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The Latest Victim of Shale Gas — Clean Energy Technology

Submitted by on January 25, 2012 – 5:12 pmNo Comment

by Steve LeVine (Foreign Policy/Oil And Glory)  In the new issue of Wired, Julie Eilperin writes that clean-technology investment is in the throes of going bust, at least in the United States. That includes solar, wind and biofuels.

…Citi Group analyst Edward Morse concludes that shale gas … could fuel a U.S. industrial renaissance, specifically in energy-intensive products such as chemicals, plastics and housewares. But to the degree that Morse is right, it is coming at a cost, which is a “clean tech meltdown,” according to Eilperin: Because natural gas has gotten so cheap, there is no longer a financial incentive to go with renewables.

…Still, it is useful to keep in mind that neither Eilperin’s nor Morse’s scenario is set in concrete — fracking is subject to a set of serious problems that could yet curtail its use, Peter Farley writes atMIT Technology Review. In addition, U.S. government investment in clean technology may dry up — and solar and wind have yet to prove able to stand on their own legs without subsidies — but venture capital appears to continue strong, writes Felicity Carus at AOL Energy.

…For example, much of the oil under discussion — oil shale and oil sands among the resources — is economical to produce only under sustained high oil-price scenarios. But what if oil prices don’t stay high?   READ MORE and MORE (Wired Magazine)

From Wired Magazine:  …There was an additional factor at work: impatience. Venture capitalists tend to work on three- to five-year horizons. As they were quickly finding out, energy companies don’t operate on those timelines.

…The truth is that starting a company on the supply side of the energy business requires an investment in heavy industry that the VC firms didn’t fully reckon with. The only way to find out if a new idea in this sector will work at scale is to build a factory and see what happens. Ethan Zindler, head of policy analysis for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, says the VC community simply assumed that the formula for success in the Internet world would translate to the clean-tech arena. “What a lot of them didn’t bargain for, and, frankly, didn’t really understand,” he says, “is that it’s almost never going to be five guys in a garage. You need a heck of a lot of money to prove that you can do your technology at scale.”

…The price of natural gas peaked at nearly $13 per thousand cubic feet in 2008. It now stands at around $3.  READ MORE

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