I had just written myself a note because I had that eureka moment which I talked about in yesterday’s post. I suddenly realized that the oil industry has a vested interest in blocking those who want to make clean technology workable. (I know; sometimes I am a little slow.) Anyway, after I wrote that note to myself I went to my mailbox and found the Wall Street Journal for Saturday, March 9th. Tucked into the center was WSJ. Money, a special section for Spring, 2013. Inside was an article called Cleaning Out with the subtitle: “It wins the hearts of environmentalists, but what does clean tech do for investors? Why some are heading for cover?”
Written by Udayan Gupta this article shows that there has been a decline in investment in clean energy alternatives, and it connects this decline with the new technologies for extracting oil and natural gas which are promising energy independence for America (even perhaps exportable surpluses). Mr. Gupta tells us, “Market analysts at Goldman Sachs, HSBC and UBS are now advising their clients to steer clear of clean tech.”
It is fairly obvious that this move is more about profit and less about climate change. We would have to be foolish to ask the oil industry if climate change is real and to expect an objective response. Yet much of the advertising that encourages us to use the newer, cleaner fossil fuels comes from the fossil fuel industry, although they may use that bland-sounding female spokeswoman they like to use to throw us off their scent.
How do you get investors to put money into a technology that is still in the developmental stage when others are raking in the bucks by staying with old energy technology? This would only happen if everyone agreed that continuing to use fossil fuels will continue to release greenhouse gases, which will continue to heat the atmosphere, which will eventually melt the ice caps and bury coastal cities. We don’t seem to be having much luck convincing an industry that is making money hand over fist that this scenario is actually in play. Choosing to block a possible negative outcome that may be decades down the road is unlikely when profits are the goal you must shoot for right now.
Mr. Gupta goes on to quote Shad Azimi of Vanterra Capital, “Even worse, the global economic crunch appears to be making it harder for national governments to maintain their funding commitments and tax breaks for clean tech. This development so alarmed climate-change organizations that they put together a group representing $22 trillion in assets and presented a joint letter at a United Nations conference. Their communiqué warned ‘further delay in implementing adequately ambitious climate and clean energy policy will increase investment risk for institutional investors and jeopardize the investments and retirement savings of millions of citizens.’”
Abandoning investment in clean fuel, in other words, will not only affect the planet, it will affect citizens who already included such investments in their portfolios. Will we one day wish we never decided to suck the oil out of the depths of our Earth in order to maintain the status quo? Change is difficult and shifting to clean tech is a big change, perhaps too big for an economy invested in fossil fuels and without any certain proof that we must either change or be changed. Still, I am afraid; I am very afraid that what we earthlings really can’t afford is to abandon our investments in clean technologies research, development, manufacture and implementation.
Photo credits: Top of page photo is from a Google image search, Mid and bottom graphics are scanned from the WSJ article mentioned in the text.