This NATGAS Act Won't Pass

 | Nov 16, 2011 | 6:17 AM EST  | Comments
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It's not my wish is my command, but it was terrific on Tuesday to see the introduction of the New Alternative Transportation to Give American Solutions, NATGAS Act, introduced in the Senate.

The aim is to give incentives to the trucking businesses to switch to cleaner engines that use cheaper fuel, but are more costly than regular engines to procure. If this bill passes it would make little sense NOT to buy natgas engines because of the historic low price of natgas vs. diesel. We have so much natgas in this country that it is no longer an issue of availability. Diesel will almost always, from now on, be in short supply because of refinery issues and ridiculously strong Chinese demand.

But will the bill pass? The rallies in Westport (WPRT) and Clean Energy (CLNE), the natgas engine maker and the natgas filling station company that are the two biggest beneficiaries, say yes. But frankly, I have seen it all before. In this environment I don't see much hope for this bill.

First, the Republicans have gone anti-subsidy crazy. They cringe if they even hear the word "subsidy" as I saw at last week's Republican debate. Second, natgas -- for all of its advantages including abundance, cleaner skies and independence -- is a fossil fuel. So, President Obama is against it. Period. End of story. He's not trying to get us off gasoline. He's trying to get us on batteries. No matter that trucks, which use a huge amount of our imported oil, can't run on batteries.

The president wants to send an anti-fossil-fuel message. You don't take up this bill if you are the president, even if it creates jobs, makes the skies cleaner and gets us more energy independent. It is too mixed message in a White House where the medium is the message.

Anyway, the petrochemical industry will kill it by teaming up with the coal industry to lobby against it. Coal doesn't want natgas to win anywhere and the chemical industry wants low natgas prices. Neither interest could care less about the benefits of this bill and both interests have a lot of firepower to stop this.

How do you invest off of it?

Frankly, you bet on its failure. You bet that the big distributors of natural gas team up with Cheniere (CQP), which doesn't have enough money to do it on its own and gets the natural gas where it is more needed and can earn more money, which is overseas. The way I have been advising this is to buy Chart Industries (GTLS), which just hit a 52-week-high yesterday.

You have to ask yourself what is that stock doing to hit a 52-week high? Simple. People see what is happening. The president is not going to let natgas be used as a bridge fuel so all of these big international oil companies are going to build facilities to send it to Asia. You can't do it without GTLS.

So, bet all you want that Boone Pickens and his team can get this critical act through. I am going to be with the president, who tilts toward windmills, and the coal and chemical industries. Sadly, I believe overly green thinking in the White House plus dirty fuel money in Congress will stop this bill from passage. Which makes Chart Industries a great buy even up here and especially on a European-induced pullback.

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