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...

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...

Dipping a Toe in the Black Stuff

I was tempted by greed, and I succumbed. Last week, I bought the iPath S&P GSCI Crude Oil Total Return Index ETN (OIL), at $19.75 a share.   The Temptation I made the trade as a simple speculation.  I watch oil because the oil price is one of the key drivers of investor interest in alternative energy, although oil is only a true competitor for biofuel companies, not producers of wind turbines (at least until there are a significant number of plug-in electric vehicles.) With crude trading below $40/barrel, oil producers are cutting back on new drilling.  This is...

Shale Gas: Promises, Promises, Promises

Tom Konrad CFA Dr. Arthur Berman, of Labyrinth Consulting Services has taken a hard look at actual production data from  Barnett Shale in 2007.  What he found should worry anyone expecting this abundant, relatively clean, domestic energy resource to be cheap.  It should especially worry investors in shale gas companies, such as CHK, DVN, and XTO. In a panel entitled "Natural Gas Game Changers?" at the 2009 International Peak Oil Conference, Dr. Breman presented some results from his research into the actual production from the nearly 2000 horizontal gas wells drilled in the Barnett Shale in 2007.  The Oil...

The Best Peak Oil Investments, Part IX: The Methadone Economy

Tom Konrad CFA No alternative fuel or combination of alternative fuels will allow our transportation system to operate the way it does today on oil.  As oil becomes increasingly scarce and expensive, the way we get our transportation needs met will have to change.  Understanding what the future of transportation may look like is key to making good investments in transportation. If the measure of success for alternative fuels is the ability to continue to live in suburbs and commute in multi-ton boxes of metal on congested freeways for hours each day, then alternative fuels will...

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...

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...

Do You Need To Invest In Oil To Benefit From Expensive Oil?

Two months ago, Tom told us how he'd dipped a toe into the black stuff (i.e. bought the OIL etf) on grounds that current supply destruction related to the depressed price of crude oil would eventually lead to the same kind of supply-demand crunch that led oil to spike during the 2004 to mid-2008 period. If you need evidence that the current price of crude is wreaking havoc in the world of oil & gas exploration, look no further than Alberta and its oil sands. The oil sands contain the second largest oil reserves in the world after...

Oil & Alt Energy Redux

Charles Morand Last week, I conducted an analysis showing the lack of evidence supporting claims that oil and alt energy returns are strongly correlated (claims that sometimes come from outfits as reputable as Bank of America Merrill Lynch).     I don't want to belabor this topic but I thought I would post the results of another, similar analysis I conducted following comments I received on how to improve the first one. In a nutshell, the comments suggested I do the following: 1) Look at daily correlations or even smaller periods, as "common knowledge" market...

What Is Peak Oil?

Charles Morand Peak Oil is a term that has become common currency in energy debates in last three years, due in large part to the spectacular rise in the price of crude between 2005 and the end of 2008. But what does Peak Oil actually mean and, more importantly, what do I mean when I use it in my articles? In the purest and original sense of the term, Peak Oil refers to the point in time at which the rate of oil production (as measured, for instance, in barrels per day) peaks. This peak,...

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...

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 Best Peak Oil Investments, Part VII: Peak Substitutes?

Tom Konrad CFA There are two types of solutions to the liquid fuels scarcity caused by stagnating (and eventually falling) oil supplies combined with growing demand in emerging economies.  The most obvious is to find a substitute to replace oil.  Supply constraints limit the full replacement of oil by most potential substitutes.  Understanding those constraints leads us to the investment opportunities that arise from these substitutes.  Increasing demand and constrained supply of oil is fueling the search for oil substitutes to use in its place.  Unfortunately, almost all of these potential substitutes also have limited...

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 ...

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...

Oil’s Sesquicentennial; the Dream Becomes Nightmare

John Petersen On August 27th, we'll celebrate the 150th anniversary of Colonel Edwin Drake's completion of the world's first successful oil well near Titusville, Pennsylvania. That discovery and the many that followed planted the seeds of an industrial, economic and cultural revolution that transformed America from an agrarian backwater into a global superpower. For the next 114 years, oil was cheap, plentiful and the solid bedrock of the American Dream. Since the early '70s, however, the dream has gradually become a nightmare as domestic and global oil production began an irreversible decline. My first graph comes...