The New Champion of Natural Gas

By now, Foolish readers should be well-acquainted with those from within the energy industry who are pushing for natural gas as a bridge to a cleaner energy future. The marquee names include T. Boone Pickens, whose eponymous plan recently turned one year old, and Aubrey McClendon, whose Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK  ) is busily unlocking our country's massive shale gas deposits in partnership with BP (NYSE: BP  ) , Plains Exploration & Production (NYSE: PXP  ) , and other aspiring shale aces.

The pleas by these gentlemen, while well-articulated, are also plainly self-interested. Both men stand to reap (or in one case, rebuild) fortunes on the back of any sort of natural gas renaissance. In my view, we need more independent voices making the same cogent arguments about the superiority of natural gas over coal.

Cue the recent opinion piece by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in the U.K.'s Financial Times. While I would have preferred to see this message delivered in the New York Times, given the need to reach a certain American demographic, the contents are commendable.

The title of the piece, "How to end America's deadly coal addiction," makes Kennedy's target quite clear. As with cleantech venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, coal is identified as the decided enemy of our health, environment, and climate. Kennedy anticipates a time when technologies like solar, geothermal, and wind will serve most of our needs. In the meantime, though, he identifies natural gas as an "obvious bridge fuel" to that greener future.

While I've been touting the success of E&Ps like XTO Energy (NYSE: XTO  ) and EOG Resources (NYSE: EOG  ) in tackling unconventional gas resources on this site since 2007, I think the impact of shale plays on America's energy supply has only more recently come to be appreciated. It's wonderful to see a bona fide environmentalist like RFK Jr. lend his support to natural gas as an abundant and vastly cleaner alternative to coal. With luck, we will see other public figures join him in this call.

Now if the natural gas industry only learned to lobby as effectively as Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU  ) and the rest of the coal crew, we could see some serious climate progress in relatively short order.

Chesapeake Energy is an Inside Value pick. Energize your portfolio with a free 30-day trial of any of our Foolish newsletters.

Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. Check out his CAPS profile or follow his articles using Twitter or RSS. The Motley Fool owns shares of Chesapeake and XTO, and has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (5) | Recommend This Article (23)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2009, at 11:20 AM, 7footmoose wrote:

    It's pretty easy for a guy from a wealthy politically connected family to take this kind of stance. He can pay, or better said, his trust fund can pay any additional costs of his beliefs while much of the rest of the country suffers through the current economic collapse. This country has an abundance of both coal and natural gas. We have some of the smartest minds on earth. The solutions to the environmental, economic and unemployment problems facing this nation are within reach if the single issue, single solution environmentalists would simply open their minds. The true green solutions are ten to twenty years away. We need interim solutions to begin weening this country off of foreign oil.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2009, at 12:07 PM, htownjester wrote:

    @7footmoose

    Your post makes no contribution to the debate over energy. Instead you launch a personal attack on the author of the FT article, then launch an attack on "environmentalists" and in between muse about "smartest minds" and "interim solutions" which both seems to support the article and author.

    In response to needing interim solutions to begin weening this country off of foreign oil, I would ask- all foreign? Or only those countries who have a hostile political and/or military stance vis a vis the US? Did you know our number one crude trading partner is Canada? If we can get it cheaper from Canada why not do it?

    I am in favor of a solution to energy which addresses the impact of carbon emissions on the environment, in a manner which uses the free market to price this impact and then include it in the cost of the fuels which emit. In this manner alternatives to the most polluting fossil fuels can become more competitive. I support wind, natural gas, solar, oil and coal, provided the market field can be leveled by pricing carbon emissions.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2009, at 2:58 PM, 7footmoose wrote:

    htownjester

    I'm not sure that you read my post correctly. I do not see any personal attack only a comment on the original MF commentary. My commentary is mostly directed at the opportunity to use coal and natural gas which we, the United States, have an abundance of rather that exporting $700 billion dollars per year to pay others for something which could be produced here and improve the environment and provide jobs to Americans. And while it is true we do buy the largest single percentage of our imported petroleum from our friends the Canadians. I'd prefer to keep the dollars at home and cut off our not so friendly trading partners in the Middle East who collectively get the bulk of the dollars.

    On last thought this is the Motley Fool. Last I checked we were not debating energy. We are assessing investment opportunities.

    Peace

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2009, at 4:15 PM, arc01 wrote:

    Although, in the context of accelerated climate change, the article is wrong about natural gas being "vastly" cleaner (it emits ~20% less fossil CO2), it could be viewed as a cleaner bridge. Along with expansion of renewables, it will help displace coal and contribute to the initial stages of decarbonization. With transit sources of CO2 also growing rapidly, that electricity can also be applied to plug-in hybrids.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2009, at 6:39 PM, lucas1985 wrote:

    @arc01,

    That's the point: use natural gas to accelerate the phase-out of coal, the dirtiest energy source.

    Natural gas is free from mercury, fly ash, particulates, acid rain emissions (SOx, NOx, etc), mountaintop removal, waste disposal and emits less CO2 for every kWh produced. What's not to like?

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