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A Trashy Investment?
Here’s one from the Wall Street Journal blog:
Food scraps and trashed Christmas trees could one day be a source of a billion-dollar business, according to Harvest Power, a start-up that just raised $110 million to help convert organic waste to energy and fertilizer, VentureWire has learned.
From Harvest Company’s website, the financing included a Who’s Who of venture capital:
True North Venture Partners led the investment with American Refining and Biochemical, Inc. Existing investors, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), DAG Ventures and Generation Investment Management among others, also participated in the financing round which was one of the biggest in renewable energy history.
Generation Investment, by the way, is the enviro-themed venture capital firm started by Al Gore. Heavy-duty green-preneur sponsorship…
Harvest Power is a startup with an organic stream model: composting, mulches, renewable energy, engineered fuels. In public/private partnerships, Harvest’s mission is to rebuild soil and close the sustainability loop.
Sounds good when you say it fast, but we should remain just a little skeptical.
For one thing, much like wind and solar and biomass, composting is a small-scale solution the economics of which don’t scale up too well at an industrial, capital-intensive level. (for real small-scale composting solutions, try Sustainable Life Blog‘s latest post, Reader Question: Apartment Composting)
Second, I’m wary of most industries that need public funds in the form of subsidies to stay viable. In public/private partnerships, the only privates that get squeezed are the taxpayers’.
The money quote from the WSJ blog article:
The company is currently building two commercial-scale power generation facilities in Canada. It will sell power for about 13 cents per kilowatt-hour to local utilities, cheaper than most renewables but more expensive than the prices for natural gas-powered electricity.
Typically, unprofitable ventures will seek to enhance their business moat through the political process. While I personally support sustainability, the term should also stand for turning a profit in the free market.
Yes, we know that in some municipalities, consumers are given a choice of sorts on how their power mix is delivered. They can opt to pay more per kilowatt-hour, based on the source, whether renewable or fossil. There are obvious physical limitations to this model: if a power utility only has 10% of its generating capacity derived from renewables, and 20% of its customers opt for 100% renewable, the utility can’t possibly satisfy this demand. Extreme example, but only presented to show that large capital-intensive facilities like a coal plant will continue to be utilized until the ROI is satisfied, either through the market process, or through captive subsidies.
Waste Not, Not Want?
We should justly be wary of alternate means of power generation from biomass. Just because biomass carries “renewable” bio-credentials doesn’t necessarily mean it is environmentally clean or carbon neutral. Ethanol, for example, was and is a stupid waste of taxpayer funds. The nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions in straight biomass combustion are higher than fossil fuels like natural gas. Our own city’s experiment with power generation from trash ended a few years ago, quietly and ignominiously.
So, a gold star to Harvest Power for their soil-friendly company mission, a middling neutral for securing financing from politically-connected greenpreneurs, and a very large demerit (or kick in the huevos, whichever) for seeking to profit off the citizens with taxpayer-subsidized capital traps.
Wood gasification, on the other hand, is a horse of a different color. Check out this Mother Earth News series of articles, starting with this one featuring Wayne Keith, a Springville,Alabama farmer/inventor: “I Went 84 mph in a Wood Gas Truck”
On to the Links….
I’m trying to change up the weekly roundup, keeping it fresh. If a blog post was highlighted in last week’s go-around, chances are it won’t be in this one.
I was graciously invited on AverageJoe’s podcast this week, along with fine folks Len Penzo, Carrie of Careful Cents, and Dom of Your Finances Simplified. The subject of the discussion was entrepreneurship. Check out the podcast, at Free Financial Advisor. If the podcast isn’t up yet, keep checking back. There’s lots more good stuff on there, including this: Allowances and Overprotective Parents: Our Cuppa Joe Thursday Discussion
On that include thing, we’ll make an exception for PK @ DQYDJ, with Weird Effects of Inflation: The Costs of Coinage
Heck, another exception, but only because there’s a photo of Office Space Milton on the blog post (and also because it’s a great post). Kevin @ Invest It Wisely, with What Do You Lose when You Decide to Stop Working for the Man?
Here’s a headline sure to make many a PF blogger tremble, from Yahoo Finance: Why Apple Shareholders Should Fear The Government. Price collusion on textbooks and monopoly pricing on iTunes. Dunno, prices went from $0.99 to mostly $1.29/song. Could that be mostly inflation? Here’s a libertarian perspective from Jeffrey Tucker @ Whiskey & Gunpowder, Regulators Take On The E-Book
If you’re planning on supporting a charity this week, make it one sponsored by a fellow PF Blogger. Your Finances Simplified talks about Uplifting Sisters, a group dedicated to making young women feel special around prom time.
New to the Yakezie blogging scene is TB from BlueCollarWorkman. Here TB lays out how it is to install bathroom stalls to string regulations: What You Didn’t Know About Installing Bathrooms
In a blogging mechanics interlude, Karl @ Cult of Money asks if you know your “customers”, with Segmenting Your Visitors for Fun and Profit. On second thought, “segmenting your visitors” could also work as a groaner-type tag line for a B-movie motel slasher flick.
From Denise @ Write and Get Paid, here’s a little Monday Motivation: Successful Writer with Dogged Determination
Carrie @ Careful Cents has a Few Facts About a Roth IRA. You don’t have a Roth yet? Why not, whassamatta u?!
Summer traveling season is here. Marissa at Thirty Six Months has a few tips on how to save while traveling.
Daisy @ Add Vodka has a few words of advice for young newbie professionals, with Start Off On The Right Foot: Tips for Interns (Or Newbies in General)
Mark @ My Own Advisor goes over his dividend income, with March 2012 Dividend Income Update
Maria @ Money Principle riffs on car ownership, with Zen and the art of motorcar ownership: how much are our car ownership costs, really ?
Free Money Finance reviews various credit card rewards programs, with Best Cash Back Credit Cards
John @ Married with Debt takes on Early Retirement Extreme
In the Good Eats section, we find Andi @ Meal Plan Rescue, with a recipe for a delicious Quick Potsticker Sauce
Carnivals and Roundups
Best of Money Blog Carnival $150 – The Easter Edition, hosted by One Cent At A Time
Carnival of Retirement, 14th Edition, hosted by Passive Income to Retire
Totally Money Blog Carnival #62 – Easter Edition, hosted by Stupid Cents
Festival of Frugality #331, hosted at One Smart Dollar
Yakezie Carnival, Easter Edition, hosted by Watson’s, Inc
Carnival of Money Pros, Spam Folder Edition, hosted by Beating Broke
Friday Night Links, Maze Edition, over at KrantCents
Beating The Index has commentary on natural goes to along with his roundup, in Weekend Roundup: Go long on Natural Gas, says Goldman
101 Centavos around the web… I don’t often write on other blogs, but when I do, I make it
Penny Thots. Stay informed, my friends.
I’m about done here. Time to go pick up a load of “free” mulch from our municipal green waste site. No public/private partnership there, just good old-fashioned involuntary taxpayer support. Thanks for stopping by and reading. Please feel free to subscribe to this blog, either by email, twitter or RSS reader. I’m not too fussy *how* it’s done…