Gore joins venture capital firm to focus on 'clean' technology

SAN FRANCISCO - Al Gore announced Monday he's joining Silicon Valley's most prestigious venture capital firm to help the private sector take on global warming, and perhaps make himself some money.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner and former vice president joins Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as it and dozens of other venture firms headquartered in Silicon Valley expand beyond software, computer hardware, the Internet and biotechnology to so-called 'clean-tech' investments worldwide.

In a phone interview Monday, Gore praised the private sector for innovations in alternative energy, particularly solar power. He said the public sector was 'catching up.'

Gore said political system can appear to move 'at a snail's pace.'

'But when it crosses a tipping point, it can move at lightning speed. We're feeling that gear shift occur right now, and ... we want to make sure the markets have the information and analytic systems in place to move at lightning speed,' Gore said.

Gore, who starred in the Academy Award-winning global warming documentary, 'An Inconvenient Truth,' is also a senior adviser to Google Inc. and a member of the board at Apple Inc.

Gore promised to donate 100 percent of his salary as a Kleiner Perkins partner to the Alliance for Climate Protection, the Palo Alto-based think tank he founded to focus on accelerating policy solutions to the climate crisis.

The donation does not include stock options. Typically, a tiny fraction of a venture capitalist's compensation is salary; the vast majority of wealth comes from sale of stock options when the companies the firm invests in are sold to the public.

'It's one of the benefits of not being in the public sector anymore,' Gore said with a laugh.

He wouldn't say how much Kleiner Perkins was paying him.

Also Monday, Kleiner Perkins partner John Doerr announced he's joining the advisory board of Generation Investment Management, the $1 billion investment firm that Gore founded with David Blood, who previously managed $325 billion in assets out of Goldman Sachs' London office.

Clean technology encompasses alternative fuels, water purification, renewable energy and recycling programs and other eco-friendly initiatives, and products ranging from electric cars to microbes that search for oil in seemingly tapped-out wells.

North American and European venture capitalists invested $1.9 billion in clean-tech companies in the first half of 2007, a 10 percent increase from the first half 2006, according to Ann Arbor, Mich.-based trade group Cleantech Network.

Last year, Menlo Park-based Kleiner Perkins earmarked $100 million of its $600 million investment fund to startups that work on reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The firm expects to dedicate one-third of new funding to clean tech by 2009.