Where’s the next boom? Maybe in `cleantech’

October 6, 2009

Energy breakthroughs could be the next big thing, but how many jobs can they generate?

By Jordan Robertson, AP Technology Writer
9:33 pm EDT, Tuesday October 6, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Our economy sure could use the Next Big Thing. Something on the scale of railroads, automobiles or the Internet — the kind of breakthrough that emerges every so often and builds industries, generates jobs and mints fortunes.

Silicon Valley investors are pointing to something called cleantech — alternative energy, more efficient power distribution and new ways to store electricity, all with minimal impact to the environment — as a candidate for the next boom.

And while no two booms are exactly alike, some hallmarks are already showing up.

Despite last fall’s financial meltdown, public and private investments are pouring in, fueling startups and reinvigorating established companies. The political and social climates are favorable. If it takes off, cleantech could seep into every part of the economy and our lives.

Some of the biggest booms first blossomed during recessions. The telephone and phonograph were developed during the depression of the 1870s. The integrated circuit, a milestone in electronics, was invented in the recessionary year of 1958. Personal computers went mainstream, spawning a huge industry, in the slumping early 1980s.

A year into the Great Recession, innovation isn’t slowing. This time, it’s better batteries, more efficient solar cells, smarter appliances and electric cars, not to mention all the infrastructure needed to support the new ways energy will be generated and the new ways we’ll be using it.

Yet for all the benefits that might be spawned by cleantech breakthroughs, no one knows how many jobs might be created — or how many old jobs might be cannibalized. It also remains to be seen whether Americans will clamor for any of its products.

Still, big bets are being placed. The Obama administration is pledging to invest $150 billion over the next decade on energy technology and says that could create 5 million jobs. This recession has wiped out 7.2 million.

And cleantech is on track to be the dominant force in venture capital investments over the next few years, supplanting biotechnology and software. Venture capitalists have poured $8.7 billion into energy-related startups in the U.S. since 2006.

That pales in comparison with the dot-com boom, when venture cash sometimes topped $10 billion in a single quarter. But the momentum surrounding clean energy is reminiscent of the Internet’s early days. Among the similarities: Although big projects are still dominated by large companies, the scale of the challenges requires innovation by smaller firms that hope to be tomorrow’s giants.

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Obama signs $787 billion stimulus into law

February 17, 2009

Ceremony setting highlights investment in ‘green’ technology

By Robert Schroeder, MarketWatch
3:39 p.m. EST Feb. 17, 2009

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — President Barack Obama signed the sprawling $787 billion economic stimulus package into law on Tuesday, saying it will help the struggling U.S. economy but warning that the recovery process will be challenging.

“Today does not mark the end of our economic troubles,” Obama said before signing the bill in Denver, Colo. “Nor does it constitute all of what we must do to turn our economy around.”

But, said Obama “it does mark the beginning of the end” of what the U.S. needs to do to create jobs, provide relief to families and pave the way for long-term growth.

Obama signed the bill on Tuesday afternoon in a ceremony in Denver after touring a solar panel installation project at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Among other things, the bill funnels money to alternative energy projects, provides tax cuts for individuals and businesses and gives aid to states.

Congress approved the bill on Feb. 13. Democrats voted overwhelmingly in the House and Senate to back the bill, but no Republicans voted for it in the House and only three voted for it in the Senate.

Obama has repeatedly described the stimulus as the first in a multi-part strategy to hasten an economic recovery. Read a summary of the stimulus.

On Wednesday, the administration plans to announce details about a $50 billion program to modify mortgages for troubled homeowners. The Treasury Department plans to use $50 billion of the remaining $350 billion in a bank-bailout fund for a program to help troubled homeowners avoid defaulting on their loans by subsidizing mortgage payments.

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Huge stimulus bill passes House

January 28, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a swift victory for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House approved a historically huge $819 billion stimulus bill Wednesday night with spending increases and tax cuts at the heart of the young administration’s plan to revive a badly ailing economy.

The vote was 244-188, with Republicans unanimous in opposition despite Obama’s frequent pleas for bipartisan support.

“This recovery plan will save or create more than three million new jobs over the next few years,” the president said in a written statement released moments after the House voted.

The vote sent the bill to the Senate, where debate could begin as early as Monday on a companion measure already taking shape. Democratic leaders have pledged to have legislation ready for Obama’s signature by mid-February.

With unemployment at its highest level in a quarter-century, the banking industry wobbling despite the infusion of staggering sums of bailout money and states struggling with budget crises, Democrats said the legislation was desperately needed.

Republicans said the bill was short on tax cuts and contained too much spending, much of it wasteful, and would fall far short of administration’s predictions of job creation.

On the final vote, the legislation drew the support of all but 11 Democrats, while all Republicans opposed it.

