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The next bubble: Priming the markets for tomorrow's big crash
There is one industry that fits the bill: alternative energy, the development of more energy-efficient products, along with viable alternatives to oil, including wind, solar, and geothermal power, along with the use of nuclear energy to produce sustainable oil substitutes, such as liquefied hydrogen from water. Indeed, the next bubble is already being branded. Wired magazine, returning to its roots in boosterism, put ethanol on the cover of its October 2007 issue, advising its readers to forget oil; NBC had a “Green Week” in November 2007, with themed shows beating away at an ecological message and Al Gore making a guest appearance on the sitcom 30 Rock. Improbably, Gore threatens to become the poster boy for the new new new economy: he has joined the legendary venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which assisted at the births of Amazon.com and Google, to oversee the “climate change solutions group,” thus providing a massive dose of Nobel Prize–winning credibility that will be most useful when its first alternative-energy investments are taken public before a credulous mob. Other ventures—Lazard Capital Markets, Generation Investment Management, Nth Power, EnerTech Capital, and Battery Ventures—are funding an array of startups working on improvements to solar cells, to biofuels production, to batteries, to “energy management” software, and so on.
Total market value: Alternative energy and infrastructure. Estimated fictitious value of next bubble compared with previous bubbles
The candidates for the 2008 presidential election, notably Obama, Clinton, Romney, and McCain, now invoke “energy security” in their stump speeches and on their websites. Previously, “energy independence” was more common, and perhaps this change in terminology is a hint that a portion of the Homeland Security budget will be allocated for alternative energy, a potential boon for startups and for FIRE.
More valuable than campaign rhetoric, however, is legislation. The Energy Policy Act of 2005, a massive bill known to morning commuters for extending daylight savings time, contained provisions guaranteeing loans for alternative-energy businesses, including nuclear-power technology. The bill authorizes $200 million annually for clean-coal initiatives, repeals the current 160-acre cap on coal leases, offers subsidies for wind energy and other alternative-energy producers, and promises $50 million annually, over the life of the bill, for a biomass grant program.
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Gore investment body closes $683m fund
The investment vehicle headed by Al Gore has closed a new $683m fund to invest in early-stage environmental companies and has mounted a robust defence of green investing.
The Climate Solutions Fund will be one of the biggest in the growing market for investment funds with an environmental slant.