Alternative Energy Funding Drying Up

Justin Berkowitz
by Justin Berkowitz

The New York Times reports that a casualty of lower oil and gas prices: interest in funding renewable energy projects. Among the Times’ laundry list of programs hurting for money: Tesla (duh), corn ethanol (hooray), other biofuels, and wind and solar power. The financial troubles are the consequence of a pretty simple financial concept – that there’s only so much money to go around. And we hear there’s a credit crunch in progress. So with gas and oil coming down in price, renewable energy isn’t where opportunistic investors want to be risking their somewhat-limited resources. The depressing part of the story is this all-too-obvious observation from Times writer Clifford Kraus:

In the 1970s, just as in recent years, high prices for fossil fuels led to rising interest in renewables … Advocates are concerned that if the prices for oil and gas keep falling, the incentive for utilities and consumers to buy expensive renewable energy will shrink. That is what happened in the 1980s when a decade of advances for alternative energy collapsed amid falling prices for conventional fuels.

Justin Berkowitz
Justin Berkowitz

Immensely bored law student. I've also got 3 dogs.

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  • AJ AJ on Oct 21, 2008
    joeaverage : October 21st, 2008 at 9:44 am I remain committed to getting big oil out of my life as much as possible regardless of the price of gas at the pump because my family is concerned about the hidden costs of fossil fuels - pollution, damages to the world’s health, funding big establishments which have held a monopoly on energy for over 100 years. We need the competition from alternatives. Our economy is based on that evil big oil that it is so fashionable to hate. And of course along with those evil executives! How dare they want to grow their company, pay dividends, make a profit, and at the same time pay millions and millions in taxes! Just name a few things in your daily life that is not the result of big oil? Oil will remain so for a long time, even with any alternative fuels. Plus high oil prices as you claim have not done America any good. Abundant and affordable energy is what drives our economy, and there is nothing more so then oil (even at it's recent high point). The hatred towards big oil reminds me of a vegetarian that wore leather shoes. Hypocritical.
  • John B John B on Oct 21, 2008

    Airhen: "Our economy is based on that evil big oil that it is so fashionable to hate. And of course along with those evil executives! How dare they want to grow their company, pay dividends, make a profit, and at the same time pay millions and millions in taxes!" You are seriously out of date. The vast majority of oil reserves are controlled by state owned enterprises and not by Exxon, Shell, etc. Enjoy as oil profits flow to Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela, etc. "Yet Big Oil is pretty small next to the industry's true giants: the national oil companies (NOCs) owned or controlled by the governments of oil-rich countries, which manage over 90% of the world's oil, depending on how you count. Of the 20 biggest oil firms, in terms of reserves of oil and gas, 16 are NOCs."

