In global macro-economics there are a million different things that can occur to profoundly affect exchanges around the world and how investors respond in their buying and selling behavior. In my most recent blog I detailed just a few of them as examples for why I believe the historic, record-setting Trump markets are due for a major correction. And now other trading experts are starting to say the same thing.
But every so often I like to pull back a bit and at take a microscope to key developments, usually in technology and processes, which mostly fly under the radar but which have the potential to profoundly change the way the developed world operates. Developments like these, if they ultimately go public, present massive opportunities to get in on the ‘ground floor’ as they say.
As an oil and gas attorney and former landman, I have a special place in my heart for energy development and exploration technology. And it’s not just for drilling and pumping but rather of energy development at-large, whether fossil-fuel based or alternative. And I have maintained for several years now that we’re on the cusp of a breaking point in which the battle for dominance between fossil fuels and alternative fuels will finally be over. And now I believe that point has come.
Global economic statistics demonstrate that as much as 60% of the world’s consumption of oil is due to gasoline production for combustion engines. In short, well over half of the oil used on the planet is for transportation. And with the recent oil glut over the last few years, the oil and gas industry has clawed its way back to solvency in the wake of over-supply and flagging demand.
The question on the astute investors’ minds is whether the oil and gas industry will ever see the sort of boom again with over $100 per barrel. I’ve argued for some time that the answer to that question is an unequivocal ‘no’. The problem is two-fold. First, technology and oil have a love-hate relationship. As new exploration technologies emerge which make oil exploration much cheaper, ever more exploration companies can afford to go into business, drill and pump oil and thus put more oil on the global market.
But therein lies the rub: more oil on the global market presents a classic supply and demand quandary. Greater supply means lower prices and therefore lower profits. And lower profits mean more oil and gas busts. And that’s why investors are looking for alternate energy sources. Not because oil is too expensive but because the long history of the oil and gas industry has been marked repeatedly by the boom and bust cycle like no other industry has.
What could be more stable than oil and gas? Not wind; it’s too sporadic and not efficient broad-based energy production. Salt-water and oceanic energy production is still too expensive and is also not efficient. But with new advancements in just the last couple years, solar energy production is finally reaching the point that was predicted decades ago.
New solar cells being developed in Australia, for instance, will offer the same energy development potential as a roof-top solar panel but in the space of just a few inches square. Similarly new solar roof tiles developed by Tesla cost roughly the same as a traditional asphalt roofing but with the added benefit that they generate electricity.
The greatest challenge, however, to solar energy production hasn’t been merely the efficiency of solar cells…it’s been the inefficiency and lack of capacity in energy storage via batteries. But that problem appears to be solved by the most likely of people.
For decades now the world has increasingly relied on batteries for our ever-growing wireless existence. And the convenience of wireless living rests on the back of battery storage capacity. When the lithium-ion battery was invented by engineer and professor at the University of Texas, John Goodenough, the world took a leap forward in that wireless existence. But lithium-ion batteries brought with them limitations of their own. In addition to having a relatively short lifespan after a certain number of cycles were exhausted, they also presented the threat of catching fire and even exploding.
But now Goodenough has solved the problem with his latest invention which I believe will change the world all over again. Goodenough has reinvented lithium-ion battery now with a solid-state technology which solves all the problems of its liquid-based predecessor. Using solid-state, glass electrolytes, the new battery will charge in a matter of minutes (or seconds in the case of mobile batteries), last longer, are non-combustible and have a much longer lifespan.
Why will this change the world? It’s simple. The greatest impediment to residential and commercial applications of solar energy production is storage and charging. But with Goodenough’s new lithium-ion technology, smaller batteries will store more energy, recharge faster, last longer and be much cheaper. Oil producers beware.
Googenough and his team are currently exploring opportunities to test the technology with companies who have the ability to make commercial applications. Translation: the new lithium-ion technology will be coming to a smartphone, electric car and home near you very soon. And when that happens, companies offering those batteries will see significant increase in related stocks and options.
This opportunity will be not unlike investing early in Ford Motor Company prior to the advent of the assembly line or in Bell Labs prior to the discovery of telephony. It will mark a major turning point in how the developed world consumes energy. And, take it from me, energy is what makes the world go ‘round.