Interest Rate Increase? FuhGettaBoutIt!

by Debra Fiakas CFA There has been considerable fuss in recent weeks about the Federal Open Market Committee decision to raise its benchmark interest rate.  The one-quarter point increase has finally been announced and investors now are watching with bated breath to see how the increased cost of funds at the Fed ‘window’ will impact borrowing costs for companies large and small.  In our Beach Boys Index of alternative energy producers, we found a number of companies that rely on debt as a capital source.  However, not all energy producers have debt.  So when Janet Yellen...

Bearing The Interest Burden

by Debra Fiakas CFA Smaller companies frequently avoid debt as a capital source, relying instead mostly on equity.  After all common stock  holders are often content to wait for years for a dividend as the small, young company secures its market position and builds profits.  Pesky creditors are always knocking on the door for interest payments and principal return. Yet, a number of smaller companies included in our Beach Boys Index of alternative fuel producers have chosen to use debt. We reviewed a group of them to determine the impact of increase in interest rates that could...

Can Broad Shoulders Shake Off The Rate Hike?

by Debra Fiakas CFA Some investors may be surprised by the repercussions of an increase in the Federal Reserve’s benchmark interest rate.  The Federal Open Market Committee is expected to take action next week for the first time in nine years to increase the rate from near zero.  Odds makers have pegged the magnitude of the rate increase by a quarter percentage point. We decided to take a look at some of the companies in Crystal Equity Research’s Beach Boys Index composed of biofuel, ethanol, renewable diesel and other alternative fuel producers.  We looked to see which...

Investing For The Anthropocene

by Garvin Jabusch Jack Bogle is flat wrong. I mean, within his worldview and that of Modern Portfolio Theory, he’s right, but in the Anthropocene, he’s wrong. Bogle, founder and retired CEO of the Vanguard Group, is known for championing the superiority of low-fee index funds. His firm’s largest product, the $155 billion Vanguard 500 Index Fund is the perfect poster child for his philosophy. It closely tracks the S&P 500 Index of America’s largest companies, and it has a fee of only 0.06% inclusive. The S&P 500 has performed better than most actively managed portfolios over time, so...

Growing Market Skepticism Towards Chinese Renewable Energy

Bottom line: Weak share reactions to upbeat news from Trina, ReneSola and Ming Yang reflect investor skepticism towards new energy stocks, as they face lingering issues of overcapacity and phasing out of government subsidies. A flurry of upbeat news is in the headlines today from 3 of China’s largest new energy equipment makers, led by a return to the profit column for solar panel maker ReneSola (NYSE: SOL) after a year in the red. At the same time, wind power equipment maker Ming Yang (NYSE: MY) also announced its latest quarterly results that were quite upbeat, and solar panel...

Charitable Investments: How to Grow Your Portfolio While Making a Difference

by Mark Tan The country is currently experiencing a shift toward more sustainable living. In addition to the wide array of whole food markets and hybrid cars available to today’s consumer, many people also want their investments working for the greater good. Although these investments have been around for more than a decade, the past few years have seen substantial growth in the areas of charitable investments, sustainable 401ks, and green bonds. No matter your passion, your financial portfolio can make a difference in the world, while still generating profit for you. Charitable Investing 101...

Crowdfunding and Clean Energy

by Beth Kelly The digital era has enabled an “entrepreneurial explosion”, equipping ordinary people with the tools to invest in a myriad of early stage companies. Rather than investing millions of venture capital at once, interested individuals can use online platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter to invest smaller sums in projects they feel passionate about. Crowdfunding holds vast potential in the renewable energy sector in particular, opening up a world of opportunity for both investors and “green” project developers. Now that renewable energy technology is becoming viable and cost-effective, firms in the industry are turning to crowdsourcing...

Commodity Energy Vs. Technology Energy: This Changes Everything

by Garvin Jabusch We now live in a global economy with two fundamentally different types of energy: commodity-based in the form of fossil fuels and uranium, and technology-based, represented primarily by solar and wind. That observation is interesting as far as it goes, but what does it mean? The term renewable (as it pertains to energy) gets used so often that it is easy to forget what it really entails. For starters, tech-based renewables become less expensive over time, as demand for them drives scale, innovation, and improves cost structures in implementation (think about the last couple of computers...

