Investing in renewable energy can pose ethical dilemmas

Over the past two years, the value of fossil-fuel companies has soared while the worldwide stock-market value of renewable-energy companies has declined from $13 billion to $10.7 billion. This, despite ever-renewing hope that a major energy transition will spark a boom in the renewables arena. Many Wall Street investors are reluctant to go for renewables because there’s so much insecurity around energy markets. The U.S. and other key nations have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and there’s a patchwork of national standards for carbon-dioxide emissions. Many socially and environmentally conscious investors continue to seek out renewable investments, but they face two problems. The small companies working exclusively in renewables — wind, solar, biofuels — are huge gambles. But the large companies making some investments in alternative energy — like BP, Archer Daniels Midland, and GE — are ethical compromises, as they tend to contribute to environmental problems with the right hand while nurturing renewable technologies with the left.