Are Ethanol Companies Risky Investments?

By Neal Dikeman, Partner, Jane Capital Partners LLC, and Founding Contributor, Cleantechblog.com. He has no investments in or financial incentive related to ethanol or ethanol stocks. Are ethanol stocks risky long-term investments? We think they are. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of ethanol blended fuels for a whole host of reasons, I just don’t like ethanol as an investment. Here are six solid reasons to be very, very cautious. 1. Demand vs. supply – As with most regulatory driven markets, the demand has come on very fast behind the advent of renewable...

Where Are The Cellulosic Ethanol Gallons?

Jim Lane  We've seen a number of high-profile cellulosic projects open in recent years, and not much ethanol being produced? Wondered why? Here are answers to your questions. As Jack Webb used to say on Dragnet, just the facts, ma’am. Fact one. There’s not much ethanol being produced at the new generation of cellulosic projects. Fact two. We have seen significant changes in senior leadership at a number of key developers. Industry rumor going around: Psst! These facts are linked! For sure, Dorio Giordano has been appointed CEO at Beta Renewables, Dan Cummings has been...

Mascoma’s IPO: The 10-Minute version

Jim Lane No appetite for 200 pages of IPO-speak in Mascoma’s S-1 registration statement? Here’s our 10-minute version. In Massachusetts, Mascoma Corporation announced that it has filed an S-1 registration statement relating to a proposed $100 million initial public offering. The number of shares to be offered and the price range for the offering have not yet been determined, and the company has not indicated yet which exchange it will apply to for a listing of its shares. Here’s the S-1 registration, in a conveniently downsized 10-minute Digest version – with some commentary along the way...

The Future of Alternative Fuels: Ethanol

Besides a slew of clean car announcements connected to the North American International Auto Show, the alt energy topic that has made media and blog headlines most often over the past week has been alternative fuels. We are thus going to run a 2-part series on alternative fuels this week as follows: ethanol today and coal-to-liquids tomorrow. ETHANOL: INVESTOR FRIEND OR FOE? I’m going to start this post with a statement of opinion: I don’t really like corn-based ethanol (as an investment), I never have, and, as a result, I haven’t followed this space as closely as...

ADM to build 275-million gallon ethanol facility

Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. (ADM) said it will build an ethanol plant with 275-million gallon annual capacity in Cedar Rapids, Iowa as it looks to expand production of the alternative fuel. The expansion comes on top of ADM's plans to build a 275-million ethanol plant in Columbus, Nebraska.

Solar Headwinds, Part I

How Solar PV is like Ethanol Tom Konrad, CFA High levels of competition in the the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry mean that buy-and-hold investors should look elsewhere. In May 2007, I published a competitive analysis of the corn Ethanol industry based on Michael Porter's classic Five Competitive Forces model.  At the time, Ethanol stocks were flying high, but my conclusion was that "the prospective ethanol investor should be very careful about investing in corn ethanol producers at random."  If anything, I understated the case. This chart shows three ethanol stocks that have survived since 2007.  As...

Cosan’s Crush

by Debra Fiakas CFA Last week Cosan Limited (CZZ:  NYSE) revealed a decision to delay the spin-off and recapitalization of its natural gas distribution network, COMGAS.  Management cited unfavorable capital market decisions.  Cosan has a mix of businesses, of which we have been most interested in its Raisen Energia sugar cane agriculture and ethanol production.  Raisen is a joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell that was initiated in 2011.  The operation squeezes over four million tons of sugar from cane grown in its fields and two billion liters of ethanol each year. The ethanol is sold through Shell’s...

Ethanol Stocks: Risks, Challenges, & Opportunities

The Great Ethanol Debate: Shoddy Economics all 'Round. Like many environmentalists, I'm not a big fan of the ethanol industry, especially corn ethanol.  From a net energy standpoint, even advocates agree that you only get a little more energy out than the energy you put in (Energy Return on Energy Invested or EROEI of 0.9 to 1.5, depending on whom you ask... some say it's much lower.)  At this point, most environmentalists simply decide that ethanol isn't sustainable enough for them, and go back to talking about photovoltaics (EROEI around 8, PDF) and wind (EREOI 30-70, PDF).  The last...

