As the world trained its eyes on Copenhagen last Friday to learn the location of the 2016 Olympic Games, I sat in a bar in Washington, D.C., with an old friend.
We were waiting for the results of a different contest.
The race we were interested in has far larger economic ramifications than the Olympics and every bit of the games' intense competitive spirit.
While billions of eyes around the world watched televisions to learn the location of the 2016 games, only a handful of other people even knew about the other race, the one my friend and I were watching. After all, only a few organizations could muster the resources to compete. The buy-in was at least a million dollars -- and raising cash the easy part.
The hard part was assembling a world-class team. Not of athletes, but of cutting-edge scientists and engineers. Each competitor would need a squad of the sort of visionary geniuses who can conceive and create The Next Big Thing.
So what was this contest?
Believe it or not, the United States federal government has quietly begun a race to develop an obscure technology, one only a few industry insiders even know exists.
Experts agree that this technology, properly developed and deployed, could reverse global warning. For many companies, it could end carbon dioxide emissions.
As you can imagine, the implications are immense for industry.
They're immense for the world's stock markets.
Some say the implications of this technology are critical for the survival of the planet itself.
Which makes me a little surprised that virtually no one's writing about it. You saw the papers the next day and since, right? You watched the news and read the Web. Have you seen a single word about the government's competition to develop carbon capture and sequestration technology?
Did I mention Uncle Sam is offering a prize?
It's money. $1,400,000,000.00, to be exact, a number so big that most scientists would write as "1.4 x 10^9."
That's $1.4 billion U.S. dollars.
I'm not making this up. The U.S. Department of Energy said Friday that it had selected 12 competitors for the prize. It awarded 12 teams a total of $21.6 million in taxpayer funds to get the competition going. The competitors put up a total of $22.5 million of their own cash. They range from companies to labs to institutes to for-profit companies.
The results of the first wave of competition popped into my in-box late Friday afternoon, hours after Rio had been chosen for the 2016 games. My buddy -- a veteran campaign apparatchik -- scanned the results.
"You called it," he said, nodding. "They're ninth on the list." He paused. "Ninth out of 12."
Then he asked me the question I'd been waiting for.
"So how'd you know? Inside job?"
I shook my head. "Just research."
He gave me his patented "yeah, right" look.
But I really didn't have a stoolie inside the Department of Energy. I'd just studied the subject intensely. And earlier this summer, I'd even written about the arcane field of carbon capture and sequestration, or "CCS," a virtually unknown technology that industrial giants have been looking at as a means to stem their output of carbon dioxide.
The idea -- as all great ideas are -- is remarkably simple: Grab emissions before they're emitted and pump them into the ground instead of into the air.
Sounds easy, right?
It can be. But it's also revolutionary. It's a 180-degree shift from the way most industrial companies design their plants, mines and factories. Such a sea change is exactly what it will take to reverse the effects of carbon dioxide on our atmosphere.
(So while your congressman is busy debating the so-called "cap-and-trade" system that even its supporters agree will have precisely zero effect on global warming, the nation's bureaucrats are incentivizing the private sector to come up with a real, workable solution that will reduce emissions while still allowing the economy to grow rather than force it to shrink.)
Now, because of my long interest in petroleum -- where CCS got its start -- I've been studying this emerging field of research for years. Earlier this summer, I recommended shares of the company that has the most promising CCS technology. This major corporation has found a way to use CCS technology at coal-fired power plants, the world's leading emitter of carbon dioxide. Clean coal -- cheap, clean -- is the holy grail of green science.
The idea is so stunningly simple that, after you hear about it, you wonder why no one else has ever thought of it.
A few, admittedly, have. But the company I recommended controls the breakthrough, as it owns more than 200 patents related to the technology -- a technology that power producers the world over are going to be clamoring for.
That's who was ninth on the list. The company I recommended. Their application to compete in the government's $1.4 billon race was one of 12 that Uncle Sam approved. They have the team in place. They have the money. And they have the technology that's literally going to change the world.
Now, my friend really didn't believe me when I told him I picked one of the 12 winners in the first round of Uncle Sam's contest after careful research. He is, after all, a veteran campaign staffer, a professional skeptic. And, admittedly, what I was telling him then and what I am telling you about now sounds more like the plot to the next box-office action adventure film than it sounds like something that would come from the boring old Department of Energy, of all places.
I published my research on CCS in June. Very few have written about it since -- and I was and remain the only one telling investors how to profit from it. This lack of mainstream coverage is why, though this company has seen a modest rise in price, it is still hugely undervalued by the market. Subscribers will find the name of this stock in my exclusive Government-Driven Investing Portfolio.