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Energy Holdings With Juice

Editor's Note: Jon D. Markman writes a weekly column for CNBC on MSN Money that is republished here on

With gasoline and electricity prices soaring across the country, it's time for consumers to fight back with the most awesome weapon they've got.

No, not a sledgehammer for your local gas pump or walking shoes for your commute, or even a solar-powered generator for your margarita blender.

It's your investment portfolio, my friends. The theme of this idea is that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. There's a way for you to pour money from your tank right back into your bank account.

With timely, substantial stakes in a relatively new class of energy stocks that pay big, safe dividends, you can make enough steady income to pay for all your gasoline needs and then some. One nice thing is that this class of stocks is not very volatile, as it reacts little to change in the broad market or in energy prices.

The formal name of this group of stocks is "master limited partnerships," or MLPs, but now that I've got all of those syllables out of the way I'll try not to repeat them. MLPs don't have any relation to energy partnerships that were sold on the private market years ago as passive tax shelters, and you are really not partnering in business with anyone.

MLPs are groups of securities that you can buy and sell just like normal stocks but with one big difference: By law, most of them provide a quarterly dividend, or cash payment, that is enormous relative to their price. (Another difference, while minor, needs to be noted as well: They have some tax-related eccentricities that may give your accountant a headache when you sell.)

Fill 'Er Up

How high are MLPs' dividend yields? Very, very high compared with most stocks and quite high even compared with most utilities. The average dividend yield of the 100 largest S&P 500 Index stocks is 1.8%, and the average dividend yield of the 15 stocks in the Dow Jones Utilities Index is 2.9%. Yet the average yield of the 50 leading MLPs is a whopping 6%, and many pay 7% or more.
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