Big Oil Goes Green

11/19/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It's not just that these projects involve bigger money, which will grow exponentially if new technologies work. That's still peanuts for oil majors, which put only 4 percent of their total 2008 profits into alternative-energy investment. It's that companies are actually beginning to think about alternatives not just as a tool for greenwashing (throw up a few solar panels here, sponsor a conference on wind energy there) but as real businesses that might one day turn real profits--or at least help make fossil-fuel production more profitable.