End times near for U.S. support of cleantech

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About two years ago Dan Reicher, Google’s then director of climate change and energy initiatives said: “we’re staring at the biggest cliff we’ve ever faced in renewables when the stimulus runs out in 18 months.” Now it looks like the end times are near for U.S. support for cleantech, at least according to a report out from the Breakthrough Institute, the Brookings Institution and the World Resources Institute.

The report says that after a rise in cleantech support and clean power installations between 2006 and 2011, tens of billions of dollars will suddenly come to a screeching halt and tax breaks for clean power are also in danger of expiring. As the New York Times noted: “there will be a estimated 75 percent decline in federal clean technology spending by 2014 from a peak of $44.3 billion in 2009.”

The drop in U.S. support is particularly unfortunate as various clean power technologies are still more expensive than fossil fuel-based power, but some are on the brink of grid parity, like solar, with its drop in solar cell prices.

Of course, the fossil fuel industry received decades and billions of support over the years. GigaOM Pro analyst Adam Lesser looks into a report from Roger Bezdek, a 30-year energy consultant, and found that $837 billion (in 2010 dollars) in incentives were expended over the past 60 years with oil, coal and natural gas getting 70 percent of that, or $594 billion. Oil alone was the big winner with $369 billion by itself while renewable energy, defined primarily as solar and wind, has received $74 billion, about what nuclear has received.

Image courtesy of Mike Lehen.

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