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Former Wall Street Journal energy and environment reporter Bill Paul is senior investment adviser to (
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  • Khosla Calls Exxon Algae Project 'Pipe Dream' - Let's Have a Contest
                In the wake of my Seeking Alpha article ( on the promise of ExxonMobil’s (NYSE:XOM) project with biotech pioneer J. Craig Venter to produce bio-gasoline from algae, mega-green entrepreneur Vinod Khosla has told Bloomberg News that the Exxon project is a “pipe dream.” (
                Is Khosla, who has his own horse in this race (Solazyme), right? Only one way to know for sure. It’s time for a no-holds-barred contest to determine who can be first to the finish line with a commercially-viable, environmentally-acceptable process for producing large quantities of gasoline refined from algae that can be used in today’s cars and trucks.
                The US Department of Energy should organize and serve as judge together with a panel of experts drawn from MIT and other US universities. A cash prize of, say, $100 million could be put up by green-minded corporations such as General Electric (NYSE:GE) and Ford (NYSE:F). Of course a far bigger prize would come from the royalties the winner would enjoy in perpetuity from licensing the winning process to every refiner in the world. In addition to Khosla, Exxon, Bill Gates and other algae-backing big shots, this contest should be open to tiny algae pioneers still working in their garages.
                What’s America got to lose – other than its addiction to oil?
                Such a contest would give a shot in the arm to every publicly-traded company working with algae, including: Green Star Products (OTCPK:GSPI), PetroAlgae (PALG.OB), PetroSun (OTCPK:PSUD), and OriginOil (OTCQB:OOIL). 

    Disclosure: No Positions
    Jun 03 10:20 AM | Link | Comment!
  • Oil Spill is America’s ‘Gulf War 2’ – Obama Should Put Al Gore in Charge
    Having once toiled at the Wall Street Journal, I submit that within days the media will start calling the BP (NYSE:BP) oil spill America’s “Gulf War 2.” Reporters will start using the lexicon of war, as in:
    Oil plumes threaten to invade from Texas to Florida.  . . . The body count (birds, fish, etc.) keeps rising.  . . . America is losing the ground war (wetlands, beaches).  . . . The army of tourists upon whom the livelihood of millions of Gulf Coast Americans depends is in retreat.
                From Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge to Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann, the question will switch from: “Is this Obama’s Katrina?” to “Is this Obama’s Vietnam?” Commentators will keep making the point that, just as Lyndon Johnson’s popularity was so eroded by the Vietnam War that he didn’t run for reelection, Obama could suffer a similar fate if he doesn’t take charge (which is very different from taking responsibility, which the president did last week).
    If they know what they’re doing, the president’s advisers will tell their boss that step one should be the appointment of a strong field commander.
                My choice is Al Gore.
    It doesn’t matter whether you believe Gore is right about global warming. The former vice president has the stature and broad environmental knowledge required to fight Gulf War 2 on behalf of the American people. Gore’s appointment would put an end to the government’s passive, disconnected response to the oil spill. He would inspire thousands of young Americans to volunteer for the clean-up effort that’s still to come. All Americans would be reassured that Gore fights for America’s natural resources (and the jobs they can sustainably create), not for BP’s corporate balance sheet.
                To all Seeking Alpha readers: if you've got a better candidate, then, please, name him or her. 
    (Footnote: should the war be won under Gore’s leadership, it would usher in a new – and profitable – age for alternative energy investing.)

    Disclosure: No Positions
    Jun 01 9:53 AM | Link | Comment!
  • Japan's NGK, GE's Majority-Owned Indo Tech, May Be Big Grid Winners
    Playing the ‘Global Grid Game’ – Japan’s NGK, GE Majority-Owned Indo Tech Look Strong

    Posted: For the Week of January 24 – 30, 2010

    Maintaining and expanding the world’s electric power grids in order to avoid stupendous blackouts, add gigawatts of green power, and bring electricity to a billion additional people, will cost hundreds of billions of dollars over the next 10 years.

    Retrofitting just the U.S. power grid will cost $130 billion, estimates the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). China has earmarked $135 billion to upgrade and expand its high-voltage grid. India will need to spend billions if it has any hope of reaching its goal of increasing electrical generation capacity to 200 GW by 2012 from roughly 150 GW currently. Among the many planned projects that will cost billions are the super grids that will connect North Sea offshore wind farms to northern Europe and North African desert solar installations to southern Europe.


    Of the many players in the “global grid game,” two in particular that appear to have strong long-term positions are Japan’s NGK Insulators Ltd. (Symbol NGKIF.PK) and Indo Tech Transformers Ltd., an Indian company that trades in Mumbai (Symbol 532717) in which General Electric Co. (Symbol GE) recently acquired a majority stake through a joint venture with a Mexican firm.

    As Jesse Berst – whose web site, SmartGridNews, should be required reading – noted last month, “When it comes to the suppliers of grid-scale storage, there’s Japan’s NGK and its proven product line and then there is everybody else.”

    Given the growing need to “store” electricity from wind, solar and other so-called intermittent power sources, grid-scale energy storage will be a $4.1 billion market by 2018 compared with just $329 million in 2008, according to Pike Research, and NGK has already “garnered several significant multiyear battery orders,” according to Berst.

    To be sure, shares of power-storage companies (including NGK) have been performing well for many months. But with governments around the world due to spend upwards of $200 billion in green stimulus money this year and next, NGK’s upward climb would logically appear to have a ways to go.

    As for Indo Tech, while it’s just one of several power transformer manufacturers in India, it’s the one that GE appears to be using to spearhead its growth in the fast-growing Indian power market. “As generation ramps up, I think there are going to be a lot of opportunities for growth in the transmission and distribution sector,” GE Energy’s man in India was recently quoted as saying.

    Think of Indo Tech as a purer play that may generate bigger absolute returns than GE itself will in the global power market, a market that everyone agrees is, and will continue, growing by leaps and bounds.

    Disclosure: No Positions
    Jan 25 9:12 AM | Link | 1 Comment
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