Thursday, June 26, 2008

New Energy: "I'll Follow the Sun"

The Economist has this week a great survey on the future of energy production; as you would expect from the Economist, it summarizes the most important research in the field (wind, solar, bio-energy, etc), weeds the hype behind the current "greener than tough" PR greenwashing, and sticks to it's common sense focus on the economic value of these new technologies. Here's how it's all positioned:

SINCE the industrial revolution 200 years ago, mankind has depended on fossil fuel. The notion that this might change is hard to contemplate. Greens may hector. Consciences may nag. The central heating's thermostat may turn down a notch or two. A less thirsty car may sit in the drive. But actually stop using the stuff? Impossible to imagine: surely there isn't a serious alternative?

Such a failure of imagination has been at the heart of the debate about climate change. The green message—use less energy—is not going to solve the problem unless economic growth stops at the same time. If it does not (and it won't), any efficiency saving will soon be eaten up by higher consumption per head. Even the hair-shirt option, then, will bring only short-term relief. And when a dire prophecy from environmentalism's jeremiad looks as if it is coming true, as the price of petroleum rises through the roof and the idea that oil might run out is no longer whispered in corners but openly discussed, there is a temptation to believe that the end of the world is, indeed, nigh.

So the Cassandras should get pragmatic and look around; the best way to summarize this chase for alternative energy is summarized by The Economist with a Beatles song title, or as they graphically put it:
So it's "Keep It Sunny", apparently... Either you harvest the energy from the sun directly or let nature do its thing and harvest one of the "by-products" (even wind is a result of sun stirring the atmosphere). There is promising research along the whole path between the sun and the fuel.

To me, it was a good information source and I learned a lot about the technologies and trends. I can read through it and eventually make up investment advice, it I am to believe that the next bubble comes from alternative energy (make up your own mind, I'm not that reliable with investment advise :) ). Or, if you think of switching jobs and work in the alternative energy, the names mentioned in the articles are likely to be the next great companies.

Read them, save them and, last but not least, see there is hope and the economic value starts making business sense, so the money will follow. (There's an offer to buy the whole PDF. Read it soon if you're not a subscriber, the links might require a password soon.)

Contributed by "Hubby, the Economist reading geek".

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