Alternative energy is one of the key pillars of Barack Obama’s budget “blueprint”, formally unveiled on Wednesday. “We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century,” Obama said in his speech Tuesday night. “It is time for America to lead again.”
Many green energy advocates say the annual $15 billion of related spending in Obama’s plan isn’t nearly enough, while critics say so-collared green-collar jobs are a myth and, regardless, won’t do much to help an unemployed machinist in the Rust Belt.
On Yahoo Tech Ticker investor and blogger Paul Kedrosky of Ten Asset Management says such debates miss the broader point: Unlike during the growth of computers, when the industry coalesced around the Mac and Windows OS, there is no agreed upon alternative energy platform. As a result, nobody really knows how much money we need – or don’t need – to invest in clean tech, which he says is more akin to drug discovery (biotech) vs. traditional tech.
Clean tech is “a giant capital pit” and public investors should only play at the margins, while private investors should focus on technologies like batteries for hybrid cars that play on the edge of existing, established industries, Kedrosky says.
Beyond that, “there’s no there there” in clean tech investing, he says.
However Mr. Kedrosky may be missing a couple of crucial points about why the federal government needs to be involved in backing renewable energy. The first is the massive infrastructure investment and federal law changes that are necessary to make the renewable energy smart grid possible. The second is the change required in the grants and political lobbying that favours the fossil fuel industry.