Saturday, April 7, 2007

Biofuel Investments

The Wall Street Journal's Energy Roundup had a post Friday going over first-quarter results for clean-tech and alt-energy investments. One thing that jumped off the screen was how poorly the biofuels group did compared to solar and wind power last quarter.

This industry is going to be tougher to handicap than the auto's were between 1895 and 1925:

"Various lists of automobile producers have been compiled. The most inclusive is a list compiled by Carroll and Hannan [1995] from the Standard Catalog of American Cars, which attempts to list all firms ever mentioned as involved in the automobile industry. Smith [1968, pp. 183-184] confines his list to firms that manufactured and sold to the general public. He excludes the few companies that built and exhibited cars for the sole purpose of selling stock, the hundreds of companies that filed for incorporation but failed to advance beyond the paper stage, and the hundreds more that designed a car but never got into production." (How's that for a footnote! From a wonderful paper by Steven Klepper at Carnegie Mellon).

Biofuels probably won't be as financially disastrous as the airlines:

"Investment legend Warren Buffet notes, “As of 1992, the money that had been made since the dawn of aviation by all of this country’s airline companies was zero. Absolutely zero.”

Lamenting his unprofitable purchase of stock in US Air, the normally sagacious Buffet quipped on the December 17, 2003 centennial anniversary of the Wright brothers’ historic flight, 'If I’d been at Kitty Hawk in 1903 when Orville Wright took off, I would have shot him down. Karl Marx couldn’t have done as much damage to capitalists as Orville did.'” There are numerous versions of this quote, this version sounds like Mr. Buffet but it may be apocryphal.

Next week I'll post some of the things I've learned over the last few years about biofuels.