Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Internet companies can lead the way to a green energy revolution


Miguel Helft has a detailed story on p B1 “Business Day” in The New York Times today, “Idealists and a Green Agenda: Environmental Investments Could Pay Off for Google”, link here.

I backtrack here. Oprah Winfrey has been one of the most powerful proponents of going green in the media, and, given how the election is going and her influence on the primaries last spring, “you do what Oprah says” (so said someone on Larry King Live recently). Google has been one of the most conspicuous companies with a variety of initiatives to invest in green energy sources in various ways, such as building server farms near renewable sources (like hydroelectric) and providing electric cars for employees to rent (a picture appears in the New York Times story). (That’s what Oprah, the media spearhead for the Democratic Party, says to do!)

More seriously, the details provided in the story seem to comport with suggestions by Thomas Friedman in his recent book “Hot Flat and Crowded” (my book review is here) where he argues that Internet technology needs to be combined with energy generation and distribution to help consumers save not only money but carbon emissions.

This brings up the obvious question of how much more oil companies will have to come around and become players in renewable energy technology (like ExxonMobil, previously discussed on this blog), and how public policy can be set up to encourage them to do so. (For example, here is XOM’s latest press release on Battery Separator Film Technology.

As for oil prices staying down because of the current recession, I don’t believe it. Remember CNN’s film “We Were Warned” about the coming oil crisis, should there be a major attack on the Saudi oil distribution facility or blockage of the Straits of Hormuz by Iran.

In the long run, the companies that get on the clean energy bandwagon will be the winners in the equity markets, but it will take a few years, at least, given the current recession. This really is the time to innovate, when many investors are distracted.

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