Gevo -- a company that wants one day to produce isobutanol with genetically modified organisms but right now sells corn ethanol -- went public earlier this week, making it the third biofuels company to go public in the last six months.
Solazyme could be next.
Solazyme is expected to file an S-1, the prelude to an IPO, sometime next month, sources have told us. It could be an interesting one. Solazyme is one of the leaders in algae and it's one of the most unusual players in the space. The company produces algae oil via fermentation, i.e., feeding the buggers sugar in sealed vats, rather than growing them via photosynthesis in the sun. Fermentation requires sugar, an added cost, but it avoids the painful and expensive process of de-watering, or removing the algae from the water. De-watering was one of the problems encountered by now-defunct Greenfuel Technologies.
Solazyme sells oil to the food and pharmaceutical industries now and is working on a second pilot project to produce jet fuel for the U.S. Navy. Chevron is an investor. In fact, Solazyme is one of the few of the hundred-plus algae companies that has managed to produce thousands of gallons of fuel.
So far, the biofuel IPOs have fared well. Codexis, which makes enzymes for biofuels, has sunk, but Amyris has seen its stock rise from $16 to $31. Like Gevo, Amyris gets most of its current revenue from buying and selling conventional ethanol, but the company has devised an industrial lubricant that is getting rave reviews. (And they can have this slogan -- Amyris Encounters -- for free.) Gevo went out at $15 and now sits at $16.50, a ten percent jump.
If Solazyme does go public, it will be the first oil producer to actually get most of its revenue from oil that comes from its intellectual property and processes. Believe me, in biofuels, that's rare. Here's an award-winning film (Telluride, 2009) on Solazyme.
--Fred Upton, the Republican Congressman from Michigan, was part of a group asking Lisa Jackson whether the EPA should be allowed to regulate carbon dioxide. Upton and company said no. (State legislators in Minnesota, Montana, Colorado and Missouri are mounting attacks on their RPSs.)
“Needless to say,” Mr. Upton said, according to the New York Times, “the Chinese government and other competitors have no intention of burdening and raising the cost of doing business for their manufacturers and energy producers the way the EPA plans to do here in America. Our goal should be to export goods, not jobs.”
Actually, Fred, they are. On the same day that this conversation took place, China's Vice Premier Li Keqiang said that China should start to focus on energy conservation and erecting a system of tariffs that will make polluters pay.
"Energy-saving must always be a priority," he said, according to Reuters.
It's really too bad we can't subpoena Li. That would be highly entertaining.
The EU is also in the process of crafting an energy strategy that will up their goals of cutting greenhouse gases from 20 percent to 25 percent by 2020.
In China and Europe, it seems, green technologies are seen as a way to grow the economy, increase national energy security, and curb unsavory lateral problems like water pollution and asthma that come with fossil fuels. Michigan, Upton's home state, has been wracked by unemployment for years. Ford, however, has made a comeback with better, more fuel-efficient cars, and GM is mounting a comeback with the Volt. Several VCs say Michigan is a great place for starting a green tech company.
And if memory serves me correctly, Michigan resident and shirtless bowhunter Ted Nugent had a hit with "Bound and Gagged" in 1979, bemoaning how Middle East petronations had us in their snare.
You've got to dust off the eight-track in the Torino, Fred.