Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Opinion Makers Go Green

One of NASA’s top scientists and one of the first scientists of stature to speak out about global warming delivered a wake up call to the National Press Club yesterday. James Hanson called for a moratorium on building new coal-fired power plants. Over 150 new plants are scheduled for construction over the next ten years or so. That schedule is of great interest in our coverage of Fuel-Tech, Inc. (FTEK: Nasdaq), a supplier of air pollution control and carbon fuel efficiency products. Hanson says any new coal-fired plant must be capable of capturing and burying the carbon dioxide it produces.

The consequences of global warming are laid out without much fanfare in Al Gore’s documentary,
“An Inconvenient Truth.” The film won Best Documentary from the Academy of Motion Picture Artists and the documentary’s theme song, “I Need to Wake Up,” won Best Song. In accepting the Oscar statue for Best Song the performer, Melissa Etheridge, spoke a mouthful: “…caring about the Earth is not Republican or Democrat, it’s not red or blue. We are all green.”

We are all green, but you would never know it in the Mid-West. The Mid-west is awash in yellow, or at least dreams are filled with yellow corn. The zeal to sell corn for ethanol production has very little to do with replacing fossil fuels with renewable fuels. In the nation’s bread basket, selling corn is more a matter of replacing the emptiness in farmers’ bank accounts. In the Mid-West global warming is more an abstraction than a cause. There is only a vague sense of the impending disasters as described by the learned scientists from NASA. However, the price of corn is real - March futures contract is selling at four bucks and change.

In this respect corn farmers and ethanol plant operations are very like oil and gas producers. Hence, lobbying efforts to promote ethanol from corn is very like the lobbying effort to approve pipelines in Alaska. Environmental concerns are cast aside in the interests of profits. I do not fault the farmers. This is the way of capitalism. Yet the public, as stewards of the environment, must arbitrate the trade. It is not any more acceptable for corn producers or ethanol producers to gain financially at the expense of the environment that it is for oil and gas producers.

From the Academy of Motion Picture Artists to the National Press Club global warming is getting a great deal of attention by people who are frequently opinion setters. The question is, how long with it take for movie stars and journalists to bring the message to the rest of the country.

Neither the author of the Small Cap Copy web log, Crystal Equity Research nor its affiliates have a beneficial interest in the companies mentioned herein. Crystal Equity Research has a buy recommendation on FTEK.

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