The budget showdown is about to begin and one of the major beneficiaries could be the nuclear industry.
President Obama's 2012 budget includes $29.5 billion for the Department of Energy, a slight increase over the 2011 budget. Getting that total in the current environment, however, would be a huge boon. The total would include $8 billion for solar, wind and batteries, as well as $853 million for new nuclear technologies, like small, modular nuclear reactors. Steve Chu supports modular nuclear, although some companies, such as NuScale power, have recently experienced financing problems.
The White House is also asking for $36 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear plants.
Part of the budget will be paid for by $3.6 billion in cuts to fossil fuel subsidies. Note: this figure seems to represent direct subsidies and may not include indirect subsidies, such as below-market royalties for oil and coal on federal land, sweetheart tax deductions, and public works projects, like dredging rivers, that largely only benefit fossil fuel companies. Still, it will be a fight. Expect to see those ads on TV about how coal keeps America working (underground and in dangerous situations).
--Lighting Science, which makes LED bulbs and fixtures, has filed the preliminary paperwork to hold a public offering on NASDAQ. We've tested the company's 40-watt-equivalent LED bulb and found that it puts out as much light as a 60-watt equivalent. You have to watch out what kind of socket you put it in: in many dimmer sockets, it will buzz, but in lamps, you won't have a problem. Soon, the company will release a 60-watt equivalent.
While LEDs are hot right now, it may not be a great time for an IPO. In January, Cree reported earnings (55 cents a share) and revenue ($255 million) for the most recent quarter that were slightly below expectations. Fears exist that China may slow down adoption of LEDs in public places. Factory capacity is another concern.
The concern can be seen in the fast rise and fall of SemiLEDs, a Taiwanese manufacturer that went public in December. The shares shot from $17 to above $30. Now they're wallowing around $17 again. A number of manufacturers plan to release more LED bulbs to the consumer market this year too, putting more pressure on Lighting Science.
In the first nine months of 2010, the company garnered $30.3 million in revenue but lost $154.3 million, with $42.5 million of that coming from an operating loss.
--The New York Times unearthed this 2008 video of Newt Gingrich supporting carbon taxes with Nancy Pelosi. Highly entertaining. Gingrich has one of the more novel approaches to energy. He wants to kill the EPA, expand coal mining, expand offshore drilling and expand corn ethanol. His worldview encompasses almost every bad idea out there. Still, the fact that he wants to regulate carbon taxes is interesting.