Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Post-election "green" investing outlook

Tuesday saw the end of some market uncertainty with the defeat of California’s Prop 23. Enactment of this proposition would have been a real blow to alternative energy and alternative fuel companies in the U.S. Solar company shares, which gain most of the mainstream media attention, were hard hit during the past 1 ½ weeks but saw an across the board bounce today.

One of the few solar stocks not sharing in today’s gains was First Solar(FSLR), which saw a $13.00 one-day drop last Thursday and further loss on Friday. Most of these stocks will take a few weeks to regain their late October price levels, if not longer. With demand and production continuing to grow, many solar stocks seem destined for new 52-week highs before the end of the year.

Much uncertainty remains among green investors after the election. The Republican party is well known for its support of big oil and coal. They are equally well known for their lack of support for energy efficiency/saving measures and alternative energy sources. Look for federal support programs for everything except ethanol to be slashed, particularly funds coming from the Department of Energy. At least the military branches do not need direct congressional approval to continue spending on alternative energy.

If Republicans were really as patriotic as they like to claim they would be using the U.S. military alternative energy initiatives as an example for the entire country to follow. Our biggest national security issue is more likely energy-dependence on other(often unfriendly) countries than terrorism. And we don’t and never will be able to produce enough oil domestically to meet our current demand.

Obstructing legislation to reduce domestic oil demand, such as higher mpg standards, higher lighting efficiency standards, higher energy efficiency for household appliances, etc…, does nothing but extend and exacerbate an already bad situation. Blocking federal and state incentives for alternative energy installations only lets China and the European nations widen their lead over the U.S. in implementation of these technologies. When the real petroleum crunch does come, those countries with the greatest percentages of solar, wind, geothermal and nuclear energy production will have huge strategic advantages.
America needs to grow food, not fuel

The reason ethanol receives so much support in the U.S. is its reliance upon Big Agriculture. No biomass-based petroleum substitute can be produced in the quantities needed without massive amounts of fertilizer, pesticides, genetically-modified seed stocks and millions of miles put on petroleum-powered tractors, harvesters and trucks. We need an innovative alternative to the internal combustion engine, not a biological substitute for petroleum fuels.

When did the U.S. become afraid of innovation? When did maintaining the existing business status quo become more important than being the world’s technology leader? When did saving a few dollars or a few jobs today start to overshadow the very future of the country? Our political leaders from both parties are bickering about ideological irrelevancies while our credibility with the rest of the world evaporates. When did being a Republican or a Democrat become more important than being an American?

Alternative energies are here to stay. Private industry leaders and the military see the writing on the wall and are taking the initiative to break away from petroleum dependence. But the process would be much faster and more integrated if there were national leadership rather than just national lip-service. For investors, alternative energy and smart-grid companies remain the wave of the future no matter what happens in Washington.


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