Issues

Summary

An excerpt from Green to Gold (pages 39-40):

"Energy is not exactly an environmental problem like the others on our list. But every society needs energy, and energy production, no matter what the method, can damage the environment…Some forecast an end to what energy guru Dan Yergin has called the era of “Hydrocarbon Man.” Others dispute this claim. While acknowledging that a carbon-constrained world is upon us, they envision new technologies that will allow the capture of carbon dioxide and dangerous pollutants like mercury, thereby enabling fossil fuel burning for years to come. Clearly the exact path of our energy future is yet to be charted, but whatever course it takes will affect every industry."

The Science

Energy is one of the world's most closely watched industries, so information on its generation, use, and pricing is easily found. Some of the sites below provide a good starting point:

Business response and resources

For the heavy industries and big companies that use significant amounts of energy, this issue will be a core strategic challenge. Depending on volatile commodities like natural gas and oil creates risk and cost. On the flip side, companies that manage energy use best will have an advantage. But the issue is so large, it's no surprise that even the largest companies are banding together. A prime example is the Green Power Market Development Group, a partnership of big business which is investing in new renewable energy production.  Companies as diverse as Johnson & Johnson, GM, and Starbucks have banded together to try and change the energy marketplace.

The other part of the energy/business interface that's interesting is the rapid growth of capital and investment in "clean tech," which focuses a great deal on energy markets. See firms such as Clean Edge and the Cleantech Venture Network for more details on this trend.

Finally, the renewable energy world is growing fast. Industry groups such as the American Wind Energy Association or American Solar Energy Society (ASES) bring together these new players.