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Green Grows On Investors

It's not easy being green, even if you're the President of the United States.

That seems to be the case with Barack Obama, as his cap-and-trade plan to reduce carbon emissions runs into opposition in the Congress and with industry.

The carbon initiative, however, is only part of an ambitious and unprecedented plan to spend $150 billion and create 5 million jobs over a decade in making clean energy more of a reality.

That kind of money attracts private capital, and investors—both big and small—may be forgiven for their initial ebullience, following years of market ups and downs because of intermittent government support.

With the global economy in recession and energy prices in a slump, the green sector might be languishing, but the Obama administration's commitment to conservation and alternative energy—beginning with the stimulus plan—may be just enough to keep more than just the die-hard optimists and true believers in the game.

Green Invests Here | A CNBC Special Report
Green Invests Here | A CNBC Special Report

As we mark another Earth Day, the 39th so far, and another Green Is Universal week, NBC Universal's fourth, few doubt that green is a sustainable business. Our special report, "Green Invests Here", illustrates that, and you'll find a wide array of stories about what companies, governments and people are doing to play green.

Here's a sampling ...

Retail investors can get a good lay of the land with Jennifer Woods' guide to mutual funds, which vary widely from the narrow, alternative energy variety populated by smaller companies to broader, more diverse ones that tap into conservation and environmental technology.

Investors will also be interested in Paul Toscano's slideshow on the greenest companies, based on the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a group that represents 385 institutional investors, and Lisa Auret's special editiion of CNBC.com's "What The Pros Say" feature.

As Brooke Sopelsa reports, big and small companies sometimes work together in developing cutting-edge technology for alternative sources of energy. Algae has attracted the attention of Chevron, Exxon Mobil and other big energy companies, who have bought into the expertise of smaller partners.

Airlines and other companies are investing hundreds of millions of dollars developing biofuels and other alternatives to jet fuel and have already used some of them to power jetliners. Natalie Erlich's story shows it's no flight of fancy.Gasoline may already be a thing of the past for that bus you take to work every day. Smaller cities are now embracing hybrid fleets, following the lead of New York, Chicago and Washington, DC. Look for Joseph Pisani's story.Car commuters—and presumably car lovers, as well—will be interested in Oliver Quillia's slideshow on the ever-expanding line of green vehicles.

As compelling as green may be, its not always an easy sell, especially in a time of tightening budgets. Green consumer products--considered a luxury by some--are often the first to come off of a shopping list. Christina Cheddar-Berk takes a look at how the economic downturn is affecting that dynamic.

Government budgets may also be challenges during these tough times. Antonia Oprita reports on how the European Union is coping with current events in keeping money flowing to its green programs, while Robin Knight examines how a tiny, island nation like The Maldives has an ambitious agenda—and, some would say, special interest—in dealing with global warming.

Big and small, far and wide—that's the world of green. Follow the money with us in our special coverage this week as well as every day of the year in our green section.