The Best Way To Invest In 'America's Natural Gas Highway'

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Would you pay $2.10 for a gallon of gas?

I know I would. According to AAA, the nationwide average for a gallon of gasoline is $3.59... Diesel is even more expensive at $3.91.

Yet despite high fuel costs across the country, a select group of drivers are paying only $2.10 a gallon... about $1.50 below the national average.

What's the catch?  

To be honest, there isn't one. These drivers aren't getting some "special deal," and this isn't some publicity stunt that's only available to a select few. They're simply filling up their tanks with a different kind of transportation fuel -- one that could make early investors alot ofmoney .

Let me explain... 

Over the past decade, new technologies like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have unlockedwaves of natural gas reserves that were previously thought inaccessible. As a result, gas prices have plummeted to $4.11 per million British thermal units... well below the 10-year high of $10.79 hit in 2008. 

With natural gas prices hovering near record lows, companies across the board are looking for ways to take advantage of the new cheap energy source... and who better to benefit than the transportation industry?

All over the nation, companies with heavy transportation costs are introducing vehicles that run off natural gas into their regular operations. In 2011, United Parcel Service ( UPS ) added 48 trucks that run off natural gas to its shipping fleet, bringing the total number of vehicles in its fleet running on natural gas to 1,100.

Right now, the average compressed natural gas (CNG) equivalent to a gallon of gasoline costs $2.10. With roughly 250,000 natural-gas vehicles already diving on U.S. roads -- and CNG prices roughly $1.50 per gallon cheaper than gasoline -- the number of CNG vehicles on the road is going nowhere but up.

But while there's ample incentive for truck owners to switch from diesel to CNG, there's still one big obstacle: lack of infrastructure. 

After all, you wouldn't want to be on a lonely stretch of highway somewhere on the outskirts of Omaha running on 'E' without a CNG station in sight.

That's why Clean Energy Fuels (Nasdaq: CLNE) is in the middle of a bold initiative to install hundreds of natural gas-based fueling stations along the nation's most heavily-traveled arteries.

Clean Energy Fuels operates an interesting business. It's one of the few companies focusing on putting natural gas fueling stations along America's busiest corridors.

Judging by the pace at which the company continues to land new customers, the plan appears to be working. 

Since Clean Energy unveiled its plan lastyear to add fueling stations to existing Pilot-Flying J truck stops in more than 30 states, the company has picked up more than 100 customers. 

More and more of the nation's largest freight delivery firms are willing to at least test-drive CNG powered trucks. Some are making the full transition and converting their entire fleets. 

And with fueling stations along the nation's busiest routes -- such as Los Angeles and Chicago to Atlanta, the Texas Triangle, and major corridors in the Midwest and Northeast -- Clean Energy is well-positioned to maintain its dominant lead in the fuelmarket . 

The company already fills up 25,000 vehicles at 273 locations each week -- and I fully expect that number to continue growing.

Risks to Consider: There are, of course, a few things that could go wrong. If the price of natural gas rallies, it could be a deterrent for companies considering making the switch from traditional gasoline-burning  vehicles to those that run off CNG. 

Action to Take -->  But seeing as America now has as much natural gas as Saudi Arabia has oil, I think the trend of "cheap" natural gas is here to stay. And with the price of CNG about $1.50 less than a gallon of gasoline... this looks like a huge opportunity for investors in Clean Energy Fuels.



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.

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This article appears in: Investing , Investing Ideas , Stocks

Referenced Stocks: UPS

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