Energy costs have been on everyone's minds in the past year. As high fuel prices have rippled through the economy, sales of gas-guzzling SUVs from the likes of General Motors (NYSE:GM) have slumped, while airlines such as Delta (NYSE:DAL) and Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU) have seen their margins squeezed.

Of course, not every firm is suffering. One notable winner is oil and natural gas giant ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), whose shares are currently trading up 32% from their 52-week low. Competitors such as BP (NYSE:BP) and Chevron (NYSE:CVX) have made small investments in wind and solar technologies. But ExxonMobil recently announced its exclusive commitment to traditional energy, according to a Reuters interview with Scott Nauman, manager of the firm's economics and energy division.

Oil and gas have served ExxonMobil very well, but its decision to completely ignore alternative energy may not be so wise. Exxon's disdain for alternative energy technologies stems from those efforts' need for subsidies and tax breaks to be economically viable. This is true, but such government incentives have a way of sticking around once implemented.

Government support of cleaner technology reflects public preferences to some degree, and it's clear that the public is sometimes willing to pay more than necessary in exchange for intangible benefits. Case in point: the popularity of the Toyota (NYSE:TM) Prius. Analysts have calculated that it will take 13 years for Prius owners to recoup the extra cash they spend on the hybrid. It seems that consumers are buying the car more for its perceived environmental friendliness than for its fuel savings.

Government incentives will likely spur more investment that will gradually make alternative energy increasingly cost-effective. ExxonMobil is justified in concentrating on oil and gas, since such energy sources will power the globe for decades to come. But the company itself acknowledges that demand for alternative power will grow 10% annually for the next 25 years. ExxonMobil's decision not to even establish a toehold seems ill-advised.

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Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer in Chicago. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.