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Friday, February 29, 2008

Why I Think You Got to Look at Natural Gas (Again)

Don Coxe on Natural Gas in his February 21, 2008 Conference Call

Another commodity that we have not had good things to say about for a long, long time - natural gas - is one I want you to start looking at. And I want you to pull up a long term chart on natgas and what you'll see is this is a long term base pattern after the panic associated with Katrina when we told you to get out of the natural gas stocks and switch to metals.

It's a long sideways move. But the reason why I think you got to look at natural gas, again, is that it looks like it's about to break out of its base on the upside. And if it does, the natural gas, which is a short reserve life index fuel in the US, is now a situation where massive amounts of capital are being committed by the big oil companies led by ExxonMobil on pulling out tight gas from formations where in the past they couldn't possibly extract the gas. They're using new technology. This is expensive gas.

We're going to get a new floor price for gas set by this. In the case of ExxonMobil they're reason for doing it is primarily to protect their reserve life index. They've had to cut it by three full years, this year, because of what's been happening to them on oil from political risk. And, because of this magic that you can use six units of natural gas to equal a barrel of oil then ExxonMobil by developing reserves of natural gas, high-priced gas, can protect its reserve life index on this barrel of energy equivalent.

ExxonMobil is a brilliantly run company. They're going to do what they can to preserve their reserve life index. But another big company is involved in this because you've got General Electric promoting, once again, the sale of gas turbines for electricity. And with oil prices staying high and if you look…if you take the price of oil as far ahead as 2010 - December oil is now at 92.34, which means that for users of residual, what they can't see is any relief in the future. And natural gas, of course, also wins on the basis of environmentally-sound fuel because of small amounts of air pollution.

So I think you're going to have major companies out there with big followings. They're going to be promoting this. And what they can't do is rely on LNG for the reasons we've discussed on so many calls, particularly terror risk, but in addition the fact that the LNG suppliers out there, so much of it is from places in the world that have definite levels of political risk in them. That was going to be the saviour.

And as I told you before, six years ago I attended a meeting of the partners in the natural gas industry in the Chicago Land, which was both the users of natural gas and the major pipelines that delivered gas. And at that time I watched as the head of Marathon Oil's operations for natural gas in North America covered a wall with a chart of all the natural gas fields with their reserve life indices. And he pointed out that by the end of this decade, we were going to be facing a full-blown crisis in this country for natgas, but it was going to be solved by a pipeline that was going to bring it in from Canada.

And I got up at the meeting, spoke after him and said first of all he also said that LNG was going to come in big and I said I don't believe all those LNG projects are going to go forward because of 9/11. And the guy from Marathon jumped up and said “Who invited him to the meeting? We checked out our approvals for these projects with the FBI and they've all been approved as being safe. and I said, "Have you talked to them since 9/11?" and he said "No, we didn't have to. We've got approvals." And then I said, "As for the pipeline in Canada, that's not going to go forward in this decade. Not a chance." Once again he jumped up and said, "We have all the arrangements in place. We've got an agreement from the federal government in Ottawa that it's going forward," and I said, "You haven't got an agreement from the native peoples." Well the meeting became very difficult at that stage because once again he said I didn't know what I was talking about and there weren't going to be a few native tribes holding back a project like this. I tell you that only because it illustrates that the industry collectively had a comfort level on gas, which wasn't vindicated.

So we could get yet another energy surprise coming. And that's not just because we've
had such a cold winter because, of course, nobody out there who could be intellectually respected thought we could have cold winters. But, because it illustrates that the supply side response that you would have ordinarily expected, has been constrained by conditions they can't control.

So I think you have got to start looking at natgas as being maybe the next commodity that's going to join the bull market, having been in not a real bear market but a nothing market, for so long.
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This is the time to start buying oil and gas income trusts. I have been buying Paramount (PMT.UN), NAL Oil & Gas (NAE.UN), PennWest (PWT.UN) and Daylight Energy Trust (DAY.UN).

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