Likewise, electric cars have not enjoyed the success many expected. The battery alone in an electric car costs as much as a new gasoline-powered car, and electric vehicles are not selling nearly as fast as once projected.
General Motors expected to sell 60,000 Chevy Volts globally last year, but sold just half that many. Sales of Nissan’s all-electric Leaf grew 22 percent around the world last year to 26,000, short of Nissan’s projected 50 percent growth.
The cost of wind and solar power has declined, but the price of electricity made with newly cheap fossil fuels has fallen too, making it harder for wind and solar to compete.
“Renewables are now under scrutiny. They haven’t made the kinds of quantum leaps we have seen in the oil and gas industry,” says First Reserve Corp.’s Santiago, who now shuns investments in alternatives.
David Aldous, the former Shell executive, learned that lesson while trying to turn wood chips into ethanol at Range Fuels. The system that fed the chips into a gasification chamber didn’t work well, and the project failed.
“Things don’t always scale from the petri dish to the demo plant and then to the commercial plant. It’s just part of building up a new industry,” Aldous says.
Range went out of business in 2011, and it was hardly alone. Dozens of biofuel, battery and solar companies failed even though federal and state governments supported alternatives with loans and grants, and mandated their use. Others are limping along.
Pacific Ethanol, which traded near $300 per share in 2006, now trades for 28 cents. Amyris, an advanced biofuels company, traded near $34 a share as recently as last year, but now trades at $2.74. The battery maker A123 was forced to file for bankruptcy protection last year, three years after going public. An index of clean energy companies that was first traded in March 2005 is down 69 percent since then. A similar index of traditional energy companies is up 75 percent over the same period.<< previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next >>