Want to get a peak at some up-and-coming green technologies that are REALLY close to the land? Head to an agricultural conference. The worlds’ largest annual farm conflab – the World Ag Expo (http://www.worldagexpo.com/) – just wrapped up in Tulare CA, and featured the world’s first “Cow Power” truck along with hosts of solar, geothermal and biofuel vendors. http://www.istockanalyst.com/article/viewiStockNews/articleid/3034905
Farmers GET the green movement and farms are in many ways at the epicenter of renewable energy. They have the space to house wind farms and the wastes to supply the market for biofuels and cellulosic ethanol. For the ingenuity of a single farmer, look at this article on KY’s Danny Kluthe: http://www.thepigsite.com/swinenews/20403/harnessing-the-power-of-pig-manure. And though corn-based ethanol stocks have been crushed by market forces (not to mention a public backlash based on supposedly higher food costs) “cellulosic” ethanol may be hitting its stride. http://features.csmonitor.com/environment/2009/02/13/the-%E2%80%98holy-grail%E2%80%99-of-biofuels-now-in-sight/
Cellulosic ethanol is produced from wood, grasses, and the non-food parts of plants like the stalks of corn plants after harvesting. Edible corn continues to comprise the bulk of ethanol projects in the US, where the easier-to-use sugar cane is not practical for weather reasons, but both the growth rate and the economic rationale is stronger for cellulosic. Irvine-based BlueFire Ethanols (EBB: BFRE, http://www.bluefireethanol.com/) converts these and other “agricultural residues” (a nicer term for cow poop you will not find) into ethanol. In December it announced a plan to design a plant in South Korea. It has a $21M market cap and trades at $0.75, off of its 52-week high of $4.50.
Aptly named Tarrytown NY-based Environmental Power Corporation (Nasdaq: EPG, http://www.environmentalpower.com/) develops renewable natural gas (RNG® ) from manure and other agriculture wastes. It has a deal to supply west coast utility PG&E with up to 8,000 MMBtu worth of it daily from its Stephenville, TX plant, the largest renewable natural gas plant in North America, if not the world. The stock has volume of around 100K shares a day and trades, at $0.39, near its 52-week low and well down from a high of $5.62.
Tulsa-based Syntroleum (Nasdaq: SYNM, http://www.syntroleum.com/main.aspx) has a joint venture with AR-based poultry giant, Tyson Foods, that will convert chicken grease into renewable diesel and jet fuel. Construction of the plant began last week, http://biz.yahoo.com/pz/090112/157534.html. Prior delays, which are almost inevitable with a project of this scale, have seemed to dampen much of the investor enthusiasm the announcement generated for the stock when the project was first announced. It trades at $0.80, above its 52-week low of $.43 cents and well off its high of $2.86.
The current climate is not kind to these capital-intensive companies because credit is tight at a time when the economic imperative to invest in alternative fuel is less than it was when oil was $145 a barrel. But in a matter of time farmers may look to these types of technologies to help them do well by doing good.