Archive for cellulosic

Investing in Biomass

I’ve recently said that the best way to invest in both Advanced Biofuels and Cellulosic Ethanol, and Biochar (aka terra preta) is to invest in Biomass. Here is one way to go about it: buying Forestry ETFs or Stocks.

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Ethanol, Cellulosic Ethanol, and Advanced Biofuels

Last week, I attended the 2009 Fuel Ethanol Workshop and the Advanced Biofuels Workshop, writing two articles.  The first is a commentary on what the corn ethanol industry needs to do to rehabilitate its image, and the second looks into how the stock investor can benefit from emerging advanced biofuel, cellulosic ethanol, and
algae technologies.

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The Evidence of my Obsession with EVs

I’ve been obsessing about the best way to replace petroleum for transit fuels. Unlike venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, I think electricity will win the day over biofuels.. the cellulosic material can be put to better use.

This has lead to a series of articles over the last few months, and I thought I’d gather them all in one place, here:

1. Why Automakers may be blindsided by updtart EV makers.

2. How much are people really willing to pay for extra range?

3. How much is range worth, updated with new poll.

4. Why Cellulosic Electricity may Beat Cellulosic Ethanol

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Corn is For Ethanol, Grass is for Cows

Last year my wife and I read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s
Dilemma
, and it changed we eat.  My wife was greatly affected by how animals are mistreated in production farming, while I was attracted by the health
benefits of eating grass fed beef
and other foods grown in the manner to which they are evolutionarily adapted, as well as by the lower degree of harm to the environment.  We haven’t become all-natural, all-organic, all-the-time at the Konrad household, but we’re now much more willing to pay more when we have the opportunity to do so for food which we consider healthier and more environmentally and morally sound.  For a world-class tightwad like myself, being willing to pay more is a considerable step.

In any case, the book also got me thinking more sympathetically about the ethanol industry, because it serves as a relatively benign outlet for the mountain of corn produced by America’s insane farm policies.   I find rising price of corn and other grains is more a cause for celebration than despair, because I see current prices more as a return to sanity rather than a likely cause for starvation.  Even in the third world, low agricultural productivity is (in part) due to a lack of incentive to compete with subsidized first world production, rather than an inability to grow enough food.  The market for corn has been massively distorted by oversupply caused by too many subsidies.  Ethanol represents a new source of practically inexhaustible demand which is restoring balance to a market too long out of kilter.

One practice which the massive flood of cheap grain begat was feeding corn to cattle.  In my AltEnergyStocks
column this week, I look at one way I think the market may be starting to find its equilibrium again.  As corn prices rise, there will be less incentive to fatten cattle in feedlots (or Concentrated Agricultural Feeding Operations, CAFOs ad Michael Pollan calls them), and more to feed them grass.  I believe that long before we can perfect the art of using energy crops such as switchgrass to make cellulosic ethanol on a commercial basis, the rising price of corn will make it economic to feed those same energy crops (i.e. grass) directly to cattle, more than doubling the amount of corn currently available to the ethanol industry.

Click here to read the entire column.

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Canadian RE picks

There’s a good rundown of public Candian Renewable energy companies in the Globe and Mail today by Richard Blackwell.  They mention all of my favorite Canadian companies, and even one I had not yet heard about.logo

One note, there are several Canadian Income Trusts listed.  These are currently very volatile because of changes in thier tax status.  The extra volatility will undoubtedly lead to some excellent buying opportunities, but they are much more volatile than your standard income investor is probably ready for.  Where once I might have bought them for my more conservative clients, now I’m looking at them for my more aggressive clients.

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This Paper Bugs Bugs

I follow several forestry products companies because I beleive that investing in these companies is one of the safest ways to invest incellulosic ethanol: you’re investing in the feedstock, not the technology, so you do not need to pick the winning technology in a developing field (always a risky proposition.)  We are starting to see the advantages of owning the feedstock over the means of processing today with corn ethanol.  (also see VentureBeat; thanks for the link, Gav)

The forestry/paper I follow are the ones who are the most devoted to getting their forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (which I see as a good proxy for environmental responsibility in forestry. )  I’ve written about this before in Peak Oil Review.

One of the companies I follow, Domtar has just launched an antimicrobial office paper.   A great gift for the germ-phobe writer in your life.  Or, more practically, for use in hospitals.   I thought it was worth blogging, even if it’s a bit off topic.  Anything that can reduce hospital infections is a wonderful idea, since microbes in hospitals are often immune to antibiotics.

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