A recent “60 Minutes” segment essentially called the cleantech industry a failure, eliciting a flurry of criticisms defending the green technology sector. “Hoping to create innovation and jobs, [President Obama] committed north of $100 billion in loans, grants and tax breaks to cleantech. But instead of breakthroughs, the sector suffered a string of expensive tax-funded flops. Suddenly cleantech was a dirty word,” said “60 Minutes'” host, Lesley Stahl.
One of the main criticisms against the CBS segment was that it conflated the cleantech venture capital sector of Silicon Valley with the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program. The critics have pointed out that the DOE loan program’s mission is “to accelerate commercial deployment of innovative clean energy technologies, including job creating,” and not to make money, as VC’s are aligned to do. Furthermore, many critics of the “60 Minutes” piece point to the massive developments and growth in both wind and solar as evidence that, despite big name busts such as Solyndra, the loan program has been successful. But Katie Fehrenbacher, Senior Writer for GigaOM, noted that “60 Minutes” accurately showed that from a “purely venture capital perspective, cleantech has been ugly and has crashed.”
How is the cleantech industry faring, and what does its future look like? Should the government be involved in cleantech, and if so, how?