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Is Ethanol For Real?

The world rocked out to raise awareness of the climate crisis this weekend. And with oil prices jumping the companies that offer cleaner-burning fuels are again on Wall Street's radar. Solar panel maker First Solar (FSLR) surged 24% Monday after announcing contracts worth over $1 billion. That brings us to the ethanol producers and the best known pure ethanol play: Pacific Ethanol (PEIX).

Pacific Ethanol CEO Neil Koehler joins the guys for this conversation.

Can ethanol be profitable?

“Yes,” says Koehler. “If we were to strip all the subsidies to both the oil industry and the ethanol industry – ethanol would be a very price competitive fuel in the marketplace.”

Why is it being subsidized?

“We subsidize every major industry,” replies Koehler.

Every major industry?

Sector Trade: Ethanol

“In the energy sphere, absolutely” says Koehler. “Any industry that touches as many parts of the economy as energy does. Also every country provides significant incentives to its food industries. Ethanol is at the nexis of food and energy and has received incentives in these early years of its development.”

Do you believe the promise of ethanol is worth the increased prices that consumers are experiencing, today?

“I think the real question is – if it’s not ethanol what’s it going to be?” says Koehler. ”We haven’t built a new refinery in this country since 1979. We continue to increase demand for transportation fuels every year. We do not have the supply of hydrocarbon fuels to meet the demand. Ethanol is the only viable alternative to gasoline in an internal combustion engine.”

Eric Bolling says no one has proven the energy footprint is any better in the production of ethanol. Eric suggests, the energy consumed in producing ethanol exceeds the value of the energy created.

“Not true.” says Koehler. If you include the growing of the corn and transportation it’s 30% - 40% positive.”

What about the cost of shipping ethanol?

“We produce ethanol where it’s used,” says Koehler.

But that’s expensive. That’s not price efficient.

“You grow the corn locally,” says Koehler. “And ship the corn rather than the fuel, which is more efficient.”

Is there enough land to grow all the corn needed?

“We have a 20% increase in corn acreage. The American farmer has responded and we’re maintaining a balance… and when we take the energy out of the corn there is still feed left over."

Dylan Ratigan asks the panel what they think?

They all say they’re very skeptical of the ethanol trade.

Is Ethanol For Real?

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Trader disclosure: On July 9th 2007, the following stocks and commodities mentioned or intended to be mentioned on CNBC’s Fast Money were owned by the Fast Money traders. Finerman's Firm And Finerman Own (HD), Finerman's Firm Owns (COP), (JNJ), (KALU), (MSFT), (MDG), (AL), (YUM), (KFT), S&P Puts; Bolling Owns (ICE), (SLW), (NMX) Gold, Silver, Copper, Corn, Natural Gas; Bolling Is Short (FXI) And Owns (FXI) Puts; GE Is The Parent Company Of CNBC; CNBC Is A Service Of NBC Universal And Dow Jones