Top 4 Cleantech Headlines to Watch for in 2011

1/10/11

1. Cap and Trade Discarded by Congress in National Energy Policy

Cascadia believes that Congress will implement a national energy policy in the coming year that focuses primarily on incenting new production of natural gas, renewable energies and nuclear; however, it will not include economic penalties for not achieving a reduction in carbon emissions.

2. Rising Oil Prices Lead to Investments in Natural Gas

As the economy continues to slowly improve over the next 12 months, Cascadia predicts that oil will hit $100 per barrel. At the same time, oil companies will look to expand their operations by purchasing natural gas companies and assets.

3. Waste to Energy Technology Ready for Prime Time

Cascadia believes that technologies capable of converting municipal solid waste to energy will be ready for commercialization in 2011 and will replace incinerators and landfills as the primary option for municipal solid waste.

4. Traditional Energy Companies Pursue Acquisitions in Renewable Energy

Cascadia predicts that traditional energy companies such as BP, Chevron and Shell will continue to grow their renewable energy portfolio through acquisition.

[Editor's Note: This is part of a series of posts from Xconomists and other technology and life sciences leaders from around the U.S. who are weighing in with the top surprises they've seen in their respective fields in the past year, or the major things to watch for in 2011.]

Michael Butler is the co-founder, chairman & CEO of Cascadia Capital. Follow @

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  • http://www.aperlmutter.com Amy Perlmutter

    I disagree heartily with the prediction that waste to energy will hit prime time, as well as with the contention (even though I know it is widely held in our community) that waste to energy is a form of clean tech.

    I have worked in and around the solid waste industry for about 30 years, including a stint trying to develop a WTE facility, and one developing one of the most successful recycling programs in the US.

    My prediction is that WTE is going to fall flat on its face.

    Information is becoming available about emissions that don’t jibe with promises, costs are way too high for cash-strapped communities, existing plants are being dismantled (see Karlsruhe, Germany for one example), and proposed plants are not getting off the ground.

    On the ‘clean’ side, according to life cycle analysis, the vast majority of environmental impacts (including GHG generation) in making products comes from the mining of materials and turning them into a primary product; gasifying or incinerating waste means that new resources must be mined for new products. In addition, high heat gasification of organic matter, rather than composting through municipal compost programs or anaerobic digestion, keeps these materials from being returned to the soil where they would help the soil’s ability to retain carbon. And WTE technologies only create about 30% of the energy that would be saved if materials were recycled instead.

    I believe that the excitement about gasification is going to wane as resources continue to become scarce, energy becomes more expensive, information about the actual performance of these plants becomes more well known, and community opposition to these technologies continues to grow.