The API Bushwhacks Ethanol

Jim Lane Who’s right, in the fight of their lives over E15 ethanol blending? Whose data’s a Looney Tune, whose is from the real-world? Yesterday the American Petroleum Institute, in an apparent impression of Yosemite Sam, held a press conference in DC to highlight a new report from the Coordinating Research Council on E15 ethanol blends. The report is here. The API: Blast your scuppers, now I gotcha, ya’ flea-ridden riff-raff! Use of the ethanol gasoline blend E15 may endanger fuel systems in millions of 2001 and newer vehicles,...

Ethanol Producers Vs. California Air Resources Board

by Debra Fiakas CFA Sometime back Poet, LLC, the private producer of ethanol based in Sioux Falls, SD (my home state), filed a lawsuit against the State of California, strenuously objecting to rules related to ‘carbon intensity’ adopted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) When the dust settled, the California rules were still standing and Poet skulked off to the appeals court.  The appeal was filed this week in the California’s Fifth Appellate District in Fresno. Originally approved in 2009, California’s ‘low carbon fuel standard’ (LCFS) is aimed at sorting apples and oranges in the renewable...

Ethanol, NAFTA, Tortillas and Walmart?

Author Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is the founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, and a Contributing Editor to AltEnergyStocks.com. Quick, what do Ethanol, NAFTA, Mexican Tortillas and Walmart have in common? Don't know? Well here's the story. I am fascinated by the discussion about ethanol feedstocks issues. There has been a lot of talk about corn production for ethanol either crowding out beef or food production, or driving up the price of food, or failing to supply the demand...

Veridium Receives Order to Increase Ethanol Production Efficiencies

Veridium Corp. (VRDM.OB) announced its receipt of an order from a Wisconsin based ethanol producer for the second stage of Veridium's patent-pending Corn Oil Extraction Systems(TM). Veridium's proprietary new Corn Oil Extraction Systems(TM) extract high grade corn oil from an ethanol by-product called distillers dried grain ("DDG"). Currently, the majority of ethanol production is based on a dry milling technique that utilizes more than 1 billion bushels of corn to produce 3 billion gallons per year of ethanol. The dry mill process converts the starch from the kernel of corn into sugar and then the sugar into ethanol....

3 Alternative Energy Stocks You Need to Know

In the face of a declining overall energy market today, three of our favorite alternative energy stocks posted strong gains on high volume. The Oil Services HOLDRs ETF (OIH) was down 2% and the PowerShares WilderHill Clean Energy ETF (PBW) was down 1.7%. Indeed, the vast majority of the energy stocks that we track were in the red. But bucking the trend were two energy stocks that we have profiled in the recent past and a third company that we will begin covering today. First on the list is our favorite wind energy play, Welwind Energy International...

Green Star Products to Construct Total Bio-Refineries

Green Star Products Inc (GSPI) announced its plans to construct total Bio-Refinery Complexes for production of both biodiesel and biomass ethanol at each facility. The first Bio-Refinery is planned to be in North Carolina (see GSPI press release dated April 20, 2006) and the location of the second facility is to be announced soon in the northwestern sector of the United States. Each GSPI-designed Bio-Refinery will have a start-up production of between 10 or 20 million gallons per year with quick expansion capabilities. The facility infrastructure will be capable of expanding to 60 million gallons per year...

Tax On E85 Renewable Fuel Soars

Jim Lane The US passed a dubious and historic milestone this week. The tax rate on E85 renewable fuels now exceeds 100% in some formulations. By comparison, the tax rate on E10 renewable fuel is running at an estimated 41% and the tax rate on straight gasoline is running at an estimated 35%. As Shakespeare observed in Measure by Measure, “some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall”. Now, the idea of a carbon tax is that governments are supposed to collect more tax against high-carbon fuels. Yet, policy in practice works the other way. The less carbon...

Ethanol Sector Consolidation or Salvation?

by Debra Fiakas CFA The drumbeat of deals in the ethanol industry is sounding louder, or so it seems from the proliferation of notices in my e-mail inbox.  I received no less than four messages in one morning from ethanol producer Green Plains, Inc. (GPRE: Nasdaq) heralding the purchase of the Hopewell Ethanol plant in Virginia from FutureFuel, Inc. (FF:  NYSE).  The acquisition represents the ninth transaction for Green Plains in the last five years, adding another 60 million gallons in annual production capacity to Green Plains’ existing total capacity of 1.02 billion gallons.   Indeed, Green...