Clean Energy Confronts Messy Reality

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Forging a new energy future by creating vast amounts of wind, solar and, possibly, nuclear energy is one of Mr. Obama's highest priorities. But enacting that policy depends to a large degree on the ability of energy companies and utilities to finance the massive new investments that would be needed.

President-elect Barack Obama has vowed to promote clean and renewable energy, reiterating this week that his "presidency will mark a new chapter in America's leadership on climate change."

But the nation's power companies suddenly are struggling to turn that promise into reality.

...Hobbled by the financial crisis, power companies across the U.S. are slashing capital budgets and canceling projects for clean electricity. Financing for new nuclear power plants appears shaky. And some energy companies are even having trouble satisfying their short-term needs for cash.

Forging a new energy future by creating vast amounts of wind, solar and, possibly, nuclear energy is one of Mr. Obama's highest priorities. But enacting that policy depends to a large degree on the ability of energy companies and utilities to finance the massive new investments that would be needed. With many of those companies cutting spending, a lot of those investments are being pared back or eliminated.

Just a few months ago, the energy sector was riding high, reaping strong profits from rising electricity demand and higher power prices. Stock-market valuations had been climbing. Many firms had lined up loads of cheap credit that allowed them to finance major infrastructure projects...

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