The White House-backed legislation includes an estimated $544 billion in federal spending and $275 billion in tax cuts for individuals and businesses. The totals remained in flux nearly until the final vote, due to official re-estimates and a last-minute addition of $3 billion for mass transit.

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Dow plunges on news recession began in Dec. 2007

December 1, 2008

Monday December 1, 7:04 pm ET
By Jeannine Aversa and Martin Crutsinger, AP Economics Writers

Dow sinks nearly 680 after group says US has been in a recession since December 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) — Most Americans sorely knew it already, but now it’s official: The country is in a recession, and it’s getting worse. Wall Street convulsed at the news — and a fresh batch of bad economic reports — tanking nearly 680 points. With the economic pain likely to stretch well into 2009, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Monday he stands ready to lower interest rates yet again and to explore other rescue or revival measures.

Rushing in reinforcements, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who along with Bernanke has been leading the government’s efforts to stem the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, pledged to take all the steps he can in the waning days of the Bush administration to provide relief. Specifically, Paulson is eyeing more ways to tap into a $700 billion financial bailout pool.

On Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., vowed to have a massive economic stimulus package ready on Inauguration Day for President-elect Barack Obama’s signature.

That measure — which could total a whopping $500 billion — would bankroll big public works projects to generate jobs, provide aid to states to help with Medicaid costs and provide money toward renewable energy development. Crafting such a colossal recovery package would mark a Herculean feat: Congress convenes Jan. 6, giving lawmakers just two weeks to complete their work if it is to be signed on Jan. 20.

President George W. Bush, in an interview with ABC’s “World News,” expressed remorse about lost jobs, cracked nest eggs and other damage wrought by the financial crisis. “I’m sorry it’s happening, of course,” said Bush. The president said he’d back more government intervention.

None of the pledges for more action could comfort Wall Street investors. The Dow Jones industrials plunged 679.95 points, or 7.70 percent, to close at 8,149.09.

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Obama aide promotes job plan, warns automakers

November 24, 2008

Monday November 24, 12:16 am ET
By Jim Kuhnhenn, Associated Press Writers

Obama adviser promotes economic aid plan, seeks swift congressional action; automakers warned

WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Barack Obama signaled Sunday he will move urgently and aggressively to rescue the plunging economy, demanding swift passage by Congress of a massive two-year spending and tax-cutting recovery program. “We’re out with the dithering, we’re in with a bang,” a top Obama aide said.

Obama’s plans, outlined by his transition team on television talk shows, could put aside his campaign pledge to repeal a Bush tax cut for the wealthy. With the downturn in the economy, those tax cuts may remain in place until they are scheduled to die in 2011, said William M. Daley, an economic adviser. “That looks more likely than not,” he said.

Obama aides called on lawmakers to pass, by the Jan. 20 inauguration, legislation that meets Obama’s two-year goal of saving or creating 2.5 million jobs. Democratic congressional leaders said they would get to work when Congress convenes Jan. 6.

Though Obama aides declined to discuss a total cost, it probably would far exceed the $175 billion he proposed during the campaign. Some economists and lawmakers have argued for a two-year plan as large as $700 billion, equal to the Wall Street bailout Congress approved last month.

“I don’t know what the exact number is, but it’s going to be a big number. It has to be,” said Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee.

With the wounded economy worsening, the Obama team’s new assertiveness was a recognition he needed to soothe financial markets with signs of leadership. It also foreshadowed a more hands-on role by Obama to influence congressional action during the final weeks of the transition.

Obama will introduce his economic team on Monday, including Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary and Lawrence Summers as head of the National Economic Council. Obama also has settled on New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as his commerce secretary.

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Hope and Dreams Portfolio

November 21, 2008

The stocks in this group fall under the green/conservation/water umbrella. They are generally solving problems by doing good for society. Oh, and they make some money in the process.

Think positive and your dollars will respond in kind.

AMSC – supplies electrical systems used in wind turbines; sells power electronic products that regulate wind farm voltage to enable their interconnection to the power grid; licenses wind energy system designs to manufacturers of such systems, and provides consulting services to the wind industry.

BMI – is a manufacturer of flow measurement and control products, serving water utilities, municipalities and industrial customers worldwide. Measuring a variety of liquids, from potable water to oil and lubricants, to industrial processes, the Company’s products provide timely measurement information to its customers.

CCC – is a provider of products, and solutions for purifying water and air.

CDZI – is primarily engaged in acquiring and developing land and water resources. Its primary assets consist of 45,000 acres of land in three areas of eastern San Bernardino County, California. The Company’s portfolio of water resources are located in proximity to the Colorado River and the Colorado River Aqueduct, the principal source of imported water for Southern California, and provides the Company with the opportunity to participate in a variety of water storage and supply programs, exchanges and conservation programs with public agencies and other partners.

CLHB – is a provider of environmental services and an operator of non-nuclear hazardous waste treatment facilities in North America. The Company performs environmental services for over 45,000 customers, including more than 325 Fortune 500 companies.

