What the L.A. Methane Leak Tells Us About Investing

by Garvin Jabusch Sempra Energy’s leaking gas field in Porter Ranch, CA, near Los Angeles, has been making national headlines recently, as it now enters its third month of being the largest methane leak in U.S. history. How big is that? The LA Times says that, “by early January, state air quality regulators estimate, the leak had released more than 77 million kilograms of methane, the environmental equivalent of putting 1.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in the air.” 1.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and counting. In addition, methane isn’t only a powerful greenhouse gas, it can...

Divesting: Last One Out Loses

Tom Konrad CFA Anew report written by Nathaniel Bullard at Bloomberg New Energy Finance highlights the difficulties large institutional investors would have divesting from fossil fuels. What it does not specifically discuss is that these difficulties could lead to large financial losses for investors who see the difficulty of divesting as a reason to delay. Just as we can't easily fill up our cars with solar power instead of gasoline, the report points out that there is no asset class that can directly substitute for oil and gas in large institutional portfolios. A person...

Ten Economic Risks of Fossil Fuels

Garvin Jabusch A train, loaded with coal, crashed into the back of a passenger train in Czechloslovakia in 1868. Securities of fossil fuels firms, as an economic sector, may soon be on the decline. Predictions as to when oil, gas and coal will become a smaller part of the investment society makes into its total energy mix in favor of renewables (such as solar, wind and ocean energies) vary, ranging from 2060 on the long side (this prediction from oil industry powerhouse Shell) to 2030 or even...

Natural Gas Liquids are Following Natural Gas Off a Fracking Cliff

Tom Konrad CFA The unprecedented boom in natural gas supplies over the last few years as been one of the few tail-winds for the US economy over the last few years, as plummeting natural gas prices have lowered costs for both industry and consumers.  Few outside the natural gas industry even understood the shear scale of the shale gas resource, although industry insiders did. The Shale Gas Glut In 2008, I recall a natural gas executive complaining about how he could not get policymakers to understand the sheer scale of the shale gas resource.   To be honest, I...

LNG Exports Would Help the Environment

Tom Konrad CFA Photo: Robin Lucas, via Wikimedia Commo With friends like these, who needs enemies? The Sierra Club is fighting new Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) export terminals, because they believe LNG exports would reward and encourage producers of shale gas. Fighting shale gas has blinded them to the bigger picture. If LNG exports were to reward shale gas producers, they would have to be significant enough to raise the price of domestic natural gas. Such large exports would also lower...

The End of Elastic Oil

Tom Konrad CFA The last ten years have brought a structural change to the world oil market, with changes in demand increasingly playing a role in maintaining the supply/demand balance.  These changes will come at an increasingly onerous cost to our economy unless we take steps to make our demand for oil more flexible. We're not running out of oil.  There's still plenty of oil still in the ground.  Oil which was previously too expensive to exploit becomes economic with a rising oil price.  To the uncritical observer, it might seem as if there is nothing to...

The Clean Fossil Fuel? Natural Gas Under Fire

By Christopher Mims According to some of the most complete calculations available, when we use natural gas to generate electricity in an average power plant, it results in 40 percent less warming than if we generate the same electricity with coal. If we fully utilized the natural gas-fired power plants that already exist in this country, we could significantly reduce the amount of coal we’re burning practically overnight. What’s more, primarily because of access to new natural gas reserves, proved reserves of natural gas recently shot up to 284 trillion cubic feet – more than we’ve...

Some Realism on Shale Gas

shale gas Eamon Keane shale gas shale gas Shale gas is back in the news recently after Obama hearted the shale gale in his energy speech ("Recent innovations have given us the opportunity to tap large reserves, perhaps a century's worth of reserves...in the shale under our feet,"), and Daniel Yergin (full disclosure: he wrote The Prize) has a lengthy piece in the WSJ along with an interview in which he says a bunch of stuff. It turns out that the US and...

