Who Will Spark the Future of US Energy?

Posted on September 20, 2011


Japan’s wealthiest man (Forbes), Masayoshi Son, recently announced a visionary plan to target 60% of Japan’s energy to be from renewable sources by 2030. So who will help spark the future of U.S. Energy?

Son’s net worth of 8.1B is just shy of Steve Jobs’ net worth of $8.3B. Including Jobs, there are a total of 34 U.S. billionaires whose net worth exceeds that of Son. Yet none of them has been as outspoken as Son has been, for he changed how Japan’s government and corporations looked at the opportunity for renewable energy to jumpstart Japan’s future growth – especially after the Fukushima meltdown.  Using only 0.16% of his wealth ($13M), he launched the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation. While it’s true that he is rallying a call to action for other investors, he has taken the most difficult step – getting started. One of the group’s most ambitious goals is to create a supergrid that would deliver the majority of Japan’s energy needs through renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal power.

So is there a U.S. business leader like Japan’s founder of Softbank Corp., Masayoshi Son, who is gutsy enough to be a catalyst for increasing renewable energy utilization in the U.S.? The U.S. has a wealth of renewable energy resources, yet they only comprise 8% of the total U.S. energy consumption. Given that the potential wind energy within the US could generate up to 9 times the amount of electricity that we currently use (3.7 PetaWatt Hrs. per yr.), the US is the Saudi Arabia of wind energy. While T. Boone Pickens (net worth = $1.4B) had been a wind energy proponent, he has changed his investment focus to natural gas to fuel heavy trucks with a potential to cut Middle East oil imports in half. So here are a few potential investors who would have the magnitude of Son –  to be the most likely leaders who could help accelerate the U.S. migration to renewable energy:

Forbes Global Rank Name Net Worth Source Current/Prior Green Project


Bill Gates $56 Bil. Microsoft Hohm


Larry Ellison $39.5 Bil. Oracle Green (Eco) Enterprise


Jim Walton,    Alice Walton,       S. Robson Walton >$21 Bil. each Walmart Walmart Sustainability Index


Larry Page,   Sergey Brin $19.8 Bil. Google Green Data Center; PowerMeter


Jeff Bezos $18.1 Bil. Amazon Amazon Green


Michael Dell $14.6 Bil. Dell #1 Newsweek Green Rankings (2010)


Mark Zuckerberg $13.5 Bil. Facebook Green Data Center


Paul Allen $13 Bil. Microsoft Green Sports Alliance


Steve Jobs $8.3 Bil. Apple, Pixar Apple’s Environmental Footprint

Depending on the executive’s net worth, each would need to spend as little as .023% of his net worth (Gates) to as much as 0.157% (Jobs)  if he wanted to launch a noble cause to help the US become more energy-independent and help create U.S. jobs. To put this investment in its proper perspective, a family with an annual household income of $100,000 would need to spend anywhere from $23 to $157 within a year to invest on the same type of scale that the billionaire executives could invest to improve the future of US Energy. From a billionaire’s view, this would be a small price to pay to make a huge impact for a greener future with respect to the environment and employment.

We know that the success of any American effort to launch an ambitious Renewable Energy Initiative would require supporting legislation from state and federal governments, yet we should not wait for a disaster of the scale of Fukushima before we act. We’ve already experienced the BP oil spill in the Gulf with an estimated $42 billion in damages. After Son launched Japan’s Renewable Energy Initiative, he reminded his detractors: “I am tired of hearing what can’t be done. This (Pan-Asia smart grid network) may take 20 to 30 years. But I think it’s clear to the people what needs to be done.” It’s clear what the U.S. needs to do.

Who do you believe will spark the Future of US Energy? Your comments are welcome.

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© 2011 by Ed Valdez

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Posted in: Eco Leader