Skip to content

Confidence In Green Investment Crumbles

John Bussey, The Wall Street Journal

Given all the interest in protecting the environment from mankind’s rapid advance, you’d think this might be the best time ever to invest in renewable energy and the Next Big Green Thing. Large parts of green-tech investment look like the torched and salted fields left behind by Roman conquerors: barren, lifeless—and bereft of a return on capital. Put another way: In some areas, if you aren’t already investor road kill, you’re likely the hedgehog in the headlights about to join your maker.

Investing in clean energy has to be more than just “a noble way to lose money,” says Joseph Dear, investment chief for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. He told The Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics conference last week that Calpers’ returns from the sector have sputtered.


Which is not to say there isn’t plenty of innovation fueling renewable energy. ECO:nomics annually gathers top entrepreneurs, thinkers, companies, investors and environmentalists who define the intersection of business and the environment. This year they heard plenty of reason for optimism, in such areas as energy conservation, sustainable cities, agribusiness and battery research.

And then there’s cheap shale gas, a dominant theme. More production of natural gas, which emits less carbon than fuels like coal, is spurring new manufacturing and job growth. Michael Brune, head of the Sierra Club, said the negative impact of shale fracking is underestimated. Marvin E. Odum, president of Shell Oil, argued that new drilling technology and industry standard-setting would allay these concerns.

But it was undeniable that waning investment in the green side of the energy spectrum was the other dominant theme.

Full story