Peak Oil Risk in Muni Bonds

Tom Konrad CFA Bargain hunters looking for opportunities in muni bonds should be mindful of peak oil. Meredith Whitney predicts a wave of defaults in municipal (muni) bonds, followed by indiscriminate selling and potential buying opportunities for some.  She's been widely criticized for the prediction of defaults, but I'm a lot more interested in the prediction of the market's reaction.  With tax-free, AAA-rated munis currently yielding more than comparable taxable Treasury bonds, they seem at least a relative bargain already.  I would not call it outright panic, but I'd expect there are be some bargains...

Shale Gas: If this is such a good deal why are you selling it...

Jim Hansen That is the question many buyers of shale gas assets should have been asking themselves over the last few months. This week’s news that shale gas high roller Range Resource was selling its Barnett shale properties reinforced our view that there is major trouble brewing in the shale gas business. Upstreamonline reported that “…Range Resources Corporation said it will sell almost all of its Barnett shale properties to a private company for $900 million…” Then of course there is the number one shale gas play cheerleader of them all, Chesapeake Energy. Just last week they...

The Four Best Peak Oil Investments

Tom Konrad CFA The best four stocks I've found in my six month quest to find the best peak oil investments. I apologize for being a tease.  Since March, I've been writing this series I've called "The Best Peak Oil Investments," but in many cases what I've actually done is to warn readers to stay away from particular sectors.  This bait-and-switch was compounded for my syndicated readers at Seeking Alpha when their editors decided to re-title the early articles in this series "Peak Oil Investments I'm Putting My Money On."  If you've stuck...

The Best Peak Oil Investments: Why Invest for Peak Oil?

...and Why Not Invest in Oil Companies? Tom Konrad CFA The purpose of this series on peak oil investments has been to highlight companies outside the oil sector that are likely to benefit from increasing oil prices.  This article explains why we should expect oil prices to rise. What is Peak Oil? There are many definitions for peak oil.  In its most basic form, Peak Oil is the moment of highest production.  World oil supplies are finite, and so we cannot continue to produce oil in increasing quantities forever.  It's a mathematical certainty that at...

What Will the Oil Spill Do For Oil Sands Stocks?

Bill Paul Will shares of the oil companies that are major players in Canada’s tar sands region rise or fall? Logically, shares should rise in the wake of the deepwater drilling moratorium ordered by President Obama following the BP (BP) oil spill, as Wall Street begins to reflect on the fact that Alberta’s tar sands region is the second biggest crude-oil deposit in the world. Even before the spill, a report from IHS CERA had concluded that Canadian tar sands would be the single biggest source of US crude imports in 2010. Just as logically, however, shares should...

The Best Peak Oil Investments: Peak Oil Stock Lists

Tom Konrad CFA Four new stock lists for different approaches to profit from peak oil.   As I've researched and written this series on ways to invest in companies that will profit from peak oil, I've been greatly expanding the number of stocks in our old "Clean Transportation" stock list, at the same time I've been doing a lot of thinking about how these companies will fare.  Because of this, I've decided to split Clean Transportation into four groups of similar companies, depending on how they are working to reduce our dependence on oil. The new stock categories...

EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2010: Peak what?

Peak What? Eamon Keane The Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its Annual Energy Outlook 2010 (AEO 2010) last week, with projections out to 2035. It makes for interesting reading. Most notable was its take on peak oil, natural gas vehicles and on converting natural gas to liquids (GTL). An otherwise reasonable report was marred by the presumption of oil plenty. Figure 1 shows a graph presented (.pdf) by Glen Sweetnam, director of the EIA's International, Economic and Greenhouse Gas division, in April 2009. Although it mentions the source as being the...

The Best Peak Oil Investments: Index

Tom Konrad CFA Part Subject / Description Stocks mentioned I Biofuels Overview WM II Hydrogen Vehicles and Vehicle Electrification III Natural Gas Vehicles WPRT, CLNE, and one I missed: FSYS IV Synthetic fuels: Gas-to-Liquids, Coal-to-Liquids, and Biomass-to-Liquids SSL, SYNM, RTK V Biofuel from Algae GSPI.PK, OOIL.OB, PALG.OB, PSUD.PK VI Barriers to Alternative Fuels ...