by Nick Hodge
I almost chuckled when I heard the offshore drilling moratorium had been lifted by a federal judge.
Not only is it a futile effort, but it risks exposing the oil industry culture of corporate carelessness and greed that is so carefully kept under wraps — similar to the way the Deepwater explosion exposed an otherwise clandestine record of BP's lackluster safety standards.
BP has seemingly ended America's love affair with oil. Even fervent supporters of 'drill, baby, drill' have reevaluated their positions in light of the spill. Florida Governor Charlie Crist is already considering measures that would permanently ban drilling in his state's waters. And all other politicians worth their reelection budgets are distancing themselves from offshore drilling support.
Here in Maryland, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Ehrlich has switched his stance from supporting offshore drilling to “not favoring additional drilling... for the time being.” The only people in support of lifting the ban are those losing revenue or stock value.
Well, guess what? It ain't gonna happen. The federal government is immediately going to appeal the decision. And if that fails, an executive order will be used. U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has already said he'll issue a new ban this week. Offshore drillers will then continue to lose revenue and share value as other energy sources enjoy newfound appreciation.
Ban won't be lifted (for long)
The case heard Monday was filed by Hornbeck Offshore Services (NYSE: HOS) and claims “the government arbitrarily imposed the moratorium and suspended drilling at 33 existing exploratory wells without any proof that the operations posed a threat.” It also claims the ban is costing between $165 million and $330 million each month in lost wages for Louisiana jobs tied to drilling.
I would argue Hornbeck wants the ban lifted for other reasons — namely, to offset the 20%+ dip in its share price since oil began pouring into the Gulf, as well as the S&P ratings cut that followed...
The BP spill is now expected to cost more than $100 billion to remedy. 2.5 million barrels have leaked into the Gulf with no end in sight — the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez every four days. Countless billions have been lost in other industries from fishing to tourism; 885 birds, 363 sea turtles, and 44 mammals have died.
I think I speak for the entire nation when I say screw the lost wages of rig workers and screw the lost revenue of oil companies operating in the Gulf. And I pity anyone with an opposite view — especially if you've put your money where your misguided mouth is.
Even though the ban has been temporarily lifted, it won't remain that way for long. Public companies operating in the area will soon be dealt another blow and their share prices will not be able to appreciate. Please don't misunderstand me... I don't wish these drillers to fail; I feel for those out of the job.
But I'm an investor. So I have to evaluate the facts and respond accordingly. And the facts say that oil drilling in the Gulf is done for a while. Betting otherwise could cost you a great deal of money.
Yet there is a way to make a great deal of money in the wake of this spill outside of shorting the oil companies that operate in the region.
The immediate alternative
What I'm about to tell you isn't conjecture... It's already being proven by the market:
As you can see, investment dollars are flowing into natural gas while they're being drained from oil. Similarly, smart oil companies (not Hornbeck) are adapting to this new environment, focusing less on oil and more on natural gas. And we're only seeing the very beginning of this trend.
But BP's disaster isn't the only reason we're switching to natural gas; it's just the catalyst. You see, we have plenty of the stuff available here in the States. And we don't have to drill 30,000 feet below the sea floor to get it. The Potential Gas Committee, which is affiliated with the Colorado School of Mines, found last year that recoverable U.S. gas reserves stood at 2,000 trillion cubic feet. Billionaire T. Boon Pickens has said, “That's enough natural gas to power [the U.S.] through the 21st century.”
And a more recent JP Morgan report found that we have 8,000 trillion cubic feet. What's more, natural gas burns much cleaner than oil or coal, and the technology is available now. It's the immediate alternative to our energy woes. And it's going to make us a lot of money.
Your billionaire advisors
In a recent essay, billionaire T. Boone had this to say about our increasing natural gas reserve figures:
This incredible surge in total gas resources will completely reshape the international energy landscape. Domestic natural gas is going to be so plentiful and so cheap that liquefied natural gas carriers from Qatar and the Middle East will stop coming to the U.S. They'll go to India and China instead. We just won't need them anymore.
He's on the board of directors of and has a large investment in Clean Energy Fuels Corp (NASDAQ: CLNE), a company that builds natural gas fueling stations. Nancy Pelosi's husband owns the stock as well... And so should you. The nation's billionaires (Pickens isn't the only one) and political leaders are about to usher in the natural gas era. And they're going to line their pockets in the process.
Already, the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions [NATGAS] Act is quickly moving through Congress. It would, among other things, offer hefty tax credits for the purchase of natural gas vehicles and require 50% of U.S. government vehicles to run on natural gas.
Even former CIA Director James Woolsey is pushing this approach, saying in a recent op-ed:
We have well over a 200-year supply of natural gas according to current estimates. We have enough to do everything, and we're going to look like fools if we don't use it in transportation.
The Congress should adopt legislation that significantly enhances the use of domestic natural gas as a transportation fuel for heavy duty trucks and fleet such as that which is contained in H.R. 1835, the NAT GAS Act.
The Center for American Progress echoed Woolsey's sentiment in their own report. As I said, the switch to natural gas isn't conjecture... It's happening right now.
Here's what you need to do to profit:
First, buy the United States Natural Gas Fund (NYSE: UNG) as a long-term investment.
Second, buy Clean Energy Fuels Corp. (NASDAQ: CLNE) and follow T. Boone and Pelosi to the easy money.
Disclosure: No positions