But some biofuel stocks are trading higher Monday. Renewable Energy Group (REGI) was trading about 1% higher midmorning Monday.
And some are doing well even after their companies have stopped operating.
BioFuel Energy (BIOF), which produced ethanol from corn supplied by Cargill, experienced what Trade-Ideas called a "dead cat bounce" early this month, rising 6.3% in one day. It now trades at $7.72, up from a little more than $3 late last month. Recent trading volume has been four times the average. The recent surge came after hedge fund manager David Einhorn revealed plans to take a controlling stake in the company.
Why the contradiction between science and investment? One answer -- national security -- may be found at the Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference, now underway in Washington.
Jim Lane, editor of the BiofuelsDigest, noted in his remarks to the group that this month marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Veracruz, the first military action aimed at protecting access to U.S. petroleum assets.
If you can't get them to invest for the Earth, do it to fight Vladimir Putin.
Each time one biofuels process turns out to be a dead end, new companies like Abengoa Bioenergy and Genomatica emerge, confident that their catalysts can unlock the secret to sustained profits, either by increasing yield or producing other valuable chemical feedstocks such as butanediol.
Cool Planet, for instance, recently closed on $100 million in financing to develop fuels based on biochar, a form of charcoal produced by burning biomass without oxygen.
Even if all these efforts fail, new scientific approaches are constantly being found that promise to make the breakdown of biomass into fuel more efficient. The promise of biofuels will continue to attract scientists, entrepreneurs and investors, despite all the bad news the world can throw against them.
At the time of publication the author owned no shares in companies mentioned in this story.
This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.