If anything good has come out of the recent global recession, the ongoing reassessment of the wisdom of throwing subsidies at renewable energy surely ranks near the top of the list.

The oil spill might have been expected to revive a sense of urgency that the world, and America in particular, should reduce its dependence on oil, not least by switching to cleaner, greener sources of energy. Instead it is increasingly common to hear investors asking gloomily, “Is green dead?

The economic downturn is clearly partly to blame for the decline in shares of renewable-energy companies. The industry is still policy-driven rather than market-driven, and the recession has increasingly called into question whether governments will be able to afford the sort of environmental policies they have been promising (including in their fiscal-stimulus programmes). These policy commitments had been an important factor in the bulging market capitalisations of green-energy firms two or three years ago.

Still, the Economist cannot resist arguing the case for more government intervention:

The danger of losing technological leadership in a crucial industry to a big geopolitical rival; and an oil disaster in its backyard. Surely America’s government cannot ignore the pressing need for new policies to promote its green-energy industries? By marking down the shares of renewables firms, the markets seem to be assuming that the government will indeed ignore it. Then again, as has been all too clear in recent years, the markets do not always guess right.

But presumably, governments do. Yeah right.