William “Willie” Sutton (1901–1980) was a notorious American bank robber. According to FBI records, he stole over $2 million during a criminal career that spanned 40 years. To be sure, Sutton got caught on numerous occasions, and thus did he spend over half his adult life in prison.
But Willie Sutton was as intellectually honest as he was criminally dishonest. When a news reported asked Sutton, “Why do you rob banks?” Willie answered, “Because that’s where the money is.”
In his biography, Where the Money Was: The Memoirs of a Bank Robber, Willie Sutton expanded upon this perspective. He said, “Go where the money is… and go there often.” Similarly, as an investor, I pursue a similar philosophy: Go where the natural resources are…and go there often.
In a world with growing population, growing prosperity, increasing demand and decreasing availability of energy and mineral resources, there have to be great investment opportunities in these resources. Indeed, that’s where the money is. We should go there, and go there often.
In the energy sector, different fuel sources contain different amounts of energy per mass. That is, if you burn a block of wood, you’ll get a different amount of energy than if you burn a gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel or a pound of uranium. These differences influence the investment appeal of each fuel source.
The table below presents the energy density of various fuel sources in terms of megajoules of energy per kilogram. A megajoule — MJ — is 1 million joules, or approximately the kinetic energy of a 1-ton vehicle moving at 160 km/h (100 mph).
The point is to show that if something has a high energy density, then less physical material will release the same amount of energy. You can see why, for example, old wood-burning locomotives and steam engines gave way to coal-burning equipment. And the coal-burners eventually yielded to diesel engines. You just get more energy from the same volume of material, which matters when you’re in the confined spaces of a moving piece of equipment.
It’s obvious, based on the raw numbers, that uranium — and by extension nuclear power — can supply energy with a density that’s orders of magnitude more than what you get from carbon-based fuels. With numbers so utterly lopsided like these, the world is going to find it impossible to support massive populations and deal with resource and energy demand without a global nuclear power industry.
The long and short of it is that the world is going to move toward nuclear power. That’s why I have recommended investments in long-term uranium players like Cameco (CCJ: NYSE), and Denison Mines (DNN: AMEX), as well as direct investments in uranium via Uranium Participation Corp. (U: TSX).
What about alternative energy sources, you ask? What about solar and windmills, for example? Every energy method has its uses and attractions. But the energy density of solar and wind is quite low. Sure, solar and wind have a place in many niche energy applications, but not for meeting the looming energy demands of billions of people.
For the next 30 or 40 years, the alternative energy methods will move toward the 5–7% range of overall world energy supply. But for the “big power,” you need to keep focused on nuclear energy.