Top 100 People in Bioenergy: profiles, voting notes, #41-#60

October 13, 2010 |

“Whoa, Nelly” to Digest readers; Keep in mind that journalists and bloggers were not eligible for the Top 100 People in Bioenergy – we are not the story. One strategy that worked this year were heavy users of Twitter who double in association exec or other roles – did well in the voting, and were eligible. But thank you for all the emails backing your favorite scribes.

41. Wesley Clark, Co-chairman, Growth Energy / Tom Buis, President,  Growth Energy

We have paired Wes Clark and Tom Buis at #41; both pulled down a lot of votes, with Clark a little ahead owing to his generally higher profile. Both have been persistent, consistent, relentless and yet entertaining advocated for first-generation ethanol, and certainly make news.

42. Jim Stewart, Executive Chairman, Bioenergy Producers Association

One of the sleepers in this year’s poll, the unabashedly modest Jim Stewart who has been leading the fight in California on the policy front for the Bioenergy Producers Association. Jim writes: “We have been fighting major battles in California on behalf of this industry and encountering “head in the sand” opposition in the legislature and with environmental organizations in this state for the past six years, while, at the same time, weighing in on national issues. However, I had no idea that our efforts would have a high enough profile nationally for my name to appear on this list.” Ah, grasshopper, Digest editors are remarkably fallible, but Digest readers know all.

43. Hugh Grant, CEO, Monsanto

Hugh Grant of Hollywood never wins an Oscar and Hugh Grant of Monsanto doesn’t get much respect from the legions of enemies of the US corn monoculture – but where would we be without the productivity of modern agriculture? Monsanto, says some, has much to answer for, but it rarely gets the credit the company deserves for developing high-margin, high-productivity options for farmers. In some ways, a victim of its success, and Grant has been keeping his eye focused on making sure that profitability ball keeps a’rollin’.

44. Lee Lynd, PhD, Professor of Engineering, Dartmouth College

Rating high among the academics in the poll, the Czar of Consolidated Bioprocessing himself, Lee Lynd, who hangs out at Dartmouth spitting out technologies that form the basis of Mascoma’s technologies, as well as working globally on the development of sustainable renewable fuels.

45. Alwin Kopse, Exec. Director, Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels

Speaking of sustainability, Alwin Kopse is hardly a household name in global media, but in helming a fractious coalition of producers, end-users, environmentalists and NGOs into the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels – he does fine work at a thankless task that has enormous consequences for the industry and the planet. Some compare the task to herding cats, but herding neutrinos might be a more appropriate image. Kopse and his crew have been getting it done, always with grace and usually with apolmb.

46. Dan Adler, California Clean Energy Fund

As we wrote last month in “22 people worth knowing in bioenergy”: Dan and I were introduced by Digest staffer Michael Theroux. I had asked Michael to tell me the names of the people in California I should be at this fall’s event that I didn’t have on the preliminary list. Dan led the list. If you’ve not run across CalCEF in your travels, it is a $30 million nonprofit venture capital fund formed in 2004 to accelerate the development of promising early-stage clean energy technologies. To date, CalCEF has operated as a fund-of-funds in partnership with private investors, leveraging its funds in a broad pool of investable capital. Dan’s a director of ACORE, and serves on the Clean Tech Open board, the leading business plan competition in the industry.

47. Arnold Klann, CEO, Bluefire Renewables

Arnie Klann and Bluefire Rewables have been fighting the good fight for a long, long time. Best known for putting together one of the most complete DOE Loan Guarantee package applications in history, behind the scenes he’s been helping to organize the policy club known as Cellulosic Ethanol Association, and synchronizing messaging up in DC. A tireless advocate for renewables, and having richly-served success of late in developing his latest project in Mississippi.

48. Nancy Young, VP, Environmental Affairs, Air Transport Association / John Heimlich Chief Economist

In the development of aviation biofuels, a wide group of individuals has been instrumental through groups like CAAFI, SAFUG and in ad-hoc collaborative efforts. At the heart of it is the airline industry, which has been aggressively partnering in the  R&D phase of new fuels development. Readers have recognized a wide selection of individuals and association execs, including John Heimlich and Nancy Young of the Air Transport Association, who we have paired at #48. Both have been tireless advocates for, and organizers of, the victories to date in the development and deployment of alternative aviation fuels.

49. Riggs Eckelberry, CEO, Origin Oil / Brian Goodall, PhD, CTO of OriginOil

The always quotable Riggs Eckelberry writes: It’s official: we came in 49th out of the top 100 people in Bioenergy worldwide! I share this amazing rank with my able CTO, Brian Goodall. We are honored and thankful. Editor Jim Lane told us yesterday: “kudos – you had an amazing outpouring of support from the US-based Digest readership, and pretty good votes from Australia too, indicating that your Australian partnership has drawn attention there. If you voted, thank you – because it was no simple process, signing up for Biofuels Digest and then following your personalized link to vote for the Top 100. Whew!”

50. Jose Olivares, PhD, Director, National Alliance For Advanced Biofuels and Bio-Products

“It’s the first time I’ve put a consortium of this size together,” said Jose Olivares of the NAABB when we visited with him last spring for a profile on the consortium’s work. “You learn as you go. We had several principles. One, inclusiveness, to make sure you had a broad perspective, from the national labs, academia and industry. Two, understanding the  algae value chain as best as we could, and making sure we had good organizations in each area. The third, I think may be the one that made us click, was being transparent and being supportive. Not coming in with “mine is better than yours” but how could we build this together. When it came to the hard decisions, it made it possible to have an attitude that the “best outcome” was important. That helped.”

