How will President-elect Obama affect your portfolio? Keep reading our special series for the lowdown.
During the second presidential debate, Barack Obama was asked to rank health care, energy, and entitlement reform in terms of pressing priorities. Energy came in at the top of the list.
It took $4-a-gallon gasoline to do it, but our leaders (and leaders-to-be) have finally recognized that "borrowing from the Chinese and sending money to Saudi Arabia" is not an energy plan. So what exactly does the president-elect envision for our energy future, and what does it mean for investors?
Well, let's frame our discussion using the bullet points of the Obama/Biden New Energy for America plan:
Provide short-term relief to American families facing pain at the pump.
This first item has lost a great deal of its urgency in recent months. Thanks to the commodities crash, I filled up my tank for about $30 this week.
The whole windfall profits tax notion, which somehow survived my withering critique last May, will most likely be left on the shelf. Sure, ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) just notched another record quarter, but that's a high-water mark unlikely to be matched in the foreseeable future.
Help create 5 million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next 10 years to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future.
This potential green largesse runs the gamut, from plug-in hybrids to next-generation biofuels, and from clean coal to energy-efficiency technologies. Cleantech investing has been red hot, with the venture capital community pouring $1.6 billion into U.S. firms in the third quarter. The October carnage has certainly had an impact on cash-constrained start-ups, but the sector may bounce back to bonanza mode thanks to an Obama bump.
I was initially hesitant to recommend that all Fools make room in their portfolio for clean energy, because this market is a minefield. On second thought, however, you're not limited to pure plays like Suntech Power (NYSE: STP ) and LDK Solar (NYSE: LDK ) . For instance, there's Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) , whose gigawatt-scale ambitions we have documented and even defended. You've also got Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) , IBM (NYSE: IBM ) , and countless other multinational stalwarts angling for pieces of the renewable pie. So do go ahead and work some green into your portfolio -- if only indirectly.
Within 10 years, save more oil than we currently import from the Middle East and Venezuela combined.
The idea here is basically to combine higher fuel economy standards for our gasoline-fueled vehicles with a transition to plug-in hybrid electric/flexible fuel cars. If you think I'm going to recommend an automaker for investment, well, forget about it.
Put 1 million plug-in hybrid cars -- cars that can get up to 150 mpg -- on the road by 2015, cars that they will work to make sure are built here in America.
Still not interested in the automakers, but if you see another investment angle here, I'm all ears.
Ensure that 10% of our electricity comes from renewable sources by 2012, and 25% by 2025.
If the idea of $15 billion a year in government cleantech investment wasn't enough to make you see green, then a 10% federal "renewable portfolio standard" ought to do the trick. The response by utilities like Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK ) in conforming to state-level standards has been solid, and a nationwide mandate would really get the megawatts moving.
Implement an economywide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050.
This proposed cap-and-trade program is absolutely crucial for the Obama/Biden green investment plan, because a portion of the pollution credit auction proceeds will seed the $15 billion investments mentioned previously. Importantly, we have the European Union experience to draw from, and we have a better shot at getting our carbon priced at a proper level from the get-go.
A Foolish final word
The policies outlined above are obviously preliminary, and a weak economy will pose a real challenge to some of these programs. At the same time, that very weakness cries out for new jobs, new profit centers, and new efficiency standards. I have to agree with money manager Jeremy Grantham that a massive green government stimulus program could offer a "long-range bonanza" for this country.