pollution.jpgVenture capitalists poured a record $1.1 billion into companies focused on clean or green technologies during the first half of the year, but is it enough?

Here in California, we’ve been focused on environmental legislation, and we’re seeing movement at the national and global level among leaders (excepting President Bush, that is) to find ways to lower global warming emissions.

However, there’s little concrete progress in Asia and the developing world, areas that are seeing the fastest economic growth. The latest data released by Ernst & Young and Dow Jones VentureOne, suggest there’s a long way to go on the clean-tech investment front, too:

Venture capital investments in the clean technology sector globally are on track to exceed last year’s record levels by 35 percent. However, the majority, or $893 million, was invested in U.S. companies, or at least those with U.S. headquarters. The U.S. accounted for 71 deals. European investments were $80 million in 19 deals. China and Israel are still nascent as centers for investments, but are expected to grow quickly, said Jessica Canning, director of research with Dow Jones VentureOne.

Obviously, venture capital investments can at best make up a tiny portion of the overall efforts to bring about cleaner technologies that will reduce global warming. Government policies are needed too, to drive more investments by large, polluting private industries to clean up their acts.

Thomas Friedman, of the New York Times, has just written a column expressing bewilderment at the huge growth in energy demand in places like China and even Saudi Arabia, and the surprising apathy of the rest of us in watching it happen. He joins Vinod Khosla, an investor who recently castigated those who think they’re doing enough buying hybid cars (see coverage). This is a token effort, as is changing lightbulbs. “Hey, I’m really glad you switched to long-lasing compact fluorescent light bulbs in your house,” Friedman writes. “But the growth in Doha (in Saudi Arabia) and Dalian (in China) ate all your energy savings for breakfast.” [Note, it’s great to be able to point to Friedman’s stories again. The TimesSelect wall has come down]

The terms for clean-tech deals are great for entrepreneurs, by the way. The median valuations for companies raising cash have seen significant jumps over the last year. High values are good for entrepreneurs because it means they give away less of their company’s shares in return for the cash investors give them.

Clean technology’s global share of overall venture capital investments has more than doubled in the U.S., to 5.4 percent from 1.4 percent in 2001.

Solar is dominant as an investment target in the US, while alternative fuel companies have become more popular.