1-14-2014 60 Minutes, Cleantech Crash? Not Likely
All About Money
60 Minutes recently aired a segment called “Cleantech Crash,” which has received harsh criticism from the cleantech sector. The report by Lesley Stahl painted a bleak view of the future of clean energy, and all but said that tax dollars are being wasted. The segment is rife with inaccuracies, the least of which was interviewing venture capitalists instead of experts in cleantech.
CBS focused on profit and monetary gain, entirely missing the point of what we call cleantech. In “An open invitation to 60 Minutes to discuss energy,” CEO of Jigar Shah Consulting, Jigar Shah, states that “Real success in energy is not coming from new inventions” and that “Climate wealth is being created through the deployment of technologies that were invented in the 1970s,” which is what 60 Minutes should have focused on. We already have the technology to lessen our dependence on nonrenewable resources, and indeed, the switch to cleantech, to solar, wind, thermal, and biomass created energy make up almost a quarter of the energy used in the United States.
Lesley Stahl criticized the Department of Energy, implying that they have wasted taxpayers’ money through loans and grants to companies that ended up going under. She never mentions how many of the companies that were invested in are still up and running, or even how new methods of getting clean energy has made it more efficient and affordable in recent years.
Instead of focusing on the short term, monetary payoffs of investing in cleantech, we should be focusing on the reason renewable energy is so important. The reason we have to and are investing so much time and money into cleantech is because of the havoc burning fossil fuels has caused. Even if a company turns out to not be profitable in the short run, it could help make all the difference in the long run by providing clean energy alternatives to the public.
Even with businesses in the cleantech industry failing, there is not likely to be a crash. Due to competition, changes in the market, and other factors, a certain percentage of businesses (usually quoted as “9 out of 10”) are actually expected to fail. That does not mean that cleantech is a poor investment, or that it is another trend that will go away. The use of clean energy, especially solar and wind, will continue to climb and will eventually be used more than fossil fuels.
Investing in the cleantech industry now will pay off, but not as quickly as most investors would like. The market for clean energy is strong, and technological breakthroughs make solar and wind more available by making it more efficient and less expensive. But it takes time and money for all of that to happen. A lot of money has already been put in with promising results, we just need to focus on why we are interested in clean energy so we don’t miss the big payoff.