Chrysalix is fond of backing companies that can serve oil and gas, as well as mining, companies. It’s invested in GlassPoint Solar, which designs steam generation equipment to help oil companies boost production; Axine Water Technologies, which offers a way to get pollutants out of wastewater from industrial operations and cities; and Seair, a public wastewater treatment company whose CEO, Ric Charron, spoke about his experience working with oil and gas companies at the cleantech conference.
While helping oil and gas producers boost production and win public support isn’t the same as saving the planet, van Lierop argued the results are no less worthwhile: “It’s a very important goal to ensure that you clean up traditional energy sources.”
Fossil fuels not going anywhere
The oil and gas industry is here to stay for a very long long time. Strong federal support for oil and gas exploration — part of President Obama’s “all of the above energy strategy” — continues to protect entrenched energy players and allows oil and gas companies to continue their grip on transportation and electricity generation. These companies operate at such a massive scale that it’s hard to a tiny startup to compete with them.
Fossil fuel companies are partly investing in renewable energy sources as a defensive move. It’s a hedge against any quick change in government policy and public sentiment. Chevron made some small investments in renewable energy technologies, and probably was glad it didn’t invest more when it realized later that its investments weren’t as lucrative as it had expected. The growth of the biofuel business, in particular, will require the support of major oil industry players.
Some venture capital investors maintain that cleantech investing is still a financially viable option — that a cleantech 2.0 investing wave will come some day in the future. But for now, in a year when “cleantech” has become a dirty word, it makes sense for cleantech companies to go make friends with the dirty fossil fuel industry.
(c) 2013, GigaOM.com.