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Oct 21, 2008

    No I don't think that is hypocritical at all. I think I'm talking about a start of serious changes. Sure - I'm still going to buy groceries planted, harvested and delivered by dieselpowered vehicles. Sure the plastics of the retail goods I buy will still be based on petroleum. However if I can cut out much of the 1,000 gallons of fuel that we burn each year (and ~$3,000) then it's a start. We're already recycling everything we can. We are already keeping our stuff longer and fixing it whenever possible rather than just chucking it into the dump and buying another. That choice started with simple economics but now we can afford to replace consumer goods wily-nily but choose not to. I remember riding along years ago in a city far from here that was covered in trash. I finished my drink and put the cap back on my bottle and wedged it beside my seat content to wait until our next stop to toss it into the trash. My doctor friend calmly reached over, took the bottle and tossed it out the window. I was perplexed why he would do something like that when he was plenty intelligent to know better. He responded why not - everyone else did it. The city was going to be filthy no matter what he did. I noticed on future trips that he either changed his ways or did so in my presence. Years later I hear that the city is MUCH cleaner overall. Apparently the citizens or the gov't there changed their how they operated. I'm tired of spewing toxic gases into the air every morning when I go to work and then again when I come home again. I'm tired of contributing to the mess that the accelerating harvesting of the earth's resources causes. Every decade we seem to be able to dig up the earth faster, cheaper and easier. How long can this go on? I don't know and I suspect the experts don't know either so I'll err on the cautious side. Hopefully others will too and we might leave a world to our children that is a better place than the greedy folks would leave it be. I've seen the mountain tops removed and the valley's filled in the eastern part of our state. I've seen the mess that oil drilling and refining causes. I can see the pollution the smoke stacks from coal plants spread into our air. I've seen the smoky exhaust pipes of worn out gasoline engines (and I've owned several of them myself). Do we really need to function like this in 2008? I accept that until technology catches up we'll have to keep burning gasoline when we go see Grandma. I'll still put a few miles on my 30+ year old classic vehicles and won't feel bad about it at all. Still we're working to reduce my pollution as compared to what I would create living the same lifestyle carefree. We need to always take babysteps forward on issues like this. We gripe about Detroit and their choices and failures. They want to surge forward and then sit back while the competition takes constant babysteps. Slow and steady wins the race. I accept that for a while some of our electricity will come from coal fired plants in addition to hydro/nukes/solar/wind. As my family can afford to over the next few years we hope to install solar panels to make as much power as we can for ourselves. If we can drive EVs for our commute then we'll do that too. There are people who charge EVs and power their home with solar today. Why wouldn't we? The systems pay for themselves and we think it is more important than just cost. Choices based on cost alone hold us back. A bicycle would save you more money than a car for the home>work commute. For a large number of us a cellphone is a toy plain and simple. Same goes for any number of things we pay for a little each month. At least solar pays for itself. FWIW EVs really exist in a usable form now. They've been around for years. GM and Chevron did a deal that locked away a battery tech that worked well years ago. No need for this Lithium battery search GM says they are doing now. They already had the battery tech that exceeded the Volt's needs. Nobody else can touch the NiMH design apparently. We can have little NiMH batteries, just not big ones. Hey how about a battery that will push a car or CUV 100-150 miles? What a concept. Lasts ~150K miles+? Wow... Why can't we have these? I'm not just following the herd of casual commenters and pointing fingers at Wall Street, at rich people or big oil. I have reason to distrust those who I distrust. It's tough for me to go much further without sounding like a nutcase. I find anytime a person questions the establishment too enthusiastically or too often, other people will quickly work hard to discredit them. All I can say is read up on it for yourself. Do enough reading even of the mainstream sources and you will begin to make connections. Social connections, business connections, college connections, family connections, gov't connections, etc. Connections favor each other no matter what the law says. Use the internet and you can verify these connections. While you can verify the existence of UFOs using the internet - I mean look for credible sources. You can follow the money around and see why things happen the way they do. Beware anyone or any group which wants to maintain the status quo for two long. We can do much better than the status quo but if things change too much then expect some big players to get left out of the profits game. I encourage anyone to read up on the next generation technologies on the enthusiast forums. Once you get past the folks who like to argue you'll start to find people who really know what they are talking about. These people are sometimes doing what the mainstream media and manufacturer's like Detroit says is impossible or is decades away. After a while you'll find that the media and those money centers like Detroit aren't talking to you. They are talking to the casual reader who believes whatever they read from shiny magazines or publicity disguised as news. Once I got past all that I felt like I had come through an information firewall. FWIW I count TTAC as a good source of info. The articles and comments are excellent. In this alternative universe you can see the roots of American consumerism. Once I removed myself from it, the methods and goals of those who want me to spend baby, spend becomes clear. I've gone back to fixing my stuff, using free Linux rather than feeding the Microsoft monster anymore (after 4 versions of Windows), we shop for quality instead of discount prices on certain things, and the list goes on and on.

  • CommFunds CommFunds on Nov 29, 2008

    There is still money out there for large projects. We have a unique relationship with a fund that only accepts mining and energy projects. JV or debt financing for sensible alternative energy projects worldwide in the 100 million plus range.