Will Washington’s Clean Tech Spending Spree Pay Off?

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Capitol Building CleanTech's BankJennifer Kho this week asks what I can only assume is a rhetorical question on Green Inc. Blog at NYT, “Is Washington the New Wall Street for Cleantech?

There was almost $30 billion in the stimulus bill that could be described as allocated toward cleantech. Lobbyists are flocking to the Hill on Waxman-Markey, and they don’t work for free.

There is ample evidence that angels and VCs are now second fiddle to the American taxpayer when it comes to cleantech capital for the next generation of innovation and investment.

To me, a more debatable and salient question is: Given that VCs and angels are looking for ROI – usually explosive ROI from the “killer app” – they have a certain set of criteria that they use to evaluate who and what gets funded; the government on the other hand has no such interest. Their interest is not in seeing a technology achieve commercial success, it is in policy advancement, political gain, maybe even – gasp! – some patronage.

Does that shift in the key investors’ priorities mean that we will see money spread around on a bunch of pie-in-the-sky projects or hopeless technologies instead of being thrown behind the most competitive, and innovative ideas?

In my mind there is no debate. We may get to the same or similar endgames no matter who is funding the technology development, but with the government doing it, it will cost A LOT more to get us there in the aggregate.

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4 Comments

  1. Pingback: Can the U.S. Government Be an Effective Cleantech VC? : CleanTechnica

  2. I believe less government involvement is always good bureaucrats deciding who gets the funds and what technology drives innovation is like the Easter bunny handing out MM’s at a candy store.

  3. I believe the correct term should be “Cap and Tax”.

    Why is that the only Republican Congressmen to vote yes are on the east and left coasts of America? It is because the “trade” portion of this monstrous bill will go to the very same Wall Street that got us where we are hence the “trade” aspect. Not to mention the Pols that went along for the ride.

    If fossil fuels can’t be produced in America the oil companies will just import it and make our enemies richer and stringer.

    This is a bad bill that should not pass.

    • Martin:

      Thanks for reading, and for the comment. I heard Rush yesterday citing (I’m sorry I forget to whom) the derivative exchange opportunities as the reason behind — especially — the NJ GOP support. I don’t think its far-fetched.

      Its interesting to note that after a cataclysmic financial collapse widely blamed on over-leveraging and over-commoditization, we determine that the best solution to an already very complex physical problem is to create a new derivatives market that attempts to commoditize carbon emissions.

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