by ilene - May 18th, 2010 4:40 pm
The Nuclear Option
By Marin Katusa, Chief Investment Strategist, Casey’s Energy Opportunities
Earlier this year, the Obama administration announced large new federal loan guarantees for the nuclear energy industry – totaling about $54 billion, or more than triple the current level of funding. Philosophically, we abhor government subsidies to any industry, but we also recognize that they’re a fact of life these days, with an inordinate influence on markets. So even though we’d prefer the government didn’t pick industry winners and losers, we must be mindful of what Washington is doing if we expect to reap profits as investors.
In this instance, the ramping up of government support means boom times are coming for the nuclear energy industry, which is about to awaken from a three-decade long sleep. And if you correctly position your energy investment portfolio, you can benefit from a comeback that’s baked in the cake.
Power is all about the numbers. Consider the illustration below, which shows how current electricity generation technologies stack up when it comes to producing energy (cost is in dollars per megawatt hour). Solar and wind generators are not cheap and don’t work when it’s dark or calm. They’re competitive only with heavy government subsidies and even then, will never contribute much juice to the grid.
Source: EIA. Adapted from http://www.investingdaily.com/tes/17201/sell-wind-and-solar-energy-stocks.html
Hydro, biomass, and geothermal fare much better, easily competing with more traditional technologies, and there are good investment opportunities among them that we’re following. But again, in the larger picture they’re minor players.
In terms of bang for the buck, it still comes down to coal, gas and nuclear, and Washington realizes we’re going to need all three to meet our future energy needs, especially as electric vehicles begin to replace those that run on gasoline.
The Obama administration is all for going as “green” as possible, but realizes that wind and solar are not going to cut it. Thus, after thirty years in the doghouse, the nuclear option has regained the respectability in America that it enjoys among nations such as China, where ten new plants per year are proposed (our last new construction project broke ground in 1977).
Despite lingering doubts among those who remember Three Mile Island, uranium has been dusted off and presented to the public as a safe, environmentally friendly, cost-effective source of power. And the new generation of plants is all of those…