Daily Newspapers Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If you want to know how daily newspapers can be hazardous to your investing health, check out the recent Washington Post feature on Al Gore.

The story talks about how Gore made a fortune investing in alternative energy companies. But it tells us precious little about how the companies did.

The editors at the Washington Post were apparently not aware of the two requirements that business reporters should meet: One, they should have taken Business 101. And two, they should have passed it.

The Post started off with a reference to a 2008 lecture from Gore featuring several alternative energy companies, and how several have done well, albeit with billions in federal subsidies.

Give The Post half a point for trying.

But most of the companies Gore mentioned in the 2008 presentation The Post talked about have tanked, as have investments in alternative energy his company referred to in subsequent promotional material -- some marked Personal and Confidential.

Amyris ( AMRS), an ethanol stock for example, is featured prominently in the 2008 video. The stock has gone from $33 per share down to $2 since last year. That is a loss of 93%.

And last week, in TheStreet, I wrote about the results of some other Gore investments. Equally dismal. That is why almost two years ago, I told my newsletter readers and clients to "Short everything under the sun."

Alternative energy in all its forms is a terrible investment. But you would not know it from The Washington Post.

Wind, solar, bio-fuel, electric cars: You name it, the stock prices are plunging.

Data from Best Stocks Now App

The Post also does not talk about some of the larger clients of Gore's investment company: Public employee pension funds in California and New York. Both funds controlled by Democrat-appointed politicos.

Nor does The Post report Gore's company, Generation Investment made over $30 million from the New York funds alone since 2009.

Jimmy Hoffa's greatest contribution to the world of organized crime is that he was the first to figure out big pension funds were easy pickings for him and his confederates. Hoffa went to jail for it. Gore figured out the same thing and got the Nobel Prize.

Nor does The Post report that today, Securities and Exchange filings show Generation Investment is getting out of alternative energy and is instead filling its portfolio with high-tech, bio-tech and consumer products, such as Amazon ( AMZN), eBay ( EBAY) and Colgate Palmolive ( CL).

And none of this is worth mentioning?

That is why smart investors have to rely on better sources of information.

Here's another example: By now, everyone knows the Solyndra story. But here's one question people never asked: Why did it take so long to come out?

The president of the United States travels with 25 to 50 reporters, and local reporters often boost that number to over 100.

When President Obama showed up at Solyndra in early 2010 to pronounce it the future of energy, not one of those reporters took one minute to read a statement from Solyndra's auditor that said it was no longer a going concern.

It was easy to find online. And lots of people in the energy investment world knew about it.

Yet no one wrote the story. I wrote about it shortly afterward in the Phoenix Business Journal and other places. Several of my readers forwarded the story to business reporters -- many of whom belong to something called the Society of Environmental Journalists -- and they said they were aware of the "not a going concern" audit statement, but it was not important.

I don't know whether they were being deceitful-or just dumb.

But I prefer to get my investment information from people who know this basic financial fact: A statement of "not a going concern" is a death knell. Not a buying signal.

But not one of the 100 reporters covering Obama that day that figured it out.

Have you checked The Washington Post stock price lately? It is down 55% over the last five years. I promise you: Even Gore would not have that in his portfolio.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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