With prospects dim for comprehensive climate legislation, companies focused on carbon emissions could fail or be forced to scale back their ambitions.
The U.S. Senate's failure to pass a comprehensive climate and energy bill this summer could spell doom for startups founded to help reduce carbon-dioxide emissions. Others will limp on, limited to markets much smaller than they originally expected to target.
"For companies depending on some type of CO2 subsidy, this is probably the death knell," says James Kim, a partner at Khosla Ventures who has carefully reviewed the business plans of several such companies.
Last year, Congress seemed on track to pass legislation that would make it progressively more expensive, over the next two or three decades, to emit carbon dioxide. (Economists often call this "putting a price" on carbon.) That was good news for a stampede of companies developing technologies that would reduce carbon-dioxide emissions--technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines, and biorefineries for producing biofuels--or capture carbon dioxide from smokestacks or the atmosphere.
But a version of the bill that once seemed headed for success faltered and was abandoned for much more modest energy legislation that itself hasn't attracted enough votes to pass. There is little prospect that a comprehensive bill will be passed this year, in spite of efforts by some senators to push through a bill after the midterm elections. If Republicans, who generally oppose carbon restrictions, gain seats in Congress this fall, it could be years before such legislation is passed.
David Victor, director of the International Law and Regulation Laboratory at the University of California, San Diego, says that at the federal level in the U.S., "political forces for a price on carbon are spent."...MORE