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Green tech's plea: Show me the money--fast, please

Waiting for funding, now that the stimulus package has passed Congress, chief executives of green-technology companies say Washington must move quickly.

Like a lot of green-technology companies, Tendril is waiting for the federal stimulus money to start flowing.

"I think it will act like a massive accelerator," said CEO Adrian Tuck, whose company makes sensors that consumers can use to monitor and control their consumption of energy.

Adrian Tuck, CEO, Tendril Tendril

But echoing a common concern, Tuck also hopes that Tendril and other green-tech start-ups will not need to wait too long before the spigots open.

You know the cliche about time being of the essence? It's a refrain I heard again and again during the course of interviewing CEOs as part of a CNET News special report examining the progress and prospects of green tech.

The paradox is that the most interesting companies in the field often happen to be the very ones who don't have access to capital because of the economic crisis.

How much will an immediate cash infusion help? Plenty, according to Tuck, who says the public will see a quick payback from the coming investment in this nascent industry. For example, he predicts that for every $100 the U.S. Department of Energy invests, Tendril can save $100 for the consumer within 18 months.

"What we and others like us bring to the table is speed," he says.

But despite the confident tone that Tuck and other CEOs working in the green-tech industry voice, one big uncertainty remains: Will the money get into the hands of smaller, entrepreneurial outfits in the beginning, or will Uncle Sam prefer to deal with the bigger, established companies? How that question gets answered may very well decide the fates of many of the companies whose ambition is to change the world.