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TheStreet Open House

3 Things That Could De-Rail T. Boone's Nat Gas Plan

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- For investors who have watched the recent trading in shares of Westport Innovations (WPRT - Get Report), the new all-time high territory for the natural gas vehicle stock play can only mean one thing: the legislative game is afoot (yet again) for the Nat Gas Act and stocks in the nat gas vehicle sector will rise and fall based on the latest legislative rumors from Washington.

In the case of Westport Innovations specifically, it's not just the introduction of the Nat Gas Act in the House of Representatives, which occurred on Wednesday and featured 76 co-sponsors, that led to Westport shares reaching above $27 two days this week.

Westport Innovations announced a big deal this week for its HD (heavy duty) division, with Heckmann, a water services company, putting in an order for 200 Westport HD truck engine-powered Peterbilt trucks. It's a big deal for Westport because most of its sales to date have come through its Cummins Westport joint venture, where not only is its name second in the branding, but the money split 50%/50%. Increasing sales in the Westport HD division is a bigger bang for the buck financial driver for the natural gas engine company.

In any event, the big story was the introduction of the Nat Gas Act, which is the single most important driver for the outlook in the natural gas vehicle space. T. Boone Pickens recently said the Nat Gas Act is a no-brainer and has at least 300 votes in the House. Of course, every bullish statement T. Boone makes about the Nat Gas Act has a potential translation into a fatter T. Boone Pickens wallet, and any investor who rode these stocks through the legislative highs and lows of 2010 knows that for all of T. Boone's enthusiasm and the legislative "no-brainer," as he puts it, for the legislative reality one must drill a little deeper.

T. Boone Pickens predicted in 2010 that the Nat Gas Act would pass by Memorial Day 2010. Perhaps that wasn't a "no-brainer." Indeed, the Nat Gas Act was really no more than a pawn in last year's legislative chess game. Take the questionable sign of support from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who introduced the Nat Gas Act and then removed the