For green business, blue skies ahead. For climate policy, who knows?

The renewable energy and clean tech industries let loose a collective sigh of relief today. President Obama’s re-election means they still  have a friend in the White House.

Clean energy was a big winner yesterday,” said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “American voters not only re-elected a president who made green jobs a cornerstone of his first term and his campaign, they also rejected some of the shrillest champions of Big Oil and Big Coal.”

As Nick Robins, HSBC’s climate research analyst, said today:

Obama’s victory essentially protects key climate policies from repeal, particularly the regulation of carbon dioxide by the EPA, most notably in the power and auto sectors. It also offers the chance of extending the Production Tax Credit for wind energy when it expires at the end of this year.

True enough, but the today’s inefficient, hodge-podge collection of EPA rules, clean-energy subsidies and state mandates — while better than nothing — is no substitute for a rational economy-wide policy to deal with climate change.

Could this election usher in a carbon tax or cap-and-trade regulations to limit global warming pollution? That’s impossible to know,  but there’s no evidence that climate action has climbed to the top of the president’s to-do list.

Obama made a passing reference to climate change in his acceptance speech, saying: “We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

But his all-but-absolute silence about global warming during the campaign means that he has no mandate from voters to act on the issue. Worse, he has made close to zero effort to persuade Americans that the issue matters, a failure that will surely cast a shadow over his legacy if it isn’t rectified during a second term.

To see what’s next for climate and green business after the election, I reached out to some smart people in the business world and in Washington to see what opportunities, if any, they see.

The first, and maybe the best, opening will arise when the president and the lame-duck Congress face the so-called fiscal cliff in the next 60 days. The government will need revenue to avoid painful spending cuts and tax increases, and a tax on carbon emissions could become an option. [click to continue…]

Green business’ go-to guy is going

Andrew Shapiro, one of the most prominent sustainability advisers in corporate America, is leaving GreenOrder, the consulting firm he started in 2000.

GreenOrder, which is based in New York, is best known for its work with General Electric on its ecomagination initiative. The firm has also advised such blue-chip companies as General Motors, Hewlett Packard, JP Morgan Chase, along with major utilities and real estate developers.

Shapiro, who is 43 and a Yale Law grad, will stay at GreenOrder until the end of the year, while a replacement is sought. GreenOrder was acquired three years ago by LRN, an ethics and compliance firm led by Dov Seidman, himself a prominent adviser to FORTUNE 500 firms and the author of How: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything.

Ron Gonen, a founder of RecycleBank, a company that rewards consumers for recycling, has become an adviser to LRN, “to help lead the alignment of GreenOrder Advisory Services with the company as a whole,” according to Seidman. But Gonen told me by email that he will not be taking over at GreenOrder.

In announcing the change to colleagues, Seidman said: “Andrew’s creative and entrepreneurial vision stands at the core of GreenOrder’s advisory role.”

Before saying more, a few disclosures are required. I’ve known and liked Andrew and his colleagues at Green Order for years, and wrote about the company for in 2007. [See Green business’ go-to guys] I consulted for LRN for about eight months in 2009, so I know Dov, too; in fact, Andrew introduced us. GO Ventures, an investment firm co-founded by Shapiro, owns a stake in GreenBiz Group, where I’m a senior writer. And my friend and colleague Joel Makower has been a senior strategist with GreenOrder, as well as a small shareholder in the firm. As ecologists like to say, we are all connected. (Cool music–check it out.) [click to continue…]