Climate & Energy

Can the environmental economy dodge a recession?

As economic indicators trend downward, the clean-tech sector is still looking up

As one key economic engine after another -- housing, finance, autos, retail -- sputters and stalls out, the fledgling eco-economy is purring right along, fueled in no small part by venture capital firms hungry for new opportunities in industries that promise outsized returns on their investments. In the first three quarters of 2007, VCs poured $2.6 billion into alternative energy and clean-tech firms, more money than they invested for the whole of 2006. The new year promises to be another record breaker. And it's not only the Silicon Valley sharpies that are on the prowl: GE is promising to plow $6 billion into renewable energies by 2010, double what they were projecting only last year; Germany's Schott Solar is plunking down $100 million to build a plant in New Mexico, and predicts its investment will grow to $500 million when the facility is completed; and as 2007 drew to a close, Morgan Stanley made a $190 million investment in a clean-tech venture. Morgan, by the way, estimates the global renewable energy industry has a market cap in the neighborhood of $170 billion. Certainly not all is rosy in the clean-tech patch. Tesla Motors and Imperium Renewables, once considered high fliers, have been dealt setbacks -- and as a result, have trimmed employee rolls. And alternative energy stocks are starting to look positively bubble-ish to some on Wall Street (the subject of a future post). Recessions don't play favorites, for the most part. When U.S. consumers snap their pocketbooks shut, it creates a drag on the overall economy and everyone -- including governments that depend on tax receipts -- feels the pinch. The eco-economy probably won't be immune. But with the hundreds of millions of dollars streaming through the doors almost weekly, it's not a bad place -- and better than most -- to ride out the storm.

Plowing up the Amazon

Scientist says biofuel boom endangers world’s largest rainforest

A fifth of the Amazon rainforest — the world’s biggest carbon sponge — has disappeared since the 1970s. The Brazilian government has succeeded in recent years in slowing the deforestation rate, but its efforts have …

Coal is the enemy of the human race: Goliath, meet David edition

Google invests in solar thermal company eSolar

Today, Google announced it’s investing $10 million in eSolar, a solar thermal company, as part of its RE<C project. (Speaking of the latter, we’ve got an excellent interview on it coming up soon.) Here’s what …

Coal company penalized for Clean Water Act violations

Massey Energy Co., the nation’s fourth-largest coal producer, has agreed to a $30 million settlement with the U.S. EPA over allegations of Clean Water Act violations. Massey was accused of polluting streams and waterways in …

Hillary Clinton brings an environmental issue to the fore in Nevada

Hillary Clinton is taking pains to make sure all Nevadans know her views on — gasp! — an environmental issue: She would stop plans to store nuclear waste at the state’s Yucca Mountain repository. “This …

Sebelius as VP?

Can the Kansas governor show toughness under assault from Big Coal?

A certain faction of young progressive bloggers is fond of the notion of Barack Obama picking Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as his running mate. She is a successful, popular, progressive governor in a red state, …

Put a grid on it

Sweet. Xcel Energy is going to spend $100 million creating a grid city, which will serve as a test bed for smart grid techniques and technologies. It will likely be in Colorado, have a population …

Should I wait or should I go now?

Is it important to push climate legislation through this year?

Now that Congress is back, there’s been a mini-flurry of stories about the prospects of climate legislation this year. See Politico here and here, a really superb analysis of Lieberman-Warner’s chances by Darren Samuelsohn (sub …

The Fleiss is right

Former Hollywood madam to open wind-powered brothel

Heidi Fleiss. Ten things I didn’t know about former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss until I read this awesome Elle story: She’s a vegetarian. She calls herself a tree hugger. She owns 24 parrots. She runs …

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