The print edition of the Post I received today has a major story in the business section titled “The Petroleum Paradox: As Prices Retreat, Interest in New Energy Sources Wanes.” The online edition you can access has a different spin: “A Down Market’s Ripple Effect: If Oil Prices Fall, Will Interest in New Energy Sources Wane?”
The original headline makes no sense — it is not a “paradox” that when the price of a product drops, its competition suffers in the marketplace. That would simply be considered an economic truism.
As for the original sub-headline, the story doesn’t actually provide very much evidence for this–mainly because it isn’t really true, at least for investment in clean energy (as opposed to investment in conventional and unconventional oil, which is what the article mainly focuses on). As but one of thousands of examples, solar energy is experiencing a massive and growing investment by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs as the L.A. Times reported today, and “The industry is expected to grow from $11 billion in 2005 to $51 billion in 2015.”
The online sub-head is much more accurate, since it poses the issue as a question. But even here, the headline is far from perfect, since it replaces “Paradox” with “Ripple Effect,” again implying this disinvestment in clean energy sources has somehow begun in earnest. I’m not saying that lower oil prices won’t discourage some investors, and perhaps will discourage some buyers of fuel-efficient cars (although I don’t really consider fuel-efficient cars count as a new energy source).
But the entire market for clean energy is exploding around the world as more as more people understand the driving force for clean energy will increasingly be the urgent need to take action on climate change. The best recent report on this is “American Energy: The Renewable Path to Energy Security,” by the Center for American Progress and the Worldwatch Institute.