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Green Energy: Nat Gas Vehicle Plays

(Nat gas vehicle, Obama energy speech story updated for analyst comment, trading)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks in the natural gas vehicles space surged Wednesday with word that President Obama's plan to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil by one-third by 2025 will include support for natural gas vehicles.

The stock surge in the pure-play nat gas vehicle stocks, though, was getting ahead of the legislative reality, according to several Wall Street analysts. That's nothing new for these stocks, either, as anyone with an institutional history of the space dating back no further than 2010 should remember.

Natural gas engine maker Westport Innovations (WPRT - Get Report) rose by 14% in trading and reached a 52-week high level it had not been near since last July, the last time legislative hopes fueled these stocks higher. Westport shares traded at three times their average volume on Wednesday.

Natural gas transportation infrastructure play Clean Energy Fuels (CLNE - Get Report) rose by 9% and had already surpassed its average daily volume of trading within a half hour of the market open; by the afternoon, more than 8 million Clean Energy Fuels shares had been traded, versus average daily volume of 1.5 million shares.

Fuel Systems Solutions (FSYS - Get Report) rose by 10% on Wednesday.

President Obama, as part of a broader energy initiative to quell consumer anxiety about high gasoline prices at the pump and reliance on foreign oil, voiced his support for the use of natural gas in vehicles, expanding oil production, and boosting ethanol production.

The president pledged that the federal government will purchase only alternative-fuel vehicles, such as hybrid and electric cars, by 2015.

The natural gas lobby, led by T. Boone Pickens and Clean Energy Fuels CEO Andrew Littlefair, among others, failed in a major lobbying campaign in 2010 to see through its Natural Gas Act to legislative passage. The Natural Gas Act would increase the subsidies for the purchase of natural gas vehicles to a level where fleet purchasers like trucking companies would be able to buy natural gas-run trucks without paying more than for a conventional diesel truck.

The natural gas vehicle stock plays have been volatile investments and tend to swing on any change in the legislative landscape. During 2010, the stocks rose and fell several times based on the outlook for the Natural Gas Act. In 2011, the natural gas stocks have rebounded from a fizzle at the end of 2010 when the Nat Gas Act failed on hopes that the legislative outlook would brighten. The rate of adoption for natural gas vehicles in the U.S. is more reliant on a federal subsidy increase than any other single factor, analysts in the sector have long said.
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