Sunday, December 10, 2006

Green Investment Updates Part 2

This week we found two more articles about the trend to alternative energy investments. In the first, the New York Times reports on the likely beneficiaries of the changed US congress being a range of companies from across the sector. According to the article investors can expect subsidies, tax policy and research dollars to be focused on all manner of alternative energy companies in the coming years, with predictable benefits in stock prices.

In a related article, Newsweek describes the venture capital group Kleiner Perkins decision to invest $200 million dollars in green tech.

The most interesting thing to us about all of these articles taken as a whole is the frequent and unqualified comparisons between green tech and the .com boom. Then again with so many of these companies still unprofitable, maybe the comparison is justified.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Green Investment Updates

Last month brought us two very interesting articles about the potential for investing in clean energy from two very different sources.

First Outside Magazine published an article in which Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk says, “Energy is way bigger than the Internet” as he explains the investment opportunity in green growth. The accompanying feature describes a variety of funds and investment vehicles available for interested parties to cash in on the coming boom.

While one could be forgiven for not wanting to take investment advice from the same people who give you recommendations for breathable footwear, not long after the Outside issue hit the stands, none other than the Economist produced an article reporting on the same investment trend.

The growing investment potential of clean energy tech is something we have been writing about for a while here, but while the potential is clearly enormous, the Economist correctly points out there is nothing inevitable about it. Much of the investment money is contingent on continuing subsidies because clean energy sources are still not cost competitive with polluting ones. While this will doubtlessly change in the coming years, until it does we are only one bad election away from a major dip in support for clean energy technology.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

LED Savings

The LED lighting revolution has been underway for a while now with promises of bulbs that last for decades and use a fifth of the energy of a compact fluorescent bulb. While the technology has been great for stoplights, camping equipment and that blinking light on your computer tower, LED’s have yet to break into one crucial area; home and office lighting.

The problem is that the bulbs are cost prohibitive for simple domestic applications, but according to Cnet that may be about to change. The price of LEDs has been falling by fifty percent a year for some time now and if the trend holds they will be an affordable home lighting alternative within the next two years.

The potential benefit? With 22% of US energy production going to lighting applications, broad adoption of LED’s could literally save billions of dollars in energy costs and millions of metric tons of carbon emissions.

To see what LED lighting means for an individual household, check out this handy spreadsheet made by

Monday, November 13, 2006

Record Land Conservation Measures Passed

Among the many environmental gains made in last weekend’s Democratic victory was a record setting commitment to land conservation. In 23 states across the country, voters from both parties passed 99 ballot initiatives dedicated to funding land conservation to the tune of 5.73 Billion dollars.

While fighting sprawl has long been seen as the domain of quixotic Portland residents or the Nature Conservancy, the sudden willingness of communities to pass bond or tax measures on themselves to fund land preservation may mark the beginning of a larger reaction against the unchecked exurban development so common in this country.

Most surprising of all, was the strong support for conservation measures in traditionally Republican areas like Utah, South Carolina and Texas, not exactly known for their environmental voting records. Perhaps this is a reaction to the assault of suburban development on traditionally Republican rural farming and ranching communities where development pressures are increasingly paving over a traditional way of life.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

SUV Sales Climb as Gas Prices Fall

Just in case you thought all the news coming from the auto industry was turning green, Newsweek is reporting that SUV sales have begun to climb again as gas prices have fallen. You would think that most people wouldn’t have a hard time imagining four-dollar gas before they go buy a bus that gets 15MPG, and if you believe Newsweek you would be right. Apparently the latest trend is for SUVs and Hybrids to share the same garage with owners using one to commute and presumably the other to off road in the wilderness outside their suburb.

More GM Hybrid News

GM continues its drumbeat of efficiency related news releases with an announcement that its China division will begin hybrid car production by 2008. The GM hybrid platform is a joint venture with DaimlerChrysler and BMW aimed at catching Japanese automakers Toyota and Honda who have established a strong technology lead.

The so-called “Two-Mode” hybrid system being developed by the partnership promises some interesting advancements on the single mode hybrids in use by Toyota and Ford including a more advanced continuously variable transmission and will begin appearing in Fall-2007 models.

Friday, November 10, 2006

GM's Plugin Hybrid

The Detroit News is reporting that GM will unveil a prototype Plug-In hybrid car at this year’s Detroit Auto Show. The move would seem to offer more proof that GM is pursuing a complete 180 from its recent strategy of depending on large, inefficient trucks and SUV’s as the bedrock of its business.

What remains to be seen is whether GM as a company is truly embracing efficiency as a principle core to design rather than one core to marketing. The article correctly notes that GM chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner has cited killing GM’s electric EV1 program as his worst decision because of the negative PR associated with it.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Slate’s Green Challenge

I somehow managed to miss week one of this, but am finally caught up on political news magazine Slate’s collaboration with Treehugger to produce the ‘Green Challenge’, an eight week Atkins carbon diet where participants pledge to reduce their Carbon footprint by following Oprah-easy advice from a series of columns.

Week two highlights the energy costs of heating and cooling your home. With fun facts like, “the gaps around the windows and doors in most houses let out the same amount of air, all told, as a 3-by-3-foot hole.” It is the kind of popcorn reading you can get into.