You’ll Never Believe What Steve Forbes Told Me in the Elevator

by David Fessler, Energy and Infrastructure Expert
Friday, July 16, 2010: Issue #1303

“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

Well, not in this case it doesn’t.

I’d like to share one of the most exciting things I heard at last week’s FreedomFest – the annual Las Vegas event, hosted by my good friend and former Investment U Chairman, Mark Skousen.

I’m pleased to say that I have some very good company on the energy front…

Sweet Vindication

The United States has an abundance of natural gas.

You’ve heard me say that here before – and propose it as America’s energy solution. So imagine my delight when Steve Forbes, FreedomFest’s opening day keynote speaker, stepped up to the stage and said the same thing!

Not only that, he repeated what I’ve said about how we should be capitalizing on those resources right now to help steer us away from our dependence on foreign oil.

In fact, Forbes said that the United States boasts such ample natural gas reserves that it could actually be a net exporter of liquid natural gas (LNG) in just five years.

He’s not just whistling Dixie, either.

The first liquefaction plant in continental America has already been announced. (These are plants that can liquefy natural gas for transport overseas.) And as many as eight more are in the planning stages. Most of America’s natural gas terminals will actually be capable of liquefaction in five years or less.

As it stands right now, Alaska boasts the one U.S. liquefaction plant in operation, but Japan purchases all the LNG it produces.

More from Steve Forbes in a moment. But first, let’s set the table for my discussion with him…

Yep, It’s That Age-Old Debate Again: Energy Independence

I took part in two debates at FreedomFest. The first was with Mark Skousen. He and I have a running argument over what drives an economic recovery – consumers (my view) or businesses (Mark’s contention).

After my friendly sparring match with Mark, it was onto Rick Rule – one of the most respected global resource analysts and investors in the business.

Suffice it to say, I had my hands full, as we enjoyed a lively debate on the pros and cons of U.S. energy independence.

The most interesting aspect was the poll taken before we began our debate. I expected most of the attendees (80% to 90%) to be in favor of energy independence.

But only about 50% of the roughly 200 people in the room favored it. The other 50% said it didn’t matter. I was shocked.

I mean, where do they think all the oil is going to come from to satisfy the world’s needs? Consider that China currently consumes 3% of the oil that America does (on a per capita basis). But with one billion more people and its energy use growing rapidly, we’ll face a serious crunch at some point.

Here’s my argument – one that underlines the importance of natural gas as an alternative fuel resource:

“The Fessler Prophecy”

The United States spends $1 billion on imported oil every single day. Seventy percent of our annual trade deficit is due to our need to purchase oil from other countries, many of which don’t like America much. Just imagine how much better our nation’s balance sheet would be if that money were put to work here. That alone is enough to justify the effort towards greater energy independence.

But there’s more to it than energy security. Eventually, our national security could be at risk.

If we can’t provide enough oil and gas to power our military machinery, America’s leading global role could become dangerously compromised. And that won’t be lost on rogue nations bent on power-grabbing.

Which brings me neatly back to Steve Forbes…

26th Floor, Please

Later that day, as I was heading off to tape a few interviews for the, I hustled up to one of the elevators, just as its doors were about to close.

Imagine my surprise when the doors reopened – and I saw Steve Forbes right in front of me.

I re-introduced myself (I’d met him earlier in the day at his book signing) and we spent the ride up to the 26th floor of Bally’s Hotel talking U.S. energy independence. I told him about my debate on the subject and thanked him for his natural gas comments in his introductory speech.

When I told him about the results of our poll, he was shocked: “The American public is in for a rude awakening. Unfortunately, God put most of the world’s oil underneath some of the worst countries on the planet. We need to reduce our use of it or we’re going to be in deep trouble.”

And just like that, a simple elevator ride turned into the world’s fastest impromptu interview with one of the most powerful people in business. It’s clear that Steve Forbes “gets it” when it comes to energy independence. So does T. Boone Pickens.

Sadly, though, that’s about where “getting it” ends…

The Clock is Ticking

“Unfortunately, the Obama administration isn’t getting the message when it comes to America’s energy and economic security,” according to Karen A. Harbert, President of the Institute for 21st Century Energy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

She continues: “Despite two federal court rulings halting the moratorium on deepwater exploration, [the government] is now proceeding with yet another blanket moratorium that will continue to cost the Gulf region much-needed jobs, and America much-needed domestic oil and natural gas.”

If – as our forefathers intended – America is to remain one of the world’s most powerful, free and independent nations, we need to ensure our energy independence for the generations that follow us.

But the security of our energy supply seems to be taking a perpetual backseat to other more “important” issues. Huge mistake. Sustained economic growth needs cheap, available sources of energy, produced right here in the U.S. of A.

Energy is one issue where the traditional government approach of “kicking the can down the road” won’t work. And if you’re looking for some great ways to play the natural gas industry and America’s move towards energy independence…

  • Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE: CHK)
  • Clean Energy Fuels Corp. (Nasdaq: CLNE)
  • Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP (NYSE: KMP)

Good investing,

David Fessler