1866 was not an auspicious year to start a business in the United States.
America had just been devastated from a five year long civil war– one of the bloodiest conflicts in US history. Plus the country was in the midst of a severe economic recession.
1866 was also the year that a major investment firm in London went bankrupt, triggering a worldwide financial panic. Capital was scarce. Interest rates were high. And overall business conditions were pretty dismal.
But despite such obvious challenges, 36-year old Hiram Bond Everest of Rochester, New York still saw tremendous opportunity in the burgeoning oil sector, and he started a business called Vacuum Oil Company.
Oil was primarily used for lighting in kerosene lamps at the time. But Everest, a former science teacher, conducted extensive experiments with vacuum distillation and discovered a way to produce a special heat-tolerant oil that was incredibly effective as a machine lubricant.
He called it ‘Gargoyle’ as a play on the word ‘oil’, and it took the market by storm.
The Industrial Revolution was still going strong in the 1860s, and businesses were constantly trying to find ways to improve their machinery’s output. But traditional lubricants like vegetable oils and animal fats were prone to smoking and overheating, which often caused machines to jam or break down.
Everest’s breakthrough product solved this problem; ‘Gargoyle’ could operate at very high temperatures and keep even the most complex machine parts running smoothly.
In fact Gargoyle was so effective that inventors were able to design far more advanced engines, including those used in automobiles and airplanes. Even the Wright Brothers relied on Vacuum Oil’s products for their historic first flight.
The company became wildly successful. In fact Vacuum Oil Company still exists today… though after a series of mergers and acquisitions over more than a century, it is now known as ExxonMobil.
No doubt there are countless activists who probably wish that Hiram Bond Everest had been a miserable failure… and that ExxonMobil didn’t exist at all. Big energy companies have long been the target of climate fanatics whose “science” is defined by Greta Thunberg.
Don’t misunderstand me– I recognize that the climate is changing. It’s obvious. I also want my children to enjoy clean air and clean water, and I’ve invested pretty heavily in projects that benefit the environment.
But I’m also a practical, independent-minded person, and I reject irrational hysteria.
Many leading climate fanatics, for example, refuse to acknowledge the obvious economic and environmental benefits of nuclear power.
Instead their solution is to take away our gas stoves, force feed inefficient energy solutions like wind and solar onto the world, and destroy companies like ExxonMobil which produce conventional energy.
And the climate fanatics almost succeeded.
Two years ago, in fact, a climate activist hedge fund called ‘Engine No. 1’ managed to take over ExxonMobil’s Board of Directors after winning support from key investors. And their primary mission is to turn ExxonMobil green.
This victory opened the floodgates. Suddenly the climate fanatics thought that they were unstoppable and could take over every company in the world.
We’ve seen this attitude everywhere; over the past few years, woke fanatics felt empowered to take over everything– mainstream media, major corporations, the education system, government, and more.
And frankly it’s been worrisome to see their relentless march.
But, finally, the sane people in the world are starting to say ‘enough is enough’.
We’ve seen entire school boards get voted out, and replaced with rational, non-woke citizens. We’ve seen people push back against idiotic brands like Target and Bud Light who feel the need to thrust social issues in their customers’ faces.
Cable news ratings are laughably low because nobody trusts them and people have tuned them out.
There are even signs of students pushing back against mandatory pride events at their schools; the kids aren’t intolerant, they just don’t want to be subjected to propaganda.
And now finally even investors have had enough.
Akio Toyoda is the Chairman of the Board for Toyota. And last year he committed the most obscene heresy when he defended gasoline engines and said that automakers shouldn’t ONLY produce electric vehicles.
Ever since then he’s been in the climate fanatics’ cross-hairs. And they recently tried to oust him at Toyota’s annual meeting last week.
But the climate fanatics failed miserably. Akio Toyoda won nearly 85% of the vote.
Similarly, a group of fanatical hedge funds also tried to push through a proposal that would require the company to jump through all sorts of silly climate hoops “to reduce risks for the company from climate change.”
But Toyota’s shareholders shot this one down too.
This is more proof that rational people are really starting to push back.
It’s not about climate change, or any other social issue for that matter. It’s about rejecting a tiny, hysterical, out of touch elite who thinks they should dictate how the rest of us ought to live.
This trend is still nascent, but it’s growing. And that may make for an interesting opportunity ahead.
Thanks to these woke climate fanatics (plus their friends in government and media), shares of oil and gas companies are at laughably cheap levels.
Bear in mind that energy companies produce one of the world’s most critical resources, so these businesses are essential to the global economy.
Most of them are also highly profitable. Out of 51 large exploration and production companies (with a market cap over $1 billion), 49 of them are profitable.
But because the climate fanatics have made them so unpopular, their valuations are incredibly low, with an average P/E of just 5.8.
By comparison, Coca Cola stock trades at 27x earnings. Nike stock trades at 32x earnings. Even AB In Bev (Bud Lite) stock trades at 20x earnings.
In contrast, energy companies are absurdly cheap. But if this trend continues and the climate fanatics keep getting rejected, they might not stay cheap for long.