Where’s the next boom? Maybe in `cleantech’

October 6, 2009

Energy breakthroughs could be the next big thing, but how many jobs can they generate?

By Jordan Robertson, AP Technology Writer
9:33 pm EDT, Tuesday October 6, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Our economy sure could use the Next Big Thing. Something on the scale of railroads, automobiles or the Internet — the kind of breakthrough that emerges every so often and builds industries, generates jobs and mints fortunes.

Silicon Valley investors are pointing to something called cleantech — alternative energy, more efficient power distribution and new ways to store electricity, all with minimal impact to the environment — as a candidate for the next boom.

And while no two booms are exactly alike, some hallmarks are already showing up.

Despite last fall’s financial meltdown, public and private investments are pouring in, fueling startups and reinvigorating established companies. The political and social climates are favorable. If it takes off, cleantech could seep into every part of the economy and our lives.

Some of the biggest booms first blossomed during recessions. The telephone and phonograph were developed during the depression of the 1870s. The integrated circuit, a milestone in electronics, was invented in the recessionary year of 1958. Personal computers went mainstream, spawning a huge industry, in the slumping early 1980s.

A year into the Great Recession, innovation isn’t slowing. This time, it’s better batteries, more efficient solar cells, smarter appliances and electric cars, not to mention all the infrastructure needed to support the new ways energy will be generated and the new ways we’ll be using it.

Yet for all the benefits that might be spawned by cleantech breakthroughs, no one knows how many jobs might be created — or how many old jobs might be cannibalized. It also remains to be seen whether Americans will clamor for any of its products.

Still, big bets are being placed. The Obama administration is pledging to invest $150 billion over the next decade on energy technology and says that could create 5 million jobs. This recession has wiped out 7.2 million.

And cleantech is on track to be the dominant force in venture capital investments over the next few years, supplanting biotechnology and software. Venture capitalists have poured $8.7 billion into energy-related startups in the U.S. since 2006.

That pales in comparison with the dot-com boom, when venture cash sometimes topped $10 billion in a single quarter. But the momentum surrounding clean energy is reminiscent of the Internet’s early days. Among the similarities: Although big projects are still dominated by large companies, the scale of the challenges requires innovation by smaller firms that hope to be tomorrow’s giants.

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GM details plans to wipe out current shareholders

May 5, 2009

Tue May 5, 2009 8:01pm EDT

By Kevin Krolicki

DETROIT (Reuters) – General Motors Corp (GM) on Tuesday detailed plans to all but wipe out the holdings of remaining shareholders by issuing up to 60 billion new shares in a bid to pay off debt to the U.S. government, bondholders and the United Auto Workers union.

The unusual plan, which was detailed in a filing with U.S. securities regulators, would only need the approval of the U.S. Treasury to proceed since the U.S. government would be the majority shareholder of a new GM, the company said.

The flood of new stock issuance that could be unleashed has been widely expected by analysts who have long warned that GM’s shares could be worthless whether the company restructures out of court or in bankruptcy.

The debt-for-equity exchanges detailed in the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission would leave GM’s stock investors with just 1 percent of the equity in a restructured automaker, ending a long run when the Dow component was seen as a bellwether for the strength of the broader U.S. economy.

GM shares closed on Tuesday at $1.85 on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock would be worth just over 1 cent if the first phase of GM’s restructuring moves forward as described.

Once GM has issued new shares to pay off its debt to the U.S. government, bondholders and its major union, it said it would then undertake a 1-for-100 reverse stock split.

Such a move would take the nominal value of the stock back to near where it had been before the flood of new shares. But in the process, GM’s existing shareholders would see their stake in the 100-year-old automaker all but wiped out.

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The Kondratieff Cycle

February 2, 2009

kondratieff-cycle

Graphic compliments of The Long Wave Analyst.

Professor Nickolai Kondratieff (pronounced “Kon-DRA-tee-eff”)

Shortly after the Russian Revolution of 1917, he helped develop the first Soviet Five-Year Plan, for which he analyzed factors that would stimulate Soviet economic growth.  In 1926, Kondratieff published his findings in a report entitled, “Long Waves in Economic Life”.  Based upon Kondratieff’s conclusions, his report was viewed as a criticism of Joseph Stalin’s stated intentions for the total collectivization of agriculture.  Soon after, he was dismissed from his post as director of the Institute for the Study of Business Activity in 1928.  He was arrested in 1930 and sentenced to the Russian Gulag (prison); his sentence was reviewed in 1938, and he received the death penalty, which it is speculated was carried out that same year.  Kondratieff’s major premise was that capitalist economies displayed long wave cycles of boom and bust ranging between 40-60 years in duration.  Kondratieff’s study covered the period 1789 to 1926 and was centered on prices and interest rates.