51. Craig Venter, PhD, CEO, Synthetic Genomics / Emil Jacobs, VP R&D, ExxonMobil

As Will Thurmond wrote, “There are $600 million reasons we could reason why Synthetic Genomics is a key player In San Diego’s Algae Culture Club.  The first reason is the largest oil and gas company in the world, Exxon-Mobil, has commited the largest amount of money of any oil and gas firm in an R&D collaborative with Synthetic Genomics to leverage genetic pioneer Craig Venter’s knowledge of applied science in molecular engineering.”

52. Jim Dumesic, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison

If you’ve read much about Virent Energy Systems, the tdirect sugar-to-diesel technology known as bioforming, or the entire field of the catalytic conversion of feedstocks directlly into hydrocarbon fuels, you’bve been well exposed to the work from the Dumesic lab at the University of Wisconsin. Jim himself generally makes appearances at scientific conferences and is known to make technical presentations on new science, rather than grand pronouncements on biofuels policy. For that reason, it was a delightful surprise to see the Digest readership get behind Dumesic and elevate him to #52 in our poll. Though microbial fermentation approach to direct conversion to hydrocarbons get the lion’s share of publicity, the catalytic approach is attracting serious partners like Cargill Ventures and Honda.

53. Jim Matheson, General Partner, Flagship Ventures / David Berry, PhD, Partner, Flagship Ventures

Whether it is the direct-to-hydrocarbon strategy of an LS9, or the even more exotic “fuel from thin air” conversion of sunlight, CO2 and water directly into biofuels, Flagship has been at the bleeding edge of biofuels investment and company formation. We’ve paired Jim Matheson and David Berry at #53. One notable aspect of Flagship – they don’t just invest in companies – they form them, with Joule being the result of their insights into the potential of new technologies to bypass biomass in the production of biofuels.

54. Richard Hamilton, CEO, Ceres

I interviewed Rich for the first time last spring, and promptly issued an invite to speak in San Francisco. I was fascinated, as I think you will be, by the knowledge that he and Ceres have developed on the long-term opportunities in bioenergy feedstocks. If affordable feedstocks are the key to successful projects – which anyone in the biodiesel or corn ethanol industry would agree to – then Ceres vision on the yields and geographies of feedstocks like miscanthus, switchgrass and energy cane should be a “must have” at any industry event.

55. John Doerr, Managing Partner, Kleiner Perkins

John Doerr, partner of Al Gore, Vinod Khosla, Tony Blair in the world of Kleiner Perkins, and a godfather of renewable energy, is a Silicon Valley legend who needs no introduction to most. But for those who needed a wake-up call on Doerr’s prescient views on bioenergy could have got one looking at the $66M paycheck Doerr picked up, in the valuation of his holdings at the time of the Amyris IPO. With the stock up nearly 10 percent since the IPO, Doerr has cleared more in the past two weeks than many biofuels companies cost to seed and develop through to pre-pilot.

56. Steve Burrill, Managing Partner, Burrill & Co / John Hamer, PhD, Managing Director, Burrill & Co / Roger Wyse, Managing Director / Greg Young, Managing Director

At #56, we’ve paired a quartet of partners and investors at Burrill & Company, who expanded out of a key position in life sciences and into biofuels, and have been notable in the development of Gevo, Cobalt Technologies, Chromatin and other key players. They are also noted for key roles played in industry associations like BIO, and at industry events such as the Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference, as well as conducting a series of their own industry events and publishing a lot of research on industry trends.

57. Bill Roe, CEO, Coskata / Wes Bolsen, CMO Coskata

In the world of bioenergy, one of the most energetic and outspoken presenters ‘on the circuit’ is Coskata’s Wes Bolsen. One of the handful of people in the business residing outside of DC who has an authentically informed view on the progress or lack thereof in policy circles.  We’ve paired Wes at #57 with CEO Bill Roe, who generally keeps a lower profile but has been steadily developing projects in Australia that may well lead to commercialization for the company that Roe said eare;ier this year was “ready and open for business”.

58. Doug Cameron, CEO, Alberti Advisors

Known in the industry for key roles at Cargill and as Chief Science officer at Khosla and Piper Jaffray, Cameron has been working solo in recent months and has been added as a director at some of the industry’s most notable plays. AT one stage or another he was acting CEO at Gevo, LS9 amnd Segetics, and remains on the SABs of Segetis and Mascoma as well as recently being added at Bioformix.

59. Tom Foust, PhD, NREL; Director,  National Advanced Biofuels Consortium

Tom Foust gives one of the most clear, concise and yet comprehensive 30-minute overviews of the state of play in advanced biofuels development we’ve ever experienced. It’s low key but packs a punch and has a message. You could say the same about the National Advanced Biofuels Consortium that he organized, and which won a major R&D consortium grant from DOE this past year. One of the gurus of colloborative bioenergy research.

60. Al Darzins, PhD, NREL / Philip Pienkos, PhD, NREL

Two of the real movers and shakers on algae at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are Phil Pienkos and Al Darzins – regulars at industry conclaves like the Algal Biomass Summit, where they play spotlighted roles, and organizing the effort at NREL on algal-based biofuels, which has gone from a near standing (re)start to a fast-moving, evolving machine in recent years. We’ve paired them at #60 as they both pulled strong votes from algaescenti as well as the research community.

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