Today in Cleantech

My colleague Katie Fehrenbacher reports that the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E research funding program will be giving out $30 million to companies working on next-generation natural gas vehicle technology. The light duty passenger vehicle side of the natural gas vehicle equation seems farther off. But if natural gas hawks like T. Boone Pickens persuade Congress to provide subsidies to natural gas transportation efforts and natural gas prices stay close to their current low levels, the medium and long haul trucking industry is likely to see many more natural gas vehicles with excitement around dual use diesel/natural gas vehicles. For more on the potential for natural gas to become a significant transportation fuel, check out my recent weekly update.

How the natural gas craze will impact renewable energy

Natural gas is often described as a bridge fuel to get us through the transition from fossil fuels to renewables. But for many, it’s an abundant natural resource found on every continent that they hope will dominate the 21st century, as much as oil dominated the 20th century. A likely side effect of that will be that investment in renewables suffers.

Today in Cleantech

So far this morning at the Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics Conference, it’s been all natural gas, all the time. As most in the renewable energy sector dream of solar panels, wind power, biofuels, and geothermal, the folks with money and power here at the conference—T. Boone Pickens, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, and Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon—want to tell you that the 4000 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas in the U.S. is the energy future. In a moment of candor, McClendon said he looks forward to the day he can say “to hell with OPEC.” And that’s the vision for this group of energy leaders, becoming energy independent from Middle Eastern oil. It’s a patriotic sales pitch. And if it weren’t for Carter Bales, conservationist and Chairman of private equity firm NewWorld Capital, who let panelist know that natural gas development sidelines renewable energy development, no one would have mentioned the relationship between natural gas and renewable energy. As for anyone questioning the impact of natural gas on climate change, apparently that’s a question for another conference.

A push for cheaper, safer natural gas cars

President Obama wants more natural gas development, and with it he wants to see more natural gas powered cars on American streets. He announced Thursday a $30 million R&D fund to develop technologies that will make natural gas cars cheaper and safer to drive and refuel.

Chesapeake launches clean energy tech fund

Corporations are some of the few types of investors still pursuing new opportunities in greentech investing. Here’s the latest: natural gas company Chesapeake Energy announced on Monday that it plans to invest up to $1 billion into technologies that can use natural gas instead of oil.