4 Potential Biofuel Winners From EPA Targeting Aircraft Emissions

June 10, 2015 by Jon C. Ogg

Many investors have made money by making investments in change that they foresee years into the future. This never eliminates risk, and some investors make the right call, but how they made their investment or which companies they bet against can still bring losses. So, how would investors consider investing for or against the new notion that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued targets against greenhouse gases that are caused by the airlines and aviation sector?

The EPA is now seeking public input to inform future steps by the agency regarding emissions from the commercial airline sector. While the effort is new, this has been coming for years. One of the potential beneficiaries will be the biofuels makers. Still, there almost certainly will be winners and losers — and which companies win and lose is far from set in stone.

The EPA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are participating in International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO’s) process to achieve meaningful CO2 emissions reductions, and in a manner that is equitable across national boundaries. These standards are expected to be adopted in 2016, but this may still be years in the making.

24/7 Wall St. wanted to review four of the potential winners in biofuels here. The reality is that some of the moves may be very different from how things turn out in the months and years ahead. None of these companies are immune to market risk, sector risks and political risk. There are also other potential winners as well — and there likely will be many losers.

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Gevo Inc. (NASDAQ: GEVO) shares were up 5% at $3.95 on Wednesday afternoon, and the 52-week trading range of $1.32 to $14.85 should show just how volatile this is. Also, shares closed on Wednesday up 9.5% at $4.13 on roughly 9.4 million shares. Gevo had also traded over 7 million shares with more than an hour until the closing bell — more than double its average daily volume. Gevo’s market cap is not even $80 million. Gevo just recently announced a breakthrough to its fermentation technology that the company said would allow it to produce isobutanol from cellulosic feedstocks such as wood waste, which can then be converted into Gevo’s alcohol-to-jet fuel.

Renewable Energy Group Inc. (NASDAQ: REGI) was up 2% at $12.51 in late Wednesday trading. It has a 52-week range of $8.10 to $12.80 and a market cap of $550 million. Renewable Energy Group has 10 active biorefineries across the country that will help it become a long-term leader in bio-based fuels and chemicals. REG Synthetic Fuel’s renewable diesel technology converts renewable feedstocks into ultra-clean and environmentally friendly renewable synthetic diesel fuel, renewable synthetic jet fuel and more.

Solazyme Inc. (NASDAQ: SZYM) shows on its website that it has developed advanced biofuels derived from microalgae that burn cleaner and perform better than petroleum-based fuels — with one focal point on environmental impact without requiring engine modifications for use. Will it be a jet fuel player ahead, or will it focus on land-based vehicles? Solazyme shares were up 2.5% to $3.39 late on Wednesday, also with a volatile 52-week range of $2.00 to $12.44. Its market cap is $275 million.

Amyris Inc. (NASDAQ: AMRS) was up 2% at $2.00 on thin volume, within a 52-week range of $1.56 to $4.50. This $159 million market cap company is involved in many areas, but the its website does show that it is currently selling renewable diesel in metropolitan areas in Brazil and our renewable jet fuel with its partner TOTAL around the world.

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Again, this could still be years ahead, and many issues could derail cleaner and renewable attempts to replace traditional jet fuel. There is also no assurance that any of the companies mentioned here or elsewhere actually will emerge as winners in cleaner jet fuel.

New proposals are said to not apply to recreational planes, nor do they apply to military aircraft. The EPA release said:

U.S. aircraft emit roughly 11 percent of GHG emissions from the U.S. transportation sector and 29 percent of GHG emissions from all aircraft globally. In 2009, EPA determined that GHG pollution from cars and light trucks threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long-lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects. Since then, the body of science on human-induced climate change has strengthened, supporting today’s proposed finding — under a different section of the Clean Air Act — that GHGs emitted from aircraft engines contribute to pollution that causes climate change endangering public health and welfare. Today’s action supports the goals of the President’s Climate Action Plan to reduce emissions from large sources of carbon pollution.

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