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...

Energy Investing: What To Expect In 2015

By Jeff Siegel Tonight, I will welcome in the New Year with family. We'll feast on cured meats, pickled vegetables, and lamb neck stew. We'll sip an old fashioned or two with apple and sage, share some laughs, and maybe even shed a few tears as we remember those we lost in 2014. When the ball drops, we'll hug, kiss, and cheer on all that waits to be discovered in 2015. There will be good and there will be bad, but I suppose it's the uncertainty of it all that makes life worth living. Don't Fear the Uncertain It...

Cheap Oil: Nemesis Or Sideshow?

by Garvin Jabusch Next economics posits that for the global economy and earth's tolerances/carrying capacities to run in a mutually tolerable equilibrium, we must continue to make rapid advances in economic efficiencies in all sectors. For 7.3 billion of us (and counting) to thrive on finite resources and avoid the worst effects of climate change, we have to drive more and more economic output from less and less input. Fortunately, energy is one of the areas where we can quickly make huge strides in this respect but not with fossil fuels in the mix. On the contrary,...

Big Money Looking For Green Investments

Sean Kidney Climate Finance session at UN Summit is electric.  Insurers go wild with promises; investors plead for green investments; Jim Kim almost breaks out in song about green bonds. It's the day after the UN Climate Summit party in New York. Yes I do feel as if I'm hungover; but it was a gas. If you're one of those who worry about the world, there is something magical in being inside the totemic General Assembly, with it's embodiment of one world idealism. Ban Ki Moon's audacious Summit convening (that's really the only power we allow...

Divesting: Last One Out Loses

Tom Konrad CFA Anew report written by Nathaniel Bullard at Bloomberg New Energy Finance highlights the difficulties large institutional investors would have divesting from fossil fuels. What it does not specifically discuss is that these difficulties could lead to large financial losses for investors who see the difficulty of divesting as a reason to delay. Just as we can't easily fill up our cars with solar power instead of gasoline, the report points out that there is no asset class that can directly substitute for oil and gas in large institutional portfolios. A person...

Capital Pacific Bank: Free Market Alternative with a Conscience

Not A Bankster By Jeff Siegel In the long, slow recovery from the 2008 financial collapse, the banking industry has increasingly been regarded as a buglight for the untrustworthy. The Libor (London Interbank Offered Rate) scandal brought banking corruption to the front of the news, and showed the world a huge ethical hole that had burned through the middle of major banks. In a 2012 essay entitled “Is Banking Unusually Corrupt, and If So, Why?” Financial analyst, Circuit Court judge and University of Chicago Law School Lecturer Richard A. Posner laid out the reasons why...

Renewable Energy Stocks By The kWh

Tom Konrad CFA Disclosure: Long BEP.  Short PEGI $20 and $25 puts, short PEGI $30 and $35 calls, short NYLD $40 and $45 calls. I recently sized up five renewable energy power producers using the metric that’s most often used for solar panels: Dollars per Watt ($/W).  It’s an intuitive metric, but has serious flaws both for evaluating solar installations and stocks.  Slightly better is Watts per Dollar (or W/$100 to make the numbers look nice) as shown in the chart from that article below. The main advantage of W/$100 over $/W is that it’s additive: I can meaningfully...

Renewable Energy Stocks By Dollars Per Watt

Tom Konrad CFA Disclosure: I and my clients own HASI and BEP. I have short call positions in NYLD and PEGI, and short put positions in PEGI. Dollars per watt ($/W) is a lousy measure of the economics of solar, but it persists. Most likely, it persists because it seems familiar.  We can pay $4 for a watt of solar, or $4 for a Iced Hazelnut Macchiato at Starbucks.  Unfortunately, while the analogy may seem apt, this is a lot like knowing you’re getting a Macchiato without knowing if it’s a Tall, Grande, or Venti.  The actual energy production from a...

Our Investments Matter

The stocks and mutual funds we own have a real effect on the behavior of the companies we choose (not) to invest in.

A Dangerous Game Of Us vs. Us Played With Our Life Savings

Tom Konrad CFA US law requires that money managers put their clients’ interests first. Investment advisers and money managers almost universally assume this means that they must try to make as much money for clients as possible. If your job is all about money, this can seem like a natural interpretation. More money is better, right? For others, equating making money to serving clients’ interests seems like a very narrow view of the world. If Tracy is saving for retirement, she obviously wants to have enough money to pay for it. She also wants to be healthy enough...

Watt’s Watt?

Watts are standard, but the way we talk and write about them is not.
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