I’m putting up for discussion an old adage this week: “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Within the context of energy supply, or rather the lack thereof, the adage could become: “If you can’t have it, find an alternative.”
As of late, many “have been” politicians, such as Al Gore, are following the advice of this new adage, as he is suddenly so worried about warming our planet up that he has reached the point of willingness to fire big, red flares into the dark skies of global indifference. Of course, his plight would have been more convincing had he put his support behind the issue when his teeth had an actual bite in them, but I digress.
The biggest hurdle behind environmental issues is always money. Our world is economy driven, and if the economy doesn’t like the odds, regardless of how important an issue is, it will be shot down. No ifs, ands, or buts.
But, at the moment, when there is economic justification for investing in an “issue,” preferably a noble one, investors big or small come flocking. I’ve spent considerable time discussing income trusts, most of them being energy trusts, so now might be a good time to see what else there is for energy-oriented investors.
With oil prices easing up, alternative energy stocks are gaining momentum and Canadian exchanges are full of them. These stocks are scattered all over the place, in the hydro sector, solar power, geothermal energy, wind, tidal and wave power, and, of course, alternative or bio-fuel stocks. Knowing what to go for is therefore exponentially more difficult.
Canadian government grants and programs are finicky, risk-taking sophisticated investors are few and far between, and the companies in the sector often battle high volatility and poor liquidity.
Then, why bother? Well, there are a few facts of life modern man has to contend with: The global climate is changing, as evidenced by bizarre weather patterns all over the world; Fossil fuel reserves are diminishing; Finally, sooner rather than later, we might have no choice but to find economically viable, alternative, clean sources of energy. It is really not a question of “if,” but “when.”
What are investors to do in the meantime? Well, if your “appetite” for risk can handle it, it might be time to start looking into alternative energy stocks. When choosing where to invest, there are two types of companies you should be focusing on: Those that actually manufacture clean(er) energy; and those that provide the technology to manufacture it. I prefer the latter group, the “brick- and-mortar” kind of stocks, but that’s just one analyst’s opinion.