Signup for our free newsletter:

Investing in the Death of Coal

Written By Jeff Siegel

Posted July 16, 2015

The worst investor I know is my uncle Mac.

Uncle Mac is one of these guys who always discovers an investment trend, after it’s peaked. And when there’s no hope of recovery, he’s the sap who’s buying.

Don’t get me wrong, Mac’s a great guy. And I’ve even called him a sap to his face. I think he reluctantly agrees with me, but he’ll never admit it.

You see, my uncle Mac thinks that any time something falls out of favor, it’ll eventually come back. He’s like a really bad antique dealer who gets all emotional about obsolescence.

vhsFor instance, uncle Mac is probably sitting on around 3,000 VHS tapes. He still thinks he can unload them for a buck a piece. And when I tell him that few folks still have VHS players, his response is, “I have three, and they all work great!”

Spoken like a true sap!

Mac has an entire attic full of treasures that he assures me are quite valuable. In addition to those highly sought after VHS tapes, he has boxes of old disposable cameras, crates of blank cassette tapes and about 30 old fax machines he picked up from a repo sale back in the late 1990s.

Fortunately, when it comes to his stock portfolio, he ignores the imbecilic devil on his shoulder and seeks my advice instead. Although there are still plenty of times when he fights me.

Like last year for instance, after I told him it was time to remove all exposure he had to the coal sector, his response was, “Why, because of climate change? Hahahahaha.”

Mac also thinks he’s the funniest guy in the room. He’s not, but I do tend to entertain this illusion from time to time.

In any event, I broke it down for him …

1.) Dirt cheap natural gas is killing coal’s dominance
2.) There are too many burdensome and costly regulations for coal to continue as a viable option going forward.
3.) Renewable energy has become so cheap that coal simply cannot compete going forward. Even in the absence of renewable energy subsidies – which is coming, by the way – the cost advantage of renewables has become too great, and will only continue to chip away at the once mighty coal machine.

It was a bit of a hard sell, as Mac’s an old school conservative that doesn’t tend to do well with change. And any mention of solar shoots his blood pressure through the roof. “God-damned Greenies wanna put me in the poor house just to save some fucking owls!”

Yes, this is what I deal with.

But as much as Mac hates those “God-damned Greenies,” he hates losing money even more. So he took the gains he had amassed over the years from Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR) and the Market Vectors Coal ETF (NYSE: KOL), and put his winnings into one solar stock and one wind stock: SunEdison (NYSE: SUNE) and Vestas Wind Systems (OTCBB: VWDRY).

Did he make the right choice?

Well, here’s how ANR and KOL performed after he dumped them …



And here’s how SUNE and VWDRY performed after he bought them.



Although Uncle Mac still thinks its perfectly acceptable to treat the planet like his own personal toilet, he doesn’t have many bad things to say about renewable energy anymore.

So are my takeaways …

1.) Coal is dying
2.) Solar is soaring
3.) Even those who think environmentalists are more destructive than a swarm of locusts aren’t stubborn enough to turn down a fat profit from a solar company.

And for the record, I shared this piece with uncle Mac before publishing it.

His response was classic uncle Mac.

“Asshole. How’s my SunEdison doing?”