Accessibility links

UN Reports Rising Energy Prices Spurs Green Gold Rush

Some economists and venture capitalists say the long term rise in gas and oil prices is driving something of a technology boom. In 2007, $148 billion went towards alternative energy development. One report says such investment is expected to triple in the next few years, creating more energy efficient products for use on the road, and in homes and businesses. VOA's Paul Sisco has today's Searching for Solutions report.

Billions of dollars were spent on new wind, solar and biofuel projects last year. According to the United Nations Environmental Program, 60 percent more money was in invested in 2007, than in the 2006.

"There is certainly a gold rush of speculation. Kind of like 1849, when everyone was rushing with their picks and shovels and finding opportunities," venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson said.

Some call it a green gold rush. Efforts are under way to turn everything from cow manure, algae, cooking oil, corn, even tiny microbes into new sources of fuel.

At the laboratories of a Maryland company called Zymetis. Dr Steven Hutcheson is developing a process to turn waste paper products into biofuels, using bacterium.

"We can work with materials that are not currently being recycled,” Hutcheson said. “We can get reasonable yields of ethanol from that material and use that for production. It is not going to solve the countries total energy needs but it's a place to start."

Technology forecaster Paul Saffo says energy investments are accelerated by soaring gas prices.

"There is a lot of money coming in,” Saffo said. “It is going to make a difference but all of these technologies take time to deploy."

Jurvetson says higher gas prices can be seen as a good thing. "If gas prices stayed artificially low for the next 10 to 20 years we probably wouldn't see as much innovation that we desperately need as a planet to stave off future global warming," Jurvetson said.

The U.N. says such yearly investment will triple in the next few years and continue rising through the next decade.