Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) CEO Warren Buffett loves to talk up America’s promising future, and about how only a fool would bet against America.
But remember, for as great as he is (and he is amazing, even if it is cool to doubt him these days) he’s an investor who talks his book like anyone else.
His gigantic wager on Burlington Northern (BNI) was seen as not only a bet on the future of American commerce, but also something of a “green” play.
But breaking things down a bit further, we can derive a different interpretation.
First, let’s recall that BNI itself is actually a play on coal demand, which is the dirtiest energy around. 50% of BNI’s business is hauling around coal, so even if rail is extremely energy efficient, its energy efficiency is in the service of a dirty energy.
If America is going to end up poorer, and with a weaker dollar, down the road, betting on domestic coal would probably be a wise play.
Beyond that, whenever Buffett is asked about the deal, he always cites the fact that there will be “more Americans” shipping more things in the future, which is undoubtedly true, provided we continue our immigration policies, and don’t end up with Europe-style underpopulation. But while this may technically constitute “growth” from the perspective of a shipper, all it really means is that the country will be more crowded — not the most ringing endorsement of America.
Then look at his other bets. In his newest 13-F filed last night, he upped his stake in Wal-Mart (WMT), another good poverty bet, and he added a stake in Exxon (XOM), which is hardly green.
So ignore Warren’s words, and look at his investments. He doesn’t see us, at least right now, as some glimmering, efficient, modern city on a hill. We’re a crowded country, using coal, paying out the nose (if) we can afford to go to the pump, while buying our Nestle (also a new holding) junk food at Wal-Mart