POLITICS

Tim Carney: As subsidies shrink, investors flee green energy

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Photo - BANNING, CA - DECEMBER 8:  Emissions-producing diesel trucks and cars pass non-polluting windmills along the 10 freeway on December 8, 2009 near Banning, California. Sustained global warming shows no sign of letting up according to new analysis by the World Meteorological Organization made public at the climate talks in Copenhagen. Although global temperature fluctuates from year to year, overall the decade of the 2000s is likely the warmest decade in the past 150 years covered by the report. This decade is warmer than the 1990s which were warmer than the 1980s, and so on. The conclusion meshes with independent analysis by the National Climatic Data Center and NASA.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
BANNING, CA - DECEMBER 8: Emissions-producing diesel trucks and cars pass non-polluting windmills along the 10 freeway on December 8, 2009 near Banning, California. Sustained global warming shows no sign of letting up according to new analysis by the World Meteorological Organization made public at the climate talks in Copenhagen. Although global temperature fluctuates from year to year, overall the decade of the 2000s is likely the warmest decade in the past 150 years covered by the report. This decade is warmer than the 1990s which were warmer than the 1980s, and so on. The conclusion meshes with independent analysis by the National Climatic Data Center and NASA. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney,Politics Digest

I think wind energy, solar energy, and biofuel generation are all great ideas, but I don’t think taxpayers or utility-customers should be forced to subsidize them through mandates, loan guarantees, or special tax credits.

And, it seems, you can’t have one without the other. In a less subsidized market, renewables can’t compete with oil, gas, and coal. Bloomberg reports that venture capital is fleeing green energy:

Private equity and venture-capital investors provided $5.8 billion to solar, biofuel, wind and smart-grid startups worldwide last year, down 34 percent from 2011, according to an annual ranking by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The decline was part of an 11 percent drop to $268.7 billion in total investment for renewable energy last year from a record $302.3 billion the year before….

The decline is the result of waning government incentives for renewable energy and weak performance in the stock market, which made it harder for investors to extract value, said Ethan Zindler, an analyst at New Energy Finance in Washington. As a result, renewable-energy startups are now finding it harder to get funding….

Also to blame is political pressure for reining in subsidies from the U.S. to Germany amid the high-profile bankruptcies of companies that took funds from President Barack Obama’s administration, including battery maker A123 Systems Inc. (AONEQ) and solar manufacturer Solyndra LLC.

The article notes that bigger investors are stepping in. This includes Duke Energy and Warren Buffett  –  companies very close to President Obama. Duke provided $10 million in financing for Obama’s 2012 convention, and Buffett is a longtime fundraiser for the President.

This confirms what we’ve long known: if you want to play in a subsidy-dependent industry like green energy, you had better already have a clean line into the highest levels of power.

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