Cellulosic Electricity: Stock Analysts v. Venture Capitalists

Romm v. Kholsa In a persuasive series of articles, entitled "Pragmatists vs. Environmentalists" (Parts I, II, and III) on Gristmill, Vinod Khosla provides the reasoning behind his "dissing" of plug-in hybrids, which drew the ire of Joeseph Romm.  Neither seems to think the argument is settled, and Joeseph Romm returns fire here. As someone who knows as much about investing as Joe Romm and has written as much about Climate Change and Energy Policy as Vinod Khosla, I feel the need to jump into the debate and settle the matter.  (Will either of them will notice?)...

Focus On Clean Power Income Trusts

Last week, Tom brought you a piece on the Algonquin Power Income Fund (AGQNF.PK), in which he opined that shift in investor attention away from capital gains toward yield might eventually provide a catalyst for the prices of yield-focused securities such as income trusts to rise. So-called utility trusts, or income trusts where the underlying corporation is engaged in utility activities such as power generation, are a common feature of the Canadian income trust sector (the mother of all income trust sectors). A sub-set of utility trusts is the clean power utility trust, where the power generation...

Ag Goddess Smiles Favorably on Ceres, Investors Frown

by Debra Fiakas CFA Recently, in compiling our lists of remarkable small-cap stock trades, I was surprised to find the shares of Ceres, Inc. (CERE:  Nasdaq) among stocks setting new 52-week lows.  Ceres has only been trading since its initial public offering in February 2012, when the company sold 5.0 million shares at $13.00 per share.  After a brief trade higher in the early spring, Ceres shares have been steadily losing ground, finally setting an all-time low of $6.02 last week. Named after the Greek Goddess of Agriculture, Ceres is a self-styled energy crop producer.  Ceres...

The Best Peak Oil Investments, Part V: Algae

Tom Konrad CFA There are many proposed solutions to the liquid fuels scarcity caused be stagnating (and eventually falling) oil supplies combined with growing demand in emerging economies.  Some will be good investments, others won't.  Here is where I'm putting my money, and why.  This fifth part takes a look at the growing consensus that our biofuels should come from non-food crops grown on land that is not otherwise productive, and the one crop that shows promise of delivering the high yields needed to satisfy our enormous thirst for fuel is algae. In part I of...

Ceres, Inc.: a 5-Minute Guide

Jim Lane Address: 1535 Rancho Conejo Blvd., Thousand Oaks, CA 91320 Founded: 1996 Annual Revenues: $6.6 million (Fiscal Year ended Aug. 31, 2011) Type of technology: Plant biotechnology, gene marker-assisted breeding and other genomics Fuel Type: Biomass is the common denominator to advanced biofuels, biopower and bioproducts and is independent of the end-fuel molecule. Major investors: Ceres is a public company. Its common stock trades on the Nasdaq Global Market under the ticker symbol CERE. Pre-IPO investors include Warburg Pincus, Soros Private Equity Partners, GIMV and Oppenheimer. Past milestones: Completed IPO...

Darling Soldiers

by Debra Fiakas CFA This week Darling Ingredients (DAR:  NYSE) reported financial results for the quarter ending December 2015, demonstrating management’s collective ability to manage margins in a period of low inflation.  The fourth quarter 2015 top-line was $809.7 million, providing $84.4 million in net income or $0.52 per share.  Revenue was 19.1% lower than the same period last year, but net income increased by 20.7% year-over-year.  Weak commodity prices led to lower sales volumes and selling prices that translated into lower year-over-year revenue.  At the same time the commodity market compression also reduced raw materials...

Rentech: Pulp, Pellets and Fertilizer

by Debra Fiakas CFA A shareholder group has taken aim at alternative energy and fertilizer producer Rentech, Inc. (RTK:  Nasdaq), offering a slate of nominees for the next election of directors.  They claim Rentech management is overpaid and doing a very poor job of executing on the company’s strategic plans.  The nominees were a focus of discussion in the last post.  Now we will take a closer look at Rentech’s operations. The majority of Rentech’s revenue is generated from the sale of fertilizer products from the Company’s plants in Dubuque, Iowa and Pasadena, California.  Rentech earns...

The Great Algae Flour Fight: Solazyme Wins Again

Jim Lane After the bizarre attempted heist detailed in The Great Algae Robbery, Roquette tries the US courts but comes up short, in its quest to get a hold of Solazyme’s (SZYM) algae tech. On a slow news day just before Christmas, those of us on the industrial biotechnology beat have no need to stop by the firehouse to ask if there is a breaking story to report, because we always have the lively docket of Judge Sue Robinson, Federal District Judge for the District of Delaware. This Christmas she did not fail us, for in our Christmas news stocking is a...