CREE – focuses its expertise in SiC and GaN on light emitting diodes (LEDs), which consist of LED chips, LED components and LED lighting solutions. It also develops power and radio frequency (RF) products, including power switching and RF devices.

CWCO – develops and operates seawater desalination plants and water distribution systems in areas where naturally occurring supplies of potable water are scarce or nonexistent.

ELON – develops, markets, and sells system and network infrastructure products that enable various devices such as air conditioners, appliances, electricity meters, light switches, thermostats, and valves to be made smart and inter-connected. The Company’s products and services are offered to the principal markets, which include electric utilities, building automation, industrial automation, demand response, street lighting, home control and transportation.

FSYS – designs, manufactures and supplies alternative fuel components and systems for use in the transportation, industrial and power generation industries on a global basis.

FTEK – is an integrated company that uses a suite of technologies to provide boiler optimization, efficiency improvement and air pollution reduction and control solutions to utility and industrial customers worldwide. Fuel Tech’s special focus is the worldwide marketing of its nitrogen oxide (NOx) reduction and FUEL CHEM processes.

GRC – designs, manufactures and sells pumps and related equipment (pump and motor controls) for use in water, wastewater, construction, industrial, petroleum, original equipment, agriculture, fire protection, heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC), military and other liquid-handling applications.

HAIN – is engaged in manufacturing, marketing, distributing and selling natural and organic food products, and natural and organic personal care products under brand names, which are sold as better-for-you products.

HEV – has developed a working prototype of its hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) battery pack and is producing sample cells for testing for an electric vehicle (EV) battery pack.

ITRI
– provides a portfolio of products and services to utilities for the energy and water markets throughout the world. The Company is a provider of metering, data collection and software.

LNN – is a designer and manufacturer of self-propelled center pivot and lateral move irrigation systems, which are used in the agricultural industry to stabilize crop production while conserving water, energy, and labor.

PNR
– is a global player in providing products and systems used worldwide in the movement, storage, treatment and enjoyment of water.

SWWC
– is engaged in providing a range of services, including water production, treatment and distribution; wastewater collection and treatment; utility operations and maintenance services; and utility infrastructure construction.

TTEK – provides consulting, engineering, construction, and technical services for resource management and infrastructure in the United States and internationally. Its services include research and development, applied science and technology, engineering design, program management, construction management, construction, and operations and maintenance.

WGOV – engages in the design and manufacture of energy control and optimization solutions for reciprocating engine, aircraft and industrial turbines, and electrical power system equipment used in various industries worldwide. The company primarily provides integrated control systems and control components, such as electronics, actuators, valves, fuel systems, and combustion systems to OEMs of gas turbines for use in aerospace and industrial power markets; to OEMs of diesel engines, gas engines, steam turbines, and distributors for use in power generation, marine, transportation, and process applications; and to OEMs of electrical power generation, distribution, conversion, and quality equipment using digital controls and inverter technologies.

WTS
– is a supplier of products for use in the water quality, water safety, water flow control and water conservation markets.


Historic bailout bill passes Congress; Bush signs

October 3, 2008

Friday October 3, 6:02 pm ET
By Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Associated Press Writer

Congress enacts historic bailout legislation for financial industry; Bush quickly signs it

WASHINGTON (AP) — With the economy on the brink of meltdown and elections looming, a reluctant Congress abruptly reversed course and approved a historic $700 billion government bailout of the battered financial industry on Friday. President Bush swiftly signed it.

The 263-171 vote capped two weeks of tumult in Congress and on Wall Street, punctuated by urgent warnings from Bush that the country confronted the gravest economic disaster since the Great Depression if lawmakers failed to act.

“We have acted boldly to help prevent the crisis on Wall Street from becoming a crisis in communities across our country,” Bush said shortly after the plan cleared Congress, although he conceded, “our economy continues to face serious challenges.”

His somber warning was underscored on Wall Street, where enthusiasm over the rescue gave way to worries about obstacles still facing the economy, and the Dow Jones industrials dropped 157 points. The Labor Department said earlier in the day that employers had slashed 159,000 jobs in September, the largest cut in five years.

The historic vote was a striking turnaround from the measure’s spectacular failure earlier in the week, which had triggered a massive stock sell-off and prompted jittery lawmakers — fearing a crushing economic contagion that was spreading to their constituents — to reconsider.

“Let’s not kid ourselves: We’re in the midst of a recession. It’s going to be a rough ride, but it will be a whole lot rougher ride” without the rescue plan, said Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, the minority leader, as he prepared to cast his vote for the most sweeping federal intervention in markets in decades.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson pledged quick action to get the program up and operating.

The bailout, which gives the government broad authority to buy up toxic mortgage-related investments and other distressed assets from tottering financial institutions, is designed to ease a credit crunch that began on Wall Street but is engulfing businesses around the nation.

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