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U.S. President Barack Obama addressed Georgetown University students Wednesday with a speech about U.S. energy policy. Many of his goals were the same as previous U.S. government energy policies: cut foreign oil dependence, promote energy conservation, and explore alternative fuels.
However, it was the president's comments regarding natural gas that had the biggest impact on energy markets.
The natural gas contract for May delivery gained 9 cents, more than 2%, to $4.356 per 1,000 cubic feet on the New York Mercantile Exchange following Obama's speech Wednesday.
Libyan Rebels May Oust Gadhafi, but the Fight Against Higher Oil Prices is Lost
Information has surfaced that forces opposing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi secured the major oil towns of Brega and Ras Lanuf (both port cities on the Mediterranean).
The Libyan rebels now control oil fields producing between 100,000 and 130,000 barrels a day, and they say that will quickly increase to 300,000, with exports renewing in a week. That higher figure would account for about 19% of daily exports from Libya before the unrest started.
To the extent that anti-Gadhafi forces can secure the oil fields presently under their control, at least some of those exports should begin to flow again.
Buy, Sell or Hold: The Libya Crisis and Record Oil Prices Will Ground United Continental Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: UAL)
The growing Middle East unrest - and the impact that the turmoil and the resulting uncertainty is having on global oil prices - is clobbering the airline sector's bottom line. The crisis is far from over, and the implications of the higher fuel costs have not yet been fully discounted by the market.
The bottom line: It's time to sell United Continental Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: UAL) - before it breaks down to new levels of weakness (**).
The Middle East Crisis: Egypt, Libya and Triple-Digit Oil Prices
Given the events that we've seen in Egypt and elsewhere in recent weeks - as well as the developments we've seen in Libya in recent days - there's only one conclusion to reach.
We are right now looking at the prospect of significant and sustained instability in a region that's home to two-thirds of the world's known crude oil reserves.
The Middle East crisis - and the unsettling reality it represents - has already sent tremors through the international energy sector. Oil prices are on the march. And this is merely the beginning.
The problems will likely get much worse.
But forewarned is forearmed: Even if the Middle East crisis continues to escalate, we can predict how the global energy sector will be affected. In fact, if the crisis reaches the severity that I'm expecting, it will send the world's energy sector through three very predictable phases.
And each of those phases affords investors with very specific profit opportunities - if they know what to expect.
For the three phases to watch for, please read on...
2011 Oil Prices Prompting Energy Consumption Concerns Among Readers
With oil prices moving higher, consumers are already fretting about how much it's going to cost them to fill their tanks. And given the current outlook, that cost is going to head even higher - meaning there's no relief in sight.
The political mayhem in Egypt is the latest oil-price catalyst to appear, and is yet another candidate to help push 2011 oil prices closer to the predicted $150-a-barrel level. Analysts worry that Egypt's chaos could disrupt the millions of barrels of oil that pass through the Suez Canal.
Traders' main unease is that the political unrest in Egypt is something that could occur in neighboring countries - especially those with a much bigger influence on the global oil exporting market.
Buy, Sell or Hold: Brigham Exploration Co. (Nasdaq: BEXP) is a Strong Growth Play Poised to Profit from Higher Oil Prices
The energy crisis of 2008 - during which oil prices climbed to $147 per barrel before falling to the low $30s - led to some big rewards for investors locked in to the right companies. But with oil prices again approaching $100 a barrel, it's important to remember that not all oil plays are profit machines.
However, one company that is worth watching is Brigham Exploration Co. (Nasdaq: BEXP).
Brigham is an oil & gas exploration company that's focused on the Bakken Formation in the Montana and North Dakota area of the United States. The company operates on an area of about 200,000 acres and says it could have as many as 1,600 drilling locations on its Bakken property. I would be shocked if it ended up drilling 25% of those locations, but it is always nice to know that there is a solid inventory of prospects waiting in the wings.
Brigham has turned the Bakken into one of the largest on shore fields in America, and the oil that's now being produced there is increasingly valuable. However, equally valuable is the proprietary knowledge Brigham has derived from the project.
Politics – Not Oil Prices – Are What's Behind the Deepwater Drilling Debate
With oil prices rising and the Gulf oil spill fading from the forefront of the American psyche, deepwater drilling is set to emerge as a very hot, and very controversial topic in the months ahead - particularly among Republican representatives.
The GOP traditionally has been the party that supports the development of fossil fuels, while Democrats tend to push for more environmental regulation and a move toward renewable resources.
Right now, oil industry lobbyists believe higher prices warrant more drilling off the U.S. coast, but environmental groups, congressional Democrats, the Obama administration - which relaxed drilling restrictions just months before BP PLC's (NYSE ADR: BP) disastrous spill - aren't likely to agree.
In fact, lawmakers are already sniping at one another, spurred by the findings of U.S. President Obama's oil spill commission, which was tasked with investigating the Gulf oil spill.
Energy Forecast: Oil Prices Poised to Again Test Record Levels in 2011
After starting the year at slightly more than $80 a barrel, oil prices yesterday (Tuesday) rose to their highest level in two years, with West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude surging as high as $90.76 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX).
But that 13% advance is just the beginning.
Crude oil prices are poised to again break the psychologically important $100 a barrel mark in a bid to move higher throughout 2011 and 2012, and some forecasters are calling for prices to zoom by as much as 65% from here.
If that happens, crude oil would approach - or possibly even eclipse - the all-time high of $147 a barrel, a price not seen since the summertime speculative frenzy of 2008.
How the U.S.-China Trade Spat is Jeopardizing Energy Sector Development
Usually, a government decision to subsidize clean energy alternatives would be applauded by others.
Not so when the government is Beijing, and Washington politicians halfway around the world are busy looking for votes.
This tiff could be filed away as just another tempest in a teapot... if it were not for the other important projects it could derail along the way. Those projects just happen to have a major impact for American natural gas technology and the companies likely to benefit from its foreign introduction.
If the two countries can get it together, it could mean profitable new opportunities for both.
To find out how the energy sector would benefit from U.S.-China cooperation, read on...
Everything You Need to Know About Tomorrow's OPEC Meeting
Crude dropped for the second straight day yesterday (Tuesday) after Saudi Arabia made it clear that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will leave its production targets unchanged at its meeting tomorrow (Thursday). Crude oil for November delivery fell 54 cents a barrel - or 0.7% - to finish at $81.67 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange yesterday. Even with yesterday's decline, oil prices are up 11% over the past 12 months.
Speaking in advance of tomorrow's OPEC meeting in Vienna, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said that prices between $70 and $80 a barrel are "ideal," and noted that the market is "very well-balanced" right now. In a related development, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. LLC slashed its oil-price forecasts for both next year and 2012, and attributed the new viewpoint to big stockpiles.
But this only provides you with part of the picture. And it'll lead you to the wrong conclusions.
So here's the proverbial "rest of the story" - including everything you need to know about tomorrow's OPEC meeting.
For a better understanding of the workings of the global oil market, please read on...