Don’t Let Waste Go to Waste

Marc Gunther Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. It sounds simple. It’s not. Just ask Bill Caesar, who runs the recycling and organic growth units of Waste Management (WM), America’s biggest trash company, which has $13.3 billion in revenues last year. It’s hard to get many cities and towns to embrace recycling. It’s hard to get homeowners to figure out which plastics go into which bin. It’s expensive to build out the infrastructure needed to separate materials, and ship them to customers. And now, to make matters worse, the prices that buyers are willing...

Earnings Round-Up: ADM, Green Plains, Syngenta

Jim Lane Green Plains In Nebraska, Green Plains (GPRE) announced net income for the quarter was $42.2 million compared to net income of $25.5 million for the same period in 2013. Revenues were $829.9 million for the fourth quarter of 2014 compared to $712.9 million for the same period in 2013. Net income for the full year was $159.5 million compared to $43.4 million for the same period in 2013. Revenues were $3.2 billion for the full year of 2014 compared to $3.0 billion for the same period in 2013. Fourth quarter 2014 EBITDA was $90.7 million compared to...

Ceres Focuses On Food & Feed After Bioenergy Disappoints

Jim Lane In California, Ceres (CERE) announced the a realignment of its business to focus on food and forage opportunities and biotechnology traits for sugarcane and other crops. As part of the realignment, the company will restructure its Brazilian seed operations and is exploring discussions with additional local partners and collaborators to support the continued development and commercialization of its technology in Brazil. Earlier, the Company announced that due to the economic challenges faced by the Brazilian ethanol industry as well as changes in the global energy market, it had expanded the number of market opportunities available for...

Bio-Power Shows Competitive Edge

David Appleyard   IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, has published a study on the costs of biomass power generation, concluding that the most competitive projects can generate electricity at a cost as low as US$0.06/kWh. Bio Power Plant With Storage Of Wooden Fuel photo via BigStock Around the world, large quantities of agricultural and forestry wastes go underutilised and the agency argues that using these wastes as a feedstock to provide power and heat can cost less than electricity from the...

Shock Rise In Corn Production A Boon To Biofuel Producers

Jim Lane In grains, the big news has been the USDA prospective plantings report, which has corn up to 93 million acres in 2016, up 5 million over last year, and it was an unexpected gain given that stock levels of grain are high now. Big stocks plus a big planting equals even bigger ending stocks and prices have declined substantially for corn as a result, down 15 cents per bushel on the report. The USDA report? Officially, here’s what USDA had to say: Corn planted area for all purposes in 2016 is estimated at 93.6 million...

Bagasse – the Big Prize

Jim Lane Like MSW? You’ll love bagasse. Lot of the advantages of waste, and there’s a lot more available.  Heaps of bagasse, covered with blue plastic, outside of a sugar mill in Proserpine, Queensland.  Image via Wikipedia. Sugar’s the new oil, DOE Secretary Steven Chu is fond of saying. Codexis agrees, but argues that sugarcane residue (instead of competing for cane syrup) is the path to the real riches. Petroleum – we all know what it is, but what does...

Syntroleum and Sustec Announce Coal-to-Liquids Joint Venture

Syntroleum Corp (SYNM) announced today that they have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding that provides for exclusive joint business development of projects that will integrate Sustec's FUTURE ENERGY GSP® gasification technology with Syntroleum's Fischer-Tropsch (FT) and Synfining® technology. The joint venture is aimed at converting coal and other carbonaceous materials such as petroleum-coke, residual fuel oil and biomass into ultra-clean fuels. Each company will own 50 percent of the joint venture.

Capstone Introduces a New Generation of MicroTurbine Energy Systems

Capstone Turbine Corp (CPTC) announced that next month the company will begin shipping an enhanced line of 65-kilowatt microturbine models that will replace its popular C60 series of power and heat generators. The new natural gas fueled C65 and C65-ICHP (with factory-integrated heat recovery) will deliver higher electrical and thermal output without any change to the product's weight and dimensions, which are much lighter and more compact than similar capacity generators. This reduces footprint requirements and enables greater flexibility in indoor, outdoor and rooftop setting. Capstone also released news that the new C65 model will also...
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