Clean Energy Fuels (NASDAQ:CLNE) is a company that is well positioned to take advantage of the historically large gap between oil prices and natural gas prices. The high availability and low cost of natural gas have made it an economically viable industrial input alternative to oil. As a result, natural gas has been increasing in use as a transportation fuel, and has doubled in US vehicle use since 2000. Clean Energy Fuels is currently constructing America's first Natural Gas Highway (ANGH) which will seek to take advantage of the trend towards natural gas as a fueling alternative.
Clean Energy Fuels is building America's first Natural Gas Highway (ANGH). The first stage of ANGH will be constructing 150 fueling stations across the US Interstate system. 70 of these stations will be open by the end of 2012, with the rest of the stations scheduled to be completed in 2013. These stations will provide super-cooled liquid natural gas, which is 400 times more compact than condensed natural gas.
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Both liquid natural gas and condensed natural gas are cheaper than using gasoline or even diesel. CLNE's 10-K states:
Based on EIA data, since 2004, CNG and LNG have been significantly less expensive than gasoline and diesel. For example, in 2011, the average retail CNG price we charged in California, our most significant market, was $1.12 less per gasoline gallon equivalent than the average California regular unleaded gasoline price of $3.82 per gallon. In addition, CNG and LNG are also currently cheaper than the three other most widely available alternative fuels, propane, ethanol blends and biodiesel, as reported by the DOE on an energy equivalent basis. LNG prices per diesel gallon equivalent are also favorable to diesel prices. In California, for example, Low Sulfur Diesel for 2011 averaged $4.08 per gallon, compared to our LNG diesel gallon equivalent price of $2.60.
As you can see there is clear economic incentive for transportation companies to utilize natural gas as a fuel source. Another incentive for transportation companies to use alternative fuels is to limit their reliance on and exposure to, the fluctuations in the energy markets. By using truck engines with flexible fuel options, transportation companies can diversify away some of their energy input risk.
Since Clean Energy Fuels is the first company to build natural gas fueling stations on a national scale, they will have an economic advantage in the market for a significant period of time to come. America is attempting to become less dependent on foreign energy imports and natural gas a domestic solution to our problem. If you believe that there is a high possibility of shocks to oil supply upon the horizon, an investment in Clean Energy Fuels is direct way to benefit from that shock.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.