Graphene: It Is All In The Strategy

by Debra Fiakas CFA In the recent series of articles on graphene we have found a number of companies working on more efficient production processes and as well as applications for this exceptional material.  So beguiling graphene is  -  conductive, strong and pliable.  Scientists and investors alike have thought certainly graphene can provide that all-important ingredient that enhances value and creates profits.  In this post we look at two more companies that claim real progress in commercializing graphene materials.  Based in the UK, Applied Graphene Materials (AGM:  LON; APGMF:  OTC) reported no sales in 2014 and...

The Pope and the Climates of Justice

by Jake Raden Pope Francis’s encyclical on global warming and environmental degradation, Laudato Si, identifies our disruptive effects on our climate as social justice and spiritual issues. “Those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms,” he writes, lamenting that those with privilege lack a “sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.” (Image Courtesy of: http://www.cgdev.org/page/mapping-impacts-climate-change) The image above is from the Center for Global Development and it’s one in a series that ranks...

Graphene Pixie Dust

by Debra Fiakas CFA Ever since British scientists worked a little magic with some scotch tape, the world has been captivated their discovery of graphene, the single atom thick material that can conduct electricity and is at once strong and bendable.  Investors have been dreaming graphene could be sprinkled across industry like pixie dust, creating valuable new products and driving company valuations to lofty heights.  Reality has been a bit less grand. To be clear, there have been successes.  As noted in the June 9th article, “Graphene in the Oil Patch,” the wonder material has been found...

Graphene From Plasma

by Debra Fiakas CFA The corporate literature of Haydale Graphene Industries, Plc. (HAYD:  AIM) says graphene material could ‘revolutionize the 21st century.’   Unfortunately, finding an economical way to produce graphene has had some wondering if we might have to wait until the 22nd century to finally gain the benefits of graphene’s numerous superior qualities of strength, flexibility and conductivity.  Based in the U.K., Haydale reported an eight-fold increase in sales of its graphene materials in the last six months of 2014.  Granted revenue totaling GBP482,000 (USD$737,460) is still small, but the growth lends new credibility to...

Saudis Confirm Switch from Oil to Solar

By Jeff Siegel You probably wouldn't recognize him if you saw him on the street. Heck, you probably don't even know his name. But Ali Al-Naimi is one of the most powerful men in the world. As the Saudi oil minister and chairman of Saudi Aramco, Al-Naimi is not particularly popular with U.S. oil producers, especially after telling the media he didn't care if oil prices crashed to $20 because it was not in the interest of OPEC producers to cut production  regardless of price. Still, he remains the most influential oilman on the planet. Listed as one of Forbes' 50...

Alternative Energy Stock Returns, Past and Future

By Harris Roen Alternative energy became a serious market player after the turn of the millennium. Since that time, solar, wind, smart grid and other alternative energy stocks have experienced both strong up and down trends. The forces at work driving these markets are complex, counterintuitive, and sometimes mysterious. This article looks at what has been driving the price of alternative energy markets, and as a result, alternative energy company stocks. Looking ahead, we will also consider what should affect the direction of alternative energy stock prices. Past trends in Alternative Energy Stocks The Wilder Hill...

Solar: Energy, But Not Oil

by Garvin Jabusch Solar photovoltaic (PV) as a means of deriving energy is fundamentally different from fossil fuel-based commodities (oil, coal, and gas). Consider: A solar PV panel can be thought of as nothing more than a hugely oversized computer chip a bunch of circuitry embedded in a silicon wafer. Indeed, in most economic sector classification schemes (GICS, etc.), PV manufacturers are defined as "semiconductors," which is basically true (if misleading in other ways).  So different are the driving economics behind tech-based and commodities-based means of deriving energy, that we at Green Alpha are recommending to Standard &...

Water Stocks: Better Than Oil Or Smartphones

By Jeff Siegel I've never understood it, but no one really gives a damn about water. Sure, it's the foundation of life. But what does that matter when we can get cheap smartphones and Internet-connected washing machines? Those things are exciting, and there's proverbial gold in those silicon hills. Don't get me wrong; I love technology and continue to profit handsomely by devoting a small portion of my portfolio to tech stocks. My point, however, is that while technology is great, without water, we die. It's pretty simple, really. Yet when it comes to investing, few investors take...