Natural gas doesn't have the support

Boone Pickens is a big believer in the fuel, but Congress won't back it in this environment.

By Jim Cramer Jan 21, 2010 8:42AM

TheStreetNatural gas © Kevin Burke/CorbisBy Jim Cramer, TheStreet

 

What I wouldn't give to be as bullish as Boone Pickens was last night on "Mad Money" about the prospects of Congress going full out on incentivizing trucking companies to use natural gas fleets.

 

What I wouldn't give to think that Congress is now going to get behind natural gas and that the president will mention it in his State of the Union address and that by Memorial Day we will have a law that will be on the way to cutting half of OPEC imports.

 

Yep, Boone Pickens, the driving force and largest investor behind Clean Energy (CLNE), which is building the infrastructure to service those 18-wheelers with natural gas, says that there are no dissenters on this one and that he has the votes. He says it will come out ahead of general climate legislation in the chute because President Barack Obama needs a win and this will be it.

 

He felt so confident that he bet $100 on it right in front of the TV cameras.

 

To which I say he will have no problem affording it if he's right, because it would be easy to see Clean Energy going right to $30 if this happens, as the legislation is basically a federal mandate for a higher stock price.

 

Nevertheless, count me as a disbeliever, an apostate. I don't think that natural gas has much support at all in Congress. The lobbyists for coal, chiefly Southern (SO), the utility, have a ton of power, and even as Pickens says that's irrelevant to natural gas prospects, whenever natural gas comes up in the debate, "clean coal" is right there defeating the much cleaner fuel.


Not only that, but in Wednesday's Congressional hearings about natural gas drilling techniques, despite some excellent testimony by Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil (XOM), about how there is no evidence of any environmental damage, including water contamination, I didn't hear any ringing endorsements.

 

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Exxon is on the congressional griddle because of its XTO Energy (XTO) purchase, and I think there are plenty of people in Congress ready to fight natural gas drilling onshore the way they fight regular drilling offshore.

 

Pickens isn't a dreamer. Natural gas makes too much sense to dream about it from the perspective of jobs, national security and clean air. His energy "independence from OPEC" ads are attention-getting. But his method is all big splash, and his talk is too polarizing and too mercantile for me to believe that, in this environment, this Congress will help anyone who has a lot of money, even if it would be good for America.

 

Put it this way: My fingers are crossed about congressional and presidential hope for natural gas, and I think it could happen. But not on Boone's timetable. That's a timetable that could disappoint as surely as the health care timetable for the Democrats.

 

Just way too aggressive.

 

At the time of publication, Cramer had no positions in the stocks mentioned.

 

Jim Cramer is co-founder and chairman of TheStreet. He contributes daily market commentary for TheStreet's sites and serves as an adviser to the company's CEO.

 

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