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Jun-26-2012 14:37printcomments

Green Energy Bad Idea for Pension Funds

State pension fund managers you can relax now: Al Gore is here.

Al Gore
Courtesy: weblogs.sun-sentinel.com

(OCEANSIDE, CA) - Gore wants to put your retirement savings in Green Energy. He does not want to tell us what companies or how much.

Just last week it was revealed that Al Gore's investment company has been managing assets for New York state and city pension funds for three years. Pension fund officials say Al is doing a great job.

But they refuse to tell us where Al is putting the money.

The news of Gore's involvement in state pension funds comes the same week several research reports surfaced that said state public employee pension funds are in crisis and underfunded by $1 to $4 trillion dollars.

Not to worry, says Gore. Now that his Nobel Peace Prize for his theory about Global Warming is gathering a bit of dust, Gore has another theory. He calls this one Sustainable Capitalism.

'We invest in private equity, restricted public equity and unrestricted public equity. This strategy is focused exclusively on deploying capital into companies that are part of the transition from a high-carbon to a low-carbon economy.'

That's what it says at his web site: Indecipherable graduate student seminar talk. What there isn't is any mention of what these great companies might be. The only thing we do know for sure is that if Al's company's get successful, he will want to tax the beejeesus out of them.

An important part of Al's philosophy is to invest long-term, he says. Combine that with not letting us know what his holdings are, and that makes his investment strategy even more challenging.

I wish I could do it, but my clients won't let me: They always want to know what they own and how it is doing. To them, long term is the 15 minutes it may take to return their phone calls.

Al's philosophy really violates a cardinal rule of the canny investor: Don't fall in the love with your stocks. If they don't perform, dump them. Don't double down and explain to everyone why the world needs this.

The world seldom listens to a lousy stock.

I'm sorry if I am as skeptical of Al's financial acumen as I am of his meteorological expertise. But green investments are terrible performers.

More than a year ago I told my clients and readers to 'sell everything under the sun.' I shorted First Solar, America's largest solar manufacturer.

The stock was at $120. Today is at $14.

Line 'em up: The green energy cars, green battery companies, green solar, green wind, green you name it: They are toxic to a portfolio. Unless of course you short them.

Four years ago, the Solar Index -- TAN -- was $307 a share. Today is is $19.

The Wind Index was $31 a share. Today it is $6.

Vestas Wind was $25 in 2009. Today is $1.70.

The list of lousy green stocks is just about the closest thing we have to an infinite renewable resource.

Curious how almost all of investments in green energy that Al would make for public employees require public subsidies and regulatory relief from the same people who are investing in the technology.

These are also the people who issue the numbers on Green Job growth. If you drive a bus, you have a green job. If you push a broom at the bus station, you have a green job. If you type a memo to the bus drive, you have a green job.

Remember that the next time some green broker tells you about the growth in the hundreds of thousands of green jobs in this country.

Months before President Obama made his now infamous visit to Solyndra, I wrote about how Solyndra was 'not a going concern' in several papers throughout the country.

A lot of people in the investment business knew it. If any reporters did, they did not see fit to share it with us. Maybe they were in it for the long term.

But the money still poured in.

That is green investing: If it feels good, do it. If you can brag about it at a dinner party, tell your broker to buy it. If Al Gore likes it, that's all you need to know.

But if your state pension fund actually needs the money, don't.

Bill Gunderson is the owner of Gunderson Capital Management in Oceanside, California. Bill also hosts a show on kceoradio.com


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