Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Energy’s buzzwords are changing

Part of my job as an Oil & Gas Journal reporter is to watch alternate energy sources evolve into commercial ventures. Clean technology used to be a common phrase among analysts, but another phrase appears to be in the making.

Michele Ashby, a former mining analyst and chief executive officer of MINE LLC, organizes investor meetings, including one called the Modern Energy forum. Modern energy is an umbrella term for all types of energy that will be needed in the future, Ashby said during a recent telephone call from her Denver office.

“This includes solar, wind, wave, hydro, biofuels, biomass, geothermal, nuclear, magnetics, energy storage, conservation, and new ways of generating and conserving energy we have yet to discover,” Ashby said.

Increasing demand for modern energy means venture capitalists and angel investors are asking for more information about what is available, how much it costs, and its carbon footprint, she said.

How are fossil and nonfossil companies and investors learning about one another? Through conferences and green energy networking events, Ashby said. She said Denver has 14 different organizations for green networking.

Ashby believes oil companies will help integrate nonfossil fuels with existing fuel distribution and marketing systems. She foresees more oil companies investing in and collaborating with modern energy companies.

A recent example is ExxonMobil Corp.’s $600 million investment into the development of algae-based biofuels. About half of that money goes toward internal expenses within ExxonMobil and half goes to Synthetic Genomics Inc.

The initial collaboration, expected to last 5-6 years, will study methods of growing algae and producing hydrocarbons that can be processed by a refinery into transportation fuels.

“Modern energy is a new market place with thousands of private companies and a few hundred public companies,” Ashby said. “Oil and gas companies have got the money to invest.”

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