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Tony Blair joins Khosla Ventures as cleantech adviser

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Former British prime minister Tony Blair announced that he has joined Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Khosla Ventures to oversee its green portfolio.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair announced that he has joined Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Khosla Ventures to oversee its green portfolio.

Officially, Blair will serve as senior public policy adviser for Khosla's stable of cleantech companies.

"I am increasingly and crucially aware of the fact that the answer to these twin challenges -- climate change and energy security -- lies in developing the technological solutions of the future," Blair said in a statement.

Founded in 2004 by Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, Khosla Ventures specializes in infotech and cleantech startups. The partnership allows the firm's "maintech" cleantech companies -- which focus on solar energy, batteries, biofuels, lighting and building materials -- to leverage Blair's visibility and global relationships for environmental issues.

Blair said in a statement:

Solving the climate crisis is more than just a political agenda item – it’s an urgent priority that requires innovation, creativity, and ambition. I share a clear vision with Vinod, one of the earliest leaders in cleantech investment, that entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and beyond will have a tremendous impact on our environmental future. Vinod’s portfolio companies are galvanizing scientific and technological know-how into businesses that can make a huge difference in reducing carbon and other emissions, and I look forward to dedicating a portion of my time to help them move us toward a more sustainable tomorrow. The Khosla Ventures organization is particularly effective in assisting entrepreneurs to develop and deploy their technologies all over the world.

Blair leads the Breaking the Climate Deadlock initiative, in partnership with The Climate Group.

Khosla said in a lengthy statement:

I have always admired Mr. Blair’s early and consistent commitment to addressing climate change. His goals align so well with our own mission to support disruptive startups in the cleantech space and to find technology solutions that can achieve unsubsidized market competitiveness for green technologies. We believe in attempting to achieve the 'Chindia price point,' the price at which even developing countries will voluntarily adopt these carbon efficient technologies. It’s a price that is either cheaper than fossil alternatives or can achieve less than one year payback for efficiency investments, and is the key to scalable global adoption of environmentally beneficial technologies. With Tony's advice and influence, we will create opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators to devise practical solutions that can solve today’s most pressing crisis at a global scale while creating new jobs, new businesses and new sources of sustainable growth. Many more Google, Apple and Facebook-like new companies will be created in the environmental space based on breakthrough black swan technologies.

Khosla's green portfolio includes Calera, which creates carbon-negative building products; solar company Cogenra; internal combustion engine specialists EcoMotors; biofuels firm KiOR; efficient HVAC developer New PAX; and LED and laser firm Soraa.

Blair accompanied Khosla yesterday to tour the Calera green cement demonstration plant in Moss Landing, Calif.

Charlie Cooper at CBSNews.com notes that Blair isn't the first elder statesman to go green -- former U.S. vice president Al Gore is a partner at influential California venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Photo: Remy Steinegger/World Economic Forum

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Andrew Nusca

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Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure