Ethical investing: Are US alternative-energy companies a good buy?
About a third of these firms are in the US, but some overseas prospects are too good to pass up, according to fund manager Carey Callaghan.
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The wind players are primarily from Europe. And there are a number of those. In the US, General Electric is a player. We actually think there's an indirect way that's rather interesting, which is Owens Corning.Skip to next paragraph
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The insulation guys?
Think the "Pink Panther." But insulation is only about 40 percent of their business. They also have a roofing and tile business. Then they also have a composites business. Now this is fiberglass, which Owens Corning invented in the 1930s…. And about 10 percent of their fiberglass business goes toward wind turbines, which is remarkable. That can become a significant driver for the company over the next five to 10 years.
Any other US companies that strike you?
There's a player in geothermal called Ormat Technologies. It's kind of a half-American company. It's 60 percent owned by an Israeli holding company called Ormat Industries. Ormat Technologies trades on the New York Stock Exchange, ticker ORA. This is the leading geothermal company, primarily in places, as you might imagine, like California and Nevada. They are set to expand their capacity by two-thirds in the next two years. So it's a remarkable expansion in capacity. And they have a development pipeline beyond that.
Are there enough US companies out there that you could build a diversified portfolio in alternative energy?
No…. I think it's important to look at some of the other companies. And there are some excellent companies overseas that can be attractive…. In China, which I think is a good place to be from an energy perspective, SunTech trades on the New York Stock Exchange in ADR [American Depositary Receipt] format. The ticker is STP.
Is there another company you're interested in?
There's a Brazilian company [that] also trades on the New York Stock Exchange called Cosan. The ticker is CZZ. They are the largest ethanol producer in Brazil. Sugar-cane-produced ethanol, unlike the corn-based ethanol we produce in the US, has a much more favorable output to input ratio. So in the US with corn, we get about 1.3, 1.4 gallons of ethanol for every gallon of diesel, for instance, that's used in producing it. But in Brazil, that ratio is 8 to 1. So it's a much more favorable yield. And as a consequence, they have much lower costs.
Is there a measure out there that will tell us when the US becomes a major player in alternative energy?
I would look for energy independence. I think that's really what it's all about.
Is energy independence possible in our lifetimes?
Absolutely. If the United States takes a willful, smart approach to this, there is absolutely no reason we can't be energy independent.
• Watch the entire conversation at csmonitor.com/ethicalinvesting.