With gas prices hovering at record levels today, it's a sign of the times to see not one, but two, announcements by major U.S. firms about their commitment to investing in renewable energy.

JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) is not entirely new to the alternative energy scene, having recently run a debt offering for waste-to-energy firm Covanta (NYSE:CVA), which is one I've had my eye on. Nevertheless, the bank is clearly lagging behind rival Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) in this area. Back in late 2005, Goldman announced that it plans to invest $1 billion in renewable energy.

With the increasingly attractive economics of projects ranging from wind farms to hydroelectric plants, JPMorgan is finally prepared to join the alternative energy party. Its creation of an alt-energy investment banking unit follows in the footsteps of not only Goldman, but Lehman Brothers (NYSE:LEH) and Citigroup (NYSE:C) as well. One could say that JPMorgan is showing up fashionably late to the party. Its chaperone will be a former head of investment in energy and power equities at General Electric (NYSE:GE).

Speaking of GE, the company reminded everyone that it is charging forward with its Ecomagination campaign today, announcing that it will double its renewable energy investments by 2010. This isn't exactly "new" -- last year, the company stated that alt-energy products would comprise 25% of energy equipment revenues by 2011. So today's announcement pretty much puts it on pace to do just that, but that doubling language does look really good in a press release.

With all of the jostling for investments in alt-energy and cleantech, the field is bound to get cluttered with half-baked, speculative investments. If you believe in the megatrend but aren't sure how to separate the hypesters from the homeruns, we have a very active Renewable Energy discussion board, with over 13,000 postings on the subject. Educating one another is one of our key Foolish endeavors!

For the adventurous, the Motley Fool Rule Breakers team also has an eye on the sector, and has recommended several relevant companies, in addition to the PowerShares WilderHill Clean Energy ETF (AMEX:PBW).

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Fool contributor Toby Shute would take a rival over a frenemy any day. He doesn't own shares in any company mentioned. JPMorgan is an Income Investor recommendation. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.