"I have two great enemies, the Southern Army in front of me and the bankers in the rear. Of the two, the one at my rear is my greatest foe." - Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The future of energy is not oil, coal, solar, wind or nuclear!

Construction of a low temperature PEMFC: Bipol...Image via Wikipedia

Investing in energy can enhance your Retirefund in a very positive way, especially at this important juncture in history. Such investments are doing that for me right now. Do some research before you jump in, but don't be afraid to jump in, just be cautious. You wouldn't buy a new car without first doing research. Investments are no different, but make no mistake, the market has been the driving force of wealth for 100 years, and will be for the next hundred years.

Energy! It is such a complex and compelling subject. From the peak oil scare, to giant wind farms in Texas funded by lifelong oilman T.Boone Pickens. ( note: there are massive wind farms throughout Germany right now) Giant solar farms in California and Arizona. Presidential candidates pushing for 20 new nuclear plants and screaming "drill baby drill"! What can be made of all of this?

There is one energy source that has been discussed for the past 20 years as the energy of the future. Because of the short attention span of many investors, and the slower pace of solid science and engineering, this energy source has been flying under the radar for the past 5 years at least.

When scientists such as astro physicists explore space for signs of life other than that which is found on our small planet, they always include one molecule, or at least the atomic weight of one molecule hoping that intelligent life out there will understand. There is one reason for this. It is not only the most common element on this planet, it is not only the most common element in this solar system, it is not only the most common element in our galaxy, but it is "the" most common element in the universe. It is hydrogen, and it will power our future!

Hydrogen fuel cells have been touted as the future of the automobile industry. However it is not in the automobile industry that we will feel the first major effects of this abundant energy source. No it is not in the Buses running through the streets of Chicago or Vancouver that use hydrogen fuel cells produced by Ballard Power Systems (BLD-T) It is not in the cars that already operate with these fuel cells on the highways of California. Though this is certainly the future of the Auto industry, the beginning is much more modest.

It is on the factory floors, the warehouses, storage companies, moving companies, big box stores and myriad of other businesses throughout the world that will be the first to tap into this wonderful, not so new, technology. It is the humble forklift that will be the catalyst which speeds this technology into overdrive.

Ballard Power Systems has been methodically working on their fuel cell technology for over 20 years. It holds over 200 of the original patents in this technology and it has spawned it's own competitors, sometimes called "baby Ballards" such as, Fuel Cell Technologies, Plug Power and Hydrogenics, in much the same way that "Ma Bell" spawned "baby Bells" when it became dominant in it's business. Not to say that Ballard is dominant in it's business, but it certainly is dominant in owning the patents for the underlying technology, and far ahead of the kids in development. This year, it is shipping hundreds of fuel cell generators to India and the far East, to power wireless systems. It is shipping fuel cell fork lifts to a number of companies. These are the first breaths of a sleeping tech giant in my humble opinion.

Now it is well documented that one of the barriers to utilizing Hydrogen fuel cells is the storage of the hydrogen itself. Pure hydrogen (of which the only byproduct from using it in fuel cells is pure water) is volatile and must be cooled tremendously to be stored properly (at least with today's technology). Engineers and scientists are working on this problem and, no doubt, like Edison's light bulb, they will solve it, given time. So what happens in the mean time?

Natural gas! That's what happens. You see, as hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, it is found in many things, not the least of which is simple water (H2O or two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen). It is also found in every hydrocarbon, including, you guessed it, natural gas. Now let me see....hmmmm which continent has the most abundant supply of natural gas hmmmm..... Why it's right here in North America of course. Canada, and the USA are sitting on enough natural gas to power the whole planet for the next two hundred years and beyond.

Storing natural gas is also a challenge, but is already being done on a massive scale. Using this "first source" of hydrogen in fuel cell vehicles (from fork lifts to buses, trucks, railways, boats, cruise ships, huge power plants and then cars)will reduce current carbon emissions by over 70%. Talk about the "green energy" of the future!

Yes I know, there are hybrid gas electric vehicles on the road and now some electric vehicles etc These "stop gap" measures were talked about by "all" of the CEO's of the major car companies in the world from GM to Honda, back in the late nineties as exactly that: "STOP GAP: technologies that will pave the way to a hydrogen economy. Even if the pure electric vehicle finally wins the battle as a dominant technology, where will the electricity come from? It will come from power plants utilizing huge fuel cell stacks, burning at first, natural gas and then, eventually, pure hydrogen. It couldn't get any greener than this.

That economy is a lot closer than many investors know, and it all starts this year with fuel cell fork lifts being shipped around the world, mobile back up power generators for wireless systems in India, Germany and Denmark . Back up home generators in North America and Japan and this is only the beginning. Sooner than you think, large dirty coal power plants from Beijing and Mumbai to New York and Mexico City will be replaced with giant stacks of Fuel Cells to generate electric power to a hungry planet. No more dirty air! No more nuclear scares. Yes, there will still be the cry to "drill baby drill" but it won't be for oil near our coastal cities or our pristine northern wilderness. It will be for natural gas, in the largest pool of on land, natural gas fields in the world! Right here in our back yard.

And it's all thanks to one small company (soon to be a big company), Ballard Power Systems of Vancouver British Columbia whose founder had a vision for the future of this planet, and acted upon that vision.

Now do you think this information will affect your Retirefunds? I don't think it will, I know it will.

Update: Sept 10th 2009 ( Reuters )

"The Ardour Global Alernative Energy Index announced that Ballard Power Systems to be added to the index on September 20th 2009".

"The Ardour Global Alternative energy Index (SM) is a Capitalization-weighted, float-adjusted, index of the most prominent alternative energy stocks in the world. To be included in the AGIGL index, companies must be a pure-play and the stocks must pass multiple screens, including for capitalization, float, exchange listing, share price and turnover"!

Update: Oct 1-09 New York Times !
Oct 3 - 09 Vancouver transit accepts delivery of it's first Ballard fuel cell bus
Oct 8-09 Green Revolution

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