from "Good to Great."
My passions were an intersection between peace in the Middle East and climate change. I know how to understand a technology problem, break it into its components and solve it. I also knew I couldn't make peace solely through technological inventions. So, I started digging and found that Israel signed a peace treaty with the United Arab Emirates after the country had diversified their economy, instead of being solely oil-based. This diversification had brought about modernization. I realized that if you land the price of oil, countries will diversify their economies and as a result, modernize.
When I started this, I asked "How would a country operate without oil?" So, I began thinking from scale. I looked at biofuels, and they don't scale. I looked at hydrogen, and discovered that it's actually a wasteful process and not clean. Then I got to electric vehicles. I wrote a white paper on it, expecting that this would become a project for government.

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