Long considered marginal and even quixotic, energy from sources like the wind, sun and plants is turning into one of the world's most highly valued industries. And while power generated by "green" sources remains tiny compared with fossil fuels, the sector has begun to attract the attention of big-league investors seeking to profit from a new wave of growth in alternative energy.

But even as the amount of cash swells, environmental officials warn that financing is flowing to projects that may be doomed to failure.

Once-trendy biofuels like ethanol produced from corn are now being derided by the authorities, who say the fuels have little value in the fight against global warming. Vital components for windmills and solar cells have run short over the past year, requiring expensive projects to a halt. Meanwhile, subsidies for renewable energy remain at the whim of politicians, creating a boom and bust cycle for wind farms and solar projects, particularly in the United States.

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