An Introduction to the Alternative Energy Conversation

Greenhouse gas emissions. Strong ties to Middle Eastern oil barons. A finite supply. Price volatility. Sure, we have all heard the different repercussions that our "addiction to oil" is causing us Americans, and the magnitude of these concerns seems to get worse every day.

In the past, when a sudden threat to our heavily fossil fuel-laden energy infrastructure occurred (such as the Arab oil embargoes of the 1970’s), enterprising entrepreneurs quickly raced to their labs to research and develop new technologies that would make fossil fuels obsolete. Later on, when the threat dissipated, these plans would be scrapped and we would once again bow down to reign of the oil kings. Alternative energy technology was no more than a fad. A sustainable planet was no more than a pipe dream to the select few who dared envision one.

Fast forward to the mid-2000’s, and we face similar threats to our current system. This time around, though, the responses to our crises are aimed at producing definitive, tangible results. There are market mechanisms in place such as cap-and-trade systems to curb emissions. Venture capital funding is being poured into new energy technologies in droves. Just about half of the 50 states in the union have adopted renewable portfolio standards for their power output, and more are expected to put forth similar policies. There are some federal incentives in place to develop new technologies and they should only become more prevalent down the road.

The paradigm is finally shifting and people are becoming more forward-thinking. "Sustainability" has quickly become a buzzword of the new millennium and is being embraced by Wall Street. Sustainability practices are becoming more and more important in the vision and strategy of the corporate world, as executives are seeing how they can use these practices to gain a competitive advantage and increase their bottom lines.

Alternative energy technologies are helping to lead this paradigm shift, and we have only scratched the surface. Indeed, this industry has finally reached its tipping point, and the proliferation of these technologies could provide a turnkey solution to a lot of the problems we face today. Alternative energy produces little or no emissions. It does not rely on market-controlling oil cartels that we are not part of. Its retail costs are stable, predictable, and declining. And it will not ever run out.

While the alternative energy industry as a whole will guide us into the twenty-first century, unfortunately not everyone involved will survive. Just as when any disruptive technology hits the market, you will also have your share of winners and losers here. There is no "silver bullet" technology that will be superior to all else, nor is there a particular player in the field that is currently a clear cut leader. Here at The Panelist, we will try and dissect this new era and give our opinion on who will win and who will simply compete.

There are some exciting times ahead of us. We are looking forward to watching these technological advances unfold before our eyes. While we can not guarantee who will come out on top, we can guarantee who will come out on the bottom – those that choose to rely on the technologies that carried us yesterday and not adapt to the evolution that will carry us tomorrow.

So stick around to see what’s ahead. For those that are already on board, nice to meet you. For those that have not yet introduced yourselves, we invite you to come on board and we’ll answer your questions. And for those who insist on staying on the shore . . . we wish you luck.