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Week of 12.8.06

Corporate Compassion

Corporations don't have the best reputation when it comes to compassion. More often than not, the bottom line leaves no room for benevolence. But some big businesses are taking a new approach.

This week NOW talks to both Jonathan Schwartz, the charismatic chief executive officer (CEO) and president of Sun Microsystems, and billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, about their efforts to invest and grow programs that help the world be a better place.

"More folks are coming online. Yes, that is good for our business, but I also think that the more likely it is you know about a problem in a tsunami-stricken portion of the world, you'll send aid. And if you know about instability in the world, you'll start getting focused on it," Schwartz tells NOW's David Brancaccio.

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Also, Khosla describes a radical proposal to move all U.S. automobile fuel consumption from gasoline to ethanol, the most widely-used biofuel, according to the latest government figures. "We have a serious energy crisis. We have a serious climate crisis. We have a serious terrorism crisis. All three are related to one issue: oil consumption," Khosla tells NOW.

Khosla reckons that somewhere between 40 to 60 million acres of land could replace all of America's gasoline needs and supply close to 200 billion gallons of ethanol.

About Jonathan Schwartz

Jonathan Schwartz of Sun Microsystems Jonathan Schwartz is chief executive officer (CEO) and president of Sun Microsystems, and a member of Sun's board of directors. He became Sun's CEO in 2006.

Schwartz was promoted to president and COO in 2004, and managed all operational functions at Sun. Prior to his position as CEO, Schwartz served as Sun's executive vice president for software, its chief strategy officer, and held a variety of leadership positions across product and corporate development. He joined Sun in 1996 after the company acquired Lighthouse Design, where he was CEO and co-founder. Prior to that, Schwartz was with McKinsey & Co.

An inveterate blogger, Schwartz received degrees in economics and mathematics from Wesleyan University.

*Biography taken from Sun Microsystems

About Vinod Khosla

Vinod Khosla Vinod Khosla is the head of Khosla Ventures, a company that offers venture assistance, strategic advice, and capital to entrepreneurs. The company focuses on traditional technologies, such as computing and mobile, as well as innovative technologies that offer environmental benefits. Fortune magazine recently called him the nation's most influential ethanol advocates.

Khosla is one of the co-founders of the technology firm Sun Microsystems as well as Daisy Systems, a computer aided design system for electrical engineers. He assists or serves on the boards of several companies. Khosla is a charter member of TiE, a not-for-profit global network of entrepreneurs and professionals founded in 1992. He supports many microfinance organizations in India and Africa.

Biofuels Pros and Cons

Pros
• Reduces landfill waste
• Can provide soil conservation
   benefits
• Less emissions than fossil fuels
• Generates electricity
• Secondary revenue from steam
• Reduces fossil fuel dependency

Cons
• Produces carbon dioxide emissions
• Can compete for land used for food
• Some crops are water intensive
• Depleted soil nutrients increases
   need for chemical-polluting fertilizer

Source: Penn State University, The Behrend College
Khosla graduated with a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi. He holds a Masters in Biomedical Engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University and an MBA from Stanford University.

*Biography taken from Khosla Ventures

Related Links:

» NOW: Who Killed the Electric Car?

» NOW: Why the World is Not About to Run Out of Oil

» Jonathan Schwartz's Blog

» Grist: Special Series on Biofuels

» Grist: Q&A with Khosla about Biofuels

» Khosla Ventures

» Sun Microsystems