As somebody who spends his workdays evaluating investment opportunities in emerging/frontier economies, I receive a lot of business pitches involving new technologies. The time I spend listening to these accounts of how things can ultimately work out for the better balances my work in the national security realm contemplating how everything must "inevitably" collapse into conflict. I find the perspective it offers invaluable, because it reveals how often what we call "realism" tends to be hopelessly trapped in centuries past.
Right now the bulk of the pitches I receive focus on alternative energy. No surprise there, but not for the reasons you might assume. High oil prices last year got damn near every pundit jumping on the green tech bandwagon, with Thomas Friedman making the most consistently intelligent arguments for the long-term business opportunities it offered. Now, with oil prices low again, a lot of these former enthusiasts sense a commensurate loss in market opportunity in advanced economies, befitting the boom-and-bust mentality of capitalism.
True enough, but between the advanced North's troubled finances and the emerging South's rising consumption, the latter is creating the stronger undertow in the global economy today. This rebalancing isn't theoretical -- like the Doha Development Round. It's inevitable. The rise of a global middle class that lies primarily outside the aging West creates substantial long-term investment opportunities in alternative energies. This is in part because of rising mobility requirements (an area where oil dominates), but even more because of exploding electricity demand -- the sine qua non of a middle-class lifestyle.