Investment money pours into the green-tech sector

Investors are ga-ga for green. In 2005, clean energy projects in the U.S. were showered with $17 billion in investment money, up 89 percent from 2004. Just in 2005, the worldwide market for carbon credits blossomed from essentially nothing to around $11 billion. And these are not just do-gooders: public pension funds, hedge fund groups, venture capitalists, they’re all scouring the landscape for the next Big Green Thing. Says Lehman Brothers’ John V. Veech of clean-tech gatherings, “If you went five years ago you’d see a lot of ponytails. Now these conferences are packed with suits.” Everything that promises to displace fossil fuels, from ethanol to wind and solar to geothermal, is being transformed by infusions of cash. Why? Disparate constituencies are uniting behind energy independence. Some 22 states have passed renewable portfolio standards. And many expect federal regulation of carbon emissions soon. Of course, there was a clean-energy boom in the ’70s, squashed when OPEC opened the spigots and drove down the price of oil. But many doubt whether there are sufficient oil reserves to pull that trick again. So invest away!