Why Investing in Renewable Energy Is a Moral Imperative
My #1 Investment Strategy for 2020
It was in 2005 that I made an audacious claim...
The transition to a new energy economy had officially begun, the end of coal was upon us, and little by little, renewable energy was going to go from niche experiment to the second largest form of electricity generation in the United States.
You would’ve thought I had burned a flag, spit on the grave of George Washington, and stole a ham sandwich from a homeless teenager.
The reaction to my claim was incredibly hostile. And at the time, I found it odd.
Why would so many people get so angry about a suggestion that simply predicted a transition of our energy economy? It’s not as if such a thing had never happened before.
It’s just how it goes.
Old technologies get pushed out, new ones come in.
If this weren’t the case, you wouldn’t be reading this on a computer screen, and you sure as hell wouldn’t have had it delivered directly to your inbox within seconds of it being published. But man, some people are really loyal to things like coal-fired power and internal combustion — despite their uses becoming somewhat superfluous.
After stewing on this question for a while, however, I realized I was just as guilty of being loyal to one form of electricity generation over another.
For me, it was really about the promise of a cleaner planet as a result of burning less fossil fuels and relying more on “free” energy resources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, and the waves and tides of the ocean.
Such a loyalty, however, labeled me everything from tree-hugger to socialist. Not really sure how not wanting to treat the planet like a toilet is part of a socialist agenda, especially since I'm such an unapologetic capitalist, but I digress.
The point is, not only did I see this cleaner energy transition coming, but I was rooting for it. And that, dear reader, was the issue.
I was rooting for something that was new to a lot of people. Something that, until recently, wasn’t particularly viable on a large scale. Something that, for some weird reason, was oftentimes mocked by energy industry gatekeepers and the Wall Street elite.
Of course, I’ve never cared about either of those, nor have I ever been particularly bothered by ruffling the feathers of the status quo. Honestly, I kind of get off on it.
So to start 2020 off right, I’m going to do it again.
Energy Security or Global Threat?
A few days ago, energy company EnBW took its Philippsburg Nuclear Power Plant offline after its license expired at the start of the new year.
This is one of seven nuclear power plants that will be retired over the next two years, in coordination with Germany’s decision to phase out its nuclear power generation.
Some nuclear power bulls argue that this phase-out will endanger the country’s energy security — despite the fact that nuclear only accounted for about 13% of the nation’s consumed power last year.
Given that renewable energy delivered more than 47% of consumed electricity from the grid last year, such an argument seems a bit hyperbolic. It could also be argued that while concerns about energy security are not without merit, to deny that nuclear power still comes with its own set of serious threats, as well as massive financial burdens, is irresponsible and dishonest.
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While the Germans were busy retiring one of their nuclear power plants, Japanese officials charged with the responsibility of monitoring the remains of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant realized they were in a bit of a pickle: They don’t have any more space to store all that radioactive water they’ve been collecting like frantic nebbishes armed with leaky rain barrels.
Japanese officials said they might be forced to dump the contaminated water into the ocean. To put this in perspective, that’s 1.7 million tons of contaminated water heading to the Pacific Ocean.
According to Kim Ik-jung, a member of the Korea Nuclear Safety and Security Commission, it would be far safer to keep that radioactive water in tanks until the radiation level becomes low enough. The downside: That takes a lot of time and a lot of money. And let’s be honest, how safe is it to keep it in tanks for 300 years, anyway?
Not to be crass, but when it comes to safely disposing of this radioactive water, we’re kind of screwed.
Now, in all fairness, this very serious situation is not the result of the splitting of isotopes. It’s the result of a very dangerous combination of lax policies, sub-par safety procedures, poor logistical planning, and human error.
You see, I don’t distrust nuclear physics. It’s people that I don’t trust. Especially those who tend to make the types of decisions that affect public safety. And to understand my skepticism, you needn’t look any further than Chernobyl, Fukushima, or the more than half of the nuclear power plants in the U.S. that have fallen below acceptable safety standards.
Sure, there are plenty of folks who will call me crazy and tell me how safe and important nuclear power is. But I don’t buy it. There are far too many smart people on this planet who can, and have, come up with better alternatives to fossil fuels and nuclear.
This isn’t to discredit the contributions both fossil fuels and nuclear have made. Those can’t be denied. But the typewriter and rotary phone also made huge contributions to society, and we no longer use those because better alternatives were found. The same can be said with the move to safer, cleaner electricity generation.
Bottom line: It’s time.
And not just to embrace the future of electricity generation, but to invest wisely in the companies and industries that are making it all possible.
That’s not to say you still can’t make money in oil, gas, coal, and nuclear. Certainly you can. But the way I see it, it just makes more sense to invest and profit from all the things that will make this planet cleaner and safer for future generations, instead of backing fossil fuels and nuclear, which now seem to be becoming more of a liability and less of an asset, as they really do pose a serious threat to our natural capital: things such as fresh water, clean air, and healthy soil.
Certainly no form of electricity generation is environmentally benign, but some are simply worse than others. And if this makes me sound like an overzealous tree-hugger, then so be it.
But make no mistake: This overzealous tree-hugger has made a lot of people very, very wealthy by following one simple rule: Do well by doing good.
I’ve been doing it for more than a decade, and I’ll continue to do it in 2020.
I hope you’ll join me.
To a new way of life and a new generation of wealth...
@JeffSiegel on Twitter
Jeff is the founder and managing editor of Green Chip Stocks, a private investment community that capitalizes on opportunities in alternative energy, organic food markets, legal cannabis, and socially responsible investing. He has been a featured guest on Fox, CNBC, and Bloomberg Asia, and is the author of the best-selling book, Investing in Renewable Energy: Making Money on Green Chip Stocks. For more on Jeff, go to his editor's page.
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