Kondratiev waves — also called Supercycles, surges, long waves or K-waves — are described as regular, sinusoidal cycles in the modern (capitalist) world economy.  Averaging fifty and ranging from approximately forty to sixty years in length, the cycles consist of alternating periods between high sectoral growth and periods of slower growth.  The Kondratieff wave cycle goes through four distinct phases of beneficial inflation (spring), stagflation (summer), beneficial deflation (autumn), and deflation (winter).

The phases of Kondratieff’s waves also carry with them social shifts and changes in the public mood.  The first stage of expansion and growth, the “Spring” stage, encompasses a social shift in which the wealth, accumulation, and innovation that are present in this first period of the cycle create upheavals and displacements in society.  The economic changes result in redefining work and the role of participants in society.  In the next phase, the “Summer” stagflation, there is a mood of affluence from the previous growth stage that changes the attitude towards work in society, creating inefficiencies.  After this stage comes the season of deflationary growth, or the plateau period. The popular mood changes during this period as well.  It shifts toward stability, normalcy, and isolationism after the policies and economics during unpopular excesses of war.  Finally, the “Winter” stage, that of severe depression, includes the integration of previous social shifts and changes into the social fabric of society, supported by the shifts in innovation and technology.


Hope and Dreams Portfolio

November 21, 2008

The stocks in this group fall under the green/conservation/water umbrella. They are generally solving problems by doing good for society. Oh, and they make some money in the process.

Think positive and your dollars will respond in kind.

AMSC – supplies electrical systems used in wind turbines; sells power electronic products that regulate wind farm voltage to enable their interconnection to the power grid; licenses wind energy system designs to manufacturers of such systems, and provides consulting services to the wind industry.

BMI – is a manufacturer of flow measurement and control products, serving water utilities, municipalities and industrial customers worldwide. Measuring a variety of liquids, from potable water to oil and lubricants, to industrial processes, the Company’s products provide timely measurement information to its customers.

CCC – is a provider of products, and solutions for purifying water and air.

CDZI – is primarily engaged in acquiring and developing land and water resources. Its primary assets consist of 45,000 acres of land in three areas of eastern San Bernardino County, California. The Company’s portfolio of water resources are located in proximity to the Colorado River and the Colorado River Aqueduct, the principal source of imported water for Southern California, and provides the Company with the opportunity to participate in a variety of water storage and supply programs, exchanges and conservation programs with public agencies and other partners.

CLHB – is a provider of environmental services and an operator of non-nuclear hazardous waste treatment facilities in North America. The Company performs environmental services for over 45,000 customers, including more than 325 Fortune 500 companies.

CREE – focuses its expertise in SiC and GaN on light emitting diodes (LEDs), which consist of LED chips, LED components and LED lighting solutions. It also develops power and radio frequency (RF) products, including power switching and RF devices.

CWCO – develops and operates seawater desalination plants and water distribution systems in areas where naturally occurring supplies of potable water are scarce or nonexistent.

ELON – develops, markets, and sells system and network infrastructure products that enable various devices such as air conditioners, appliances, electricity meters, light switches, thermostats, and valves to be made smart and inter-connected. The Company’s products and services are offered to the principal markets, which include electric utilities, building automation, industrial automation, demand response, street lighting, home control and transportation.

FSYS – designs, manufactures and supplies alternative fuel components and systems for use in the transportation, industrial and power generation industries on a global basis.

FTEK – is an integrated company that uses a suite of technologies to provide boiler optimization, efficiency improvement and air pollution reduction and control solutions to utility and industrial customers worldwide. Fuel Tech’s special focus is the worldwide marketing of its nitrogen oxide (NOx) reduction and FUEL CHEM processes.

GRC – designs, manufactures and sells pumps and related equipment (pump and motor controls) for use in water, wastewater, construction, industrial, petroleum, original equipment, agriculture, fire protection, heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC), military and other liquid-handling applications.

HAIN – is engaged in manufacturing, marketing, distributing and selling natural and organic food products, and natural and organic personal care products under brand names, which are sold as better-for-you products.

HEV – has developed a working prototype of its hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) battery pack and is producing sample cells for testing for an electric vehicle (EV) battery pack.

ITRI
– provides a portfolio of products and services to utilities for the energy and water markets throughout the world. The Company is a provider of metering, data collection and software.

LNN – is a designer and manufacturer of self-propelled center pivot and lateral move irrigation systems, which are used in the agricultural industry to stabilize crop production while conserving water, energy, and labor.

PNR
– is a global player in providing products and systems used worldwide in the movement, storage, treatment and enjoyment of water.

SWWC
– is engaged in providing a range of services, including water production, treatment and distribution; wastewater collection and treatment; utility operations and maintenance services; and utility infrastructure construction.

