In the competitive spirit of college basketball's annual championship tournament, The Motley Fool brings you Stock Madness 2007! Our writers are making head-to-head arguments for their chosen stocks (but not necessarily investment recommendations -- this is, after all, a game), and you'll pick the winners with your article recommendations and Motley Fool CAPS ratings. Who will win the right to cut down the net? Let's tip things off and find out!

Want to know how big Sasol's (NYSE:SSL) petroleum-alternative market is? Try this on for size: Many of the biggest oil producers -- including British Petroleum (NYSE:BP), Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS-A), and ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) -- are interested in getting into the business. To do so, though, they pretty much have to go through Sasol, which owns scores of patents in the decades-old process that is used to convert coal to liquid fuel for use in transportation or other applications.

Who else is interested? Oil-producing Nigeria, for one, as is Qatar, a country that quite literally floats on natural gas. Sasol also has a patented process to convert natural gas to liquid fuel. China wants Sasol to build plants in the country; the states of Pennsylvania and Montana also want plants. Coal giant Peabody (NYSE:BTU) is in partnership with fellow coal-to-liquids company Rentech (AMEX:RTK) to develop production facilities near mine mouths in the western U.S.

What we're witnessing is the beginning of a revolution. Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO)? Its revolution has passed. As clean coal technologies progress -- companies like Fuel-Tech are already well on their way in this regard -- it is inevitable that coal-rich countries throughout the world start to look at this as an alternative for fuel from petroleum.

Rentech and fellow synfuel company Syntroleum are interesting plays on the coal-to-liquids market, but to me they're more a pure-play call option than Sasol. Sasol's been around since 1950; it was set up in South Africa to help the country develop alternative sources of energy should it be cut off from foreign oil. It also explored extensively for oil and gas, and produces all forms of chemicals and solvents.

Every scary global energy trend you can think of plays into Sasol's hands. OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, wants desperately to keep oil at about $60 per barrel. Things like the collapse of production in Mexico's biggest field, interstitial and perhaps permanent cutoffs of oil from Venezuela, continued Middle Eastern instability, the increasing cost of extracting oil throughout the world -- all of these point to the need to look for other sources.

And look at this: Last year Sasol earned $2 billion, while Cisco generated profits of $7 billion. And yet Cisco's priced at $157 billion, while Sasol is at $18 billion. Figure this out for me -- a company at the beginning of what could be an incredible string of growth with an enormous moat in the form of its patents and installed base, versus one that sees its best growth days firmly in the rearview mirror and now must count on product cycles and margin improvements for its incremental revenues. Cisco is, as it always has been, a fine, well-run company. You won't catch me speaking ill of its business acumen. But we're talking about an old-line tech firm versus a company that truly has the tiger by the tail.

Does this stock deserve to move on to the next round? If you think so, simply follow this link and rate the stock "outperform" in Motley Fool CAPS. If not, rate it "underperform." Later this week, we'll tally your votes to determine which stocks will advance one step closer to the title.

Read our opposing article on Cisco, or see all of the other entries in this tournament.

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Bill Mann owns none of the companies mentioned in this article. Sasol is a Global Gains recommendation. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.