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Motley Fool Income Investor James Early thinks it could be a good time to buy Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) . I recently talked with him about Chevron and other energy stocks.
Mac Greer: OK, James. Chevron is the second-largest oil company in the U.S. And it has a lot of expertise in deepwater drilling. But in the wake of the BP (NYSE: BP ) spill, isn't it a dicey time to invest in an oil company whose primary competitive advantage may be its deepwater drilling?
James Early: Deepwater drilling is a global phenomenon. Many of the nations that possess deepwater oil don't have the expertise to extract it -- Brazil's Petrobras (NYSE: PBR ) being an exception -- meaning they'll have to partner with knowledgeable companies, companies like Chevron. And to hit the BP nail on the head, not only is the spill looking better -- bad news for the Obama moratorium, which is under fire as it is -- but the Gulf of Mexico represents less than 10% of Chevron's current production. The moratorium is just on new drilling, mind you, so it's a lot less than 10% that we're really talking about. If anything, it's created a compelling time to buy.
Greer: Fair points, and I rely on fossil fuels as much as the next guy. But we still don't know the long-term effects of the BP spill, and there's increased interest and investment in alternative energy. Where does that fit into your investment thesis?
Early: Hey, I'm an eco guy, too. I rode a bike -- until it got stolen -- and replaced it with a Prius. For all BP's "green" hype -- pre-oil-spill, I should say -- Chevron outspends BP and its fellow supermajors on alternative energy as a percentage of revenue. It leads the world in geothermal energy production and is the only oil company to have created a legitimate business unit that gets paid to help clients use less energy. France's Total (NYSE: TOT ) also embraces a renewables-driven future, but it's willing to deal with some nasty regimes against the U.N.'s wishes, which I can't imagine a guy like you being OK with. Like all oil companies, Chevron has plenty of warts, but it's got a few bright spots, too.
Greer: So let's talk about some of the bright spots for Chevron. What do you as Chevron's biggest opportunities?
Early: Actually, their biggest opportunity is just plain oil. But simplicity can be endearing (at least my wife apparently thinks so). One thing plaguing most integrated oil companies is that they expanded heavily into refining and natural gas -- ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP ) is a good example on the gas end, with ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) having a strong refining presence -- two business lines whose profits are suffering from overcapacity. Chevron actually has the lowest refining exposure of all the oil supermajors, meaning it's an oil stock like oil stocks were meant to be: big, slimy, and gushing profits to investors like you and me.
Greer: What's the biggest question you have about Chevron going forward?
Early: Aside from standard concerns like the price of oil and state of the economy, I'm keeping an eye on Ecuador, where Chevron is involved in a legacy lawsuit stemming from toxic sludge that Texaco dumped in the Amazon jungle a few decades back (Chevron acquired Texaco in 2001). On a more positive note, it's worth noting how well Chevron partners with state-owned oil companies in the coming years, as its ability to partner with oil-rich nations will increasingly determine its profits.