Let's Open a Foolish Mailbag

Fools, with crude oil prices sitting at more than $86 a barrel (and likely to head higher during the next year or so), and with energy being one of the top-performing S&P sectors thus far in 2007, we've decided to create a new feature called "The Energy Mailbag." Its purpose will simply be to help Foolish investors navigate the often-complex, always-changing, and increasingly important world of oil, gas, and alternative fuels investments.

Here's how our "Mailbag" idea took shape. A few weeks ago, I wrote a Foolish piece questioning the absurdly low valuations given to offshore drillers. I began by asking for emails from readers indicating why you thought drillers like Transocean (NYSE: RIG  ) , Diamond Offshore (NYSE: DO  ) , and Ensco (NYSE: ESV  ) carry less impressive P/E multiples than do companies in some other industries with far less promise -- the newspaper publishers, for instance.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by the number and quality of the responses I received. Obviously, the Foolish world is full of thoughtful reader-investors who have considered the energy space carefully and perhaps cast their investment bets accordingly.

Almost unnoticed
But now, Fools, I'm concerned that the world's energy situation is far more precarious than is typically understood. Certainly, the mainstream media haven't picked up on the fragile state of the world's ability to meet increasing crude oil demand with ready supplies. (But then, keeping up with Britney and Paris is a time-consuming assignment.) Nor have the powers that be in Washington displayed any sort of grasp of the true nature of the energy challenges we're already beginning to face.

For my part, I'll wager that production declines brought on by the aging of many of the world's biggest oilfields, coupled with governmental shenanigans in a host of nations that happen to contain the world's biggest hydrocarbon reserves, could create serious global supply shortages far sooner than is generally realized. Indeed, I think these factors have been major contributors to both the steady upward march of crude prices during 2007 and the solid performances of many of the companies in the sector.

And now more than ever I'm convinced that, because of this, it's crucial that we at The Motley Fool provide our readers with a steady stream of truly usable information about energy and energy investments. With Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB  ) about to kick off what promises to be a lively earnings season for the group on Friday, what better time to start the wheels in motion for the creation of our Energy Mailbag?

Your ideas
The specific topics covered in the Mailbag will be your call. I'll simply respond -- with as much Foolishness as I can muster -- to your questions and comments. At the same time, your flow of questions will determine the frequency with which the Mailbag will appear. Ideally, it'll pick up once it catches on as a good place to go for at least one person's thoughts (I certainly don't pretend to have all the answers) on various topics concerning this vital sector.

Sample case
With that in mind, let's look at just a few samples of the types of questions or comments that you might send to the Mailbag (that's me) for responses.

If you believe as I do that this earnings season is likely to be challenging for most of the producers, you might ask:

  • With refinery margins and crude production levels both down, would you be inclined to move out of the integrated companies and into selected oilfield service stocks?

Or, you might comment that:

  • Crude oil prices have moved up steadily for quite some time and therefore many of the "oilier" names have done very well. For those reasons, I'm now inclined to look at some natural gas plays.

Or relative to specific companies, you could ask or comment along the lines of:

  • Schlumberger's shares have risen more than 80% in the past year. I'm now betting on Baker Hughes (NYSE: BHI  ) or Halliburton (NYSE: HAL  ) for more upside.

And I'd be glad to have you send in your thoughts or queries on a variety of other energy areas:

  • Why are some energy types saying that summer is the new winter for natural gas?
  • Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) is predicting that oil will hit $95 a barrel in 2008, and some economists are saying we'll top $100. How high do you think prices can go in the next couple of years?
  • Is there a good play from our increasing need to build more big offshore drilling rigs?

So, Fools, email your questions or energy comments to me, anonymously if you'd like. If I don't have a ready response -- and in many cases I may not -- I'll do my best to find one. In the process, I hope we'll develop a lively, interactive discussion about the increasingly important world of energy and energy investments.

To recollect similar Foolishness:


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