Last week, natural gas finally surpassed coal as the major power source for electricity for the United States.
In this clip from the Industry Focus: Energy podcast, Motley Fool analysts Sean O'Reilly and Taylor Muckerman talk about what this means for the energy sector, and which stocks will definitely benefit from this trend away from coal.
A full transcript follows the video.
This podcast was recorded on June 23, 2016.
Sean O'Reilly: Natural gas has just surpassed coal as the United States' major power source for electricity generation.
Taylor Muckerman: Yeah, first time ever.
O'Reilly: Of course, Lindsay kind of hinted at this sort of thing too. I have to tell you, when you sent this over, I was like: "Really? It took us this long?"
Muckerman: Yeah, it did. We saw the lowest increase in carbon emissions since '92.
O'Reilly: 0.2%? Yay!
Muckerman: Something like that, yeah, so pretty impressive. I guess there was in 2009 was technically the lowest since '92, but the recession, everything just shut down.
O'Reilly: In the report, I didn't see any mention of globally. Am I to assume that globally coal is still kind of used a lot?
Muckerman: It is, but it did drop 1.8% globally in 2015 compared to the 13% drop we saw here in the U.S. We're looking at China and India really driving coal demand. For there to be a big global needle move, they're going to have to get on board, but China, from what they say, is all in on getting rid of coal use.
O'Reilly: Got it. What kind of investor takeaways can we have? Are there definitely stocks that are going to benefit from this? Obviously, we're making this pivot away from coal, which we've been using for a hundred years, to natural gas, so are there utilities that are going to stand to benefit from this? What can Foolish investors do?
Muckerman: Personally, I prefer the pipelines that distribute the natural gas. If you've listened to an episode or two before, you've probably heard me talk about Spectra Energy (NYSE: SE). I'll go ahead and say I personally own it, and I don't talk about it because I own it, I talk about it because I believe in it. Very, very large footprint on the East Coast with some operations in Canada. Predominantly natural gas, so you're diversifying your way away from oil. No coal exposure.
That's probably my favorite pick if you want access to natural gas growth. They just got approved to build a pipeline between Texas and Mexico, one of our largest natural gas and oil trade partners. I definitely think that natural gas heavy pipelines will be the way to go. If you want to play natural gas, you get a good dividend yield and you lose some of the exposure that you get when you buy a producer.
Utilities generally aren't my thing either just because they're complex, a lot of government regulations, generally slow growth.
O'Reilly: Lord knows what's going to happen with solar.
Muckerman: Yeah, exactly. That's probably years away, but it's here, right? You can see it happening. I would stick with the pipelines personally.
O'Reilly: It does seem like a really good way to act as a natural toll collector to natural gas usage.
Muckerman: Spectra Energy continued to pay its dividend through the downturn. The stock did sell off, but not nearly as much as producers did. Natural gas producers didn't really drop as much as oil producers have because natural gas has been in these low price environments since about 2012 and it's still chugging right along. Pipelines are full, they're bursting. Not bursting literally, but you know.
O'Reilly: Yeah, we know what you mean.
Muckerman: Wrong industry to talk about bursting at the seams. That's the way I would go. You want to look for companies that have projects planned in areas that are under-served, which Spectra does. New England is wildly under-served in terms of natural gas distribution. They have probably over 20 billion dollars in projects planned along the East Coast that will help alleviate that.