The green backlash?

May 1, 2007, 1:16 AM UTC

Some good stats out today from at outifit named Lux Research on the bubble aborning in green-tech investing. (Bubbles aren’t necessarily a bad thing, by the way, as a new book by my pal Daniel Gross argues.) Lux counts 930 energy startups in the world today, and firm president Matthew Nordan says “there’s no way that more than a fraction … can possibly succeed.” I made similar bubbleicious observations recently in a Fortune column.

Some other nuggets:

* There were $2.04 billion in green venture capital investments in 2006, about half again as much as the total invested since 1995.

* Just a few investments from VCs (think: Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, VantagePoint, etc.) account for a disproportionate share of the investments: the top 10% of investments have soaked up 39% of the cumulative VC capital deployed.

* “Major print media” mentioned green investing 3,485 times in 2006, representing 70% increases for each of the last two years.

If you read carefully, you’re starting to see a bit of a backlash on all things green, and not necessarily only from the Al Gore-hating rightwing media. Kurt Andersen penned a savvy piece in New York recently called So We’re Green. Now What? Yesterday’s New York Times also ran a thoughtful article in the Week in Review section on the limitations of carbon offsets. It also used the wish-washy headline-writing technique (see above) of asking a question: Carbon-Neutral Is Hip, but is it Green? Brandweek reports that Honda (HMC), a clever marketer, is pulling back on its Environmentology advertising campaign.

The point here isn’t that environmentalism is a crock. Just that merely driving a Prius or planting a tree doesn’t all by itself help the environment that much. Neither does owning shares of First Solar (FSLR), because it is one of the few green-tech success stories so far, or General Electric (GE), because it’s investing heavily in wind power. (Some interesting tidbits on First Solar, by the way, in this article by the one and only Carol Loomis.) And with every bubble comes a backlash. Watch for it.