TTEK – provides consulting, engineering, construction, and technical services for resource management and infrastructure in the United States and internationally. Its services include research and development, applied science and technology, engineering design, program management, construction management, construction, and operations and maintenance.

WGOV – engages in the design and manufacture of energy control and optimization solutions for reciprocating engine, aircraft and industrial turbines, and electrical power system equipment used in various industries worldwide. The company primarily provides integrated control systems and control components, such as electronics, actuators, valves, fuel systems, and combustion systems to OEMs of gas turbines for use in aerospace and industrial power markets; to OEMs of diesel engines, gas engines, steam turbines, and distributors for use in power generation, marine, transportation, and process applications; and to OEMs of electrical power generation, distribution, conversion, and quality equipment using digital controls and inverter technologies.

WTS
– is a supplier of products for use in the water quality, water safety, water flow control and water conservation markets.


Senate passes bailout

October 1, 2008

Plan to buy $700B in troubled assets wins OK. Backers hope add-ons will yield more yes-votes in House.

By Jeanne Sahadi, CNNMoney.com senior writer
Last Updated: October 1, 2008: 10:20 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — The Senate on Wednesday night passed a sweeping and controversial financial bailout similar in key ways to one rejected by the House just two days earlier.

The measure was passed by a vote of 74 to 25 after more than three hours of floor debate in the Senate. Presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, and John McCain, R-Arizona, voted in favor.

Like the bill the House rejected, the core of the Senate bill is the Bush administration’s plan to buy up to $700 billion of troubled assets from financial institutions.

Those assets, mostly mortgage-related, have caused a crisis of confidence in the credit markets. A major aim of the plan is to free up banks to start lending again once their balance sheets are cleared of toxic holdings.

But the Senate legislation also includes a number of new provisions aimed at Main Street.

The changes are intended to attract more votes in the House, in particular from House Republicans, two-thirds of whom voted against the bailout plan.

The House is expected to take up the Senate measure for a vote on Friday, according to aides to Democratic leaders.

The legislation, if passed by the House, would usher in one of the most far-reaching interventions in the economy since the Great Depression.

Advocates say the plan is crucial to government efforts to attack a credit crisis that threatens the economy and would free up banks to lend more. Opponents say it rewards bad decisions by Wall Street, puts taxpayers at risk and fails to address the real economic problems facing Americans.

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Key tax pieces of Senate bailout bill

October 1, 2008

Wed Oct 1, 2008 3:56pm EDT

(Reuters) – To improve chances of passing a $700 billion financial industry bailout package, Senate leaders have agreed to combine it with a package of tax breaks for renewable energy, businesses and middle class workers.

The roughly $150 billion cost of the tax package is partially offset by some revenue raising measures including one that would change the tax treatment of deferred compensation paid through offshore tax haven accounts.

Major tax provisions in the bill include the following:

* Extends Alternative Minimum Tax relief for some 24 million middle class taxpayers through 2008. Includes some additional AMT relief for people who exercised company incentive stock options.

* Extends provision allowing homeowners who do not itemize their taxes to take a deduction up to $1,000 for state and local property taxes.

* Extends through 2009 a provision allowing some taxpayers to take a deduction for state and local sales taxes.

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Massive Arctic ice shelf breaks away

September 3, 2008

Wed Sep 3, 2008 11:39am EDT

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) – A huge 19 square mile (55 square km) ice shelf in Canada’s northern Arctic broke away last month and the remaining shelves have shrunk at a “massive and disturbing” rate, the latest sign of accelerating climate change in the remote region, scientists said on Tuesday.

They said the Markham Ice Shelf, one of just five remaining ice shelves in the Canadian Arctic, split away from Ellesmere Island in early August. They also said two large chunks totaling 47 square miles had broken off the nearby Serson Ice Shelf, reducing it in size by 60 percent.

“The changes … were massive and disturbing,” said Warwick Vincent, director of the Centre for Northern Studies at Laval University in Quebec.

Temperatures in large parts of the Arctic have risen far faster than the global average in recent decades, a development that experts say is linked to global warming.

“These substantial calving events underscore the rapidity of changes taking place in the Arctic,” said Derek Mueller, an Arctic ice shelf specialist at Trent University in Ontario.

“These changes are irreversible under the present climate and indicate that the environmental conditions that have kept these ice shelves in balance for thousands of years are no longer present,” he said in an e-mailed statement from the research team sent late on Tuesday.

Mueller said the total amount of ice lost from the shelves along Ellesmere Island this summer totaled 83 square miles — more than three times the area of Manhattan island.

The figure is more than 10 times the amount of ice shelf cover that scientists estimated on July 30 would vanish from around the island this summer.

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