What connects a glacier, skiing, beer, and hydrogen?

It snowed in Austria yesterday.

Is that particularly surprising? It shouldn’t be. But after one of the lightest January snowfalls in years, it has come as an enormous relief to the locals and workers who depend on winter tourism in the Alps.

You might think that after three weeks with barely any snowfall, residents and snow-sports enthusiasts living in the affected regions would be crying out about climate change and a perceived lack of action. After all, winter tourism makes up 6% of Austrian economic output, and is as high as 18% in certain regions such as Tirol.

But no, in fact the mood tends to just be to shrug the shoulders and say “seasonal variation”.

It’s a good lesson.

So often, short-term fluctuations are treated with much more respect than they deserve.

That’s why share prices tend to fluctuate more than earnings. Good news sends stocks higher than it should, and the same for bad. Over time though, earnings tend to smooth out, and you’d think that investors would buy and sell accordingly. But they don’t. They overreact.

So three weeks with only one meagre bit of snowfall in January isn’t a clear example of climate change in action. Does that mean we shouldn’t overreact to it?

On its own, that would be right, but as it stands, other things are weighty indicators of shorter and thinner snowfalls in Alpine winters.

Average snowfall in the US is down around 40% since 1980, leading to a 34-day reduction in the skiable winter season.  

And the data on rising temperatures is anything but a short-term fluctuation:

Source: Wikipedia, from NASA

So while ski resorts can tolerate the short-term fluctuations that are part and parcel of seasonal weather, then multi-year trends are forcing action.

Kitzbühel, which hosts one of the earlier ski racing World Cup events of the winter calendar (in November), has started collecting up all the snow at the end of a season, piling it up and covering it in tarpaulin so it can re-lay it on the race course at the start of the following season.

It suffers only 20-30% loss of volume over an entire summer, which I find quite remarkable.

Other ski resorts are taking different options.

Laax, in Switzerland, is working hard to become the first 100% self-sufficient, sustainable ski resort, with solar-powered lifts and recycling of heat and rubbish. Wolf Creek in sunny Colorado (300 days a year, apparently), is also using solar-powered lifts.

Avoriaz, in France, is totally vehicle free. One final change that’s happening lies in the riddle that was this article’s title.

To refresh – what connects a glacier, skiing, beer, and hydrogen?

The answer is Zillertal, a region in Austria. It has a glacier used almost year-round by skiers (Hintertux), a brewery that churns out beers for every supermarket shelf in Austria, and a train track that will be one of the first in the Alps to use hydrogen trains, scheduled for 2022.

For those who also lose track of how fast time moves, that’s only a couple of years away now.

Initially, the local railway organisation opted to replace the current diesel trains (which use 800,000 litres of diesel annually) with electric ones. However, the cost of €156 million amongst other challenges have led the railway to switch course, choosing to replace the current network with hydrogen trains instead.

The €80 million cost is more manageable, the journey times on the main line will be reduced from 55 to 45 minutes, and two additional fast trains will be able to do it in 36.

It’s just another example of how the true story behind the renewable shift may start with action on climate change, but often it ends in economic and performance benefits too.

Cheaper, greener, better – that’s the motto of the shift to renewables, not just morality and reductions in global warming which may be intangible to many people.

That’s how the battle to stop climate change will be won – not with preaching, moralising or proselytising, but (as ever) with economics, technology, and some brilliant people along the way.

But if you do need a moral reason to act on climate change – how about this one from a marketing department in Tirol.

“Save the Planet. It’s the only one you can ski on.”

Good enough for me.

All the best,

Kit Winder
Investment Research Analyst, Southbank Investment Research

PS Hydrogen isn’t just making trains go up mountains, its having a pretty similar effect on the share prices of the companies involved in growing this booming industry.

From production to machinery to applications of the world’s most abundant element, the entire hydrogen value chain is witnessing an unprecedented increase in interest and investment.

James Allen’s lucky readers have known this was coming for a while and have just started to reap the benefits. But if James is right, we’re still in the foothills of this huge bull run.

It’s a tech, growth, and renewables investor’s dream: a small sector with an amazing tailwind and brilliant emerging technologies, outside of the mainstream of retail and institutional investors.

He’s compiled a special report including all four of his hydro-recommendations, which you can find here. Don’t hang around, as before you know it, some of the best gains could already be behind you.

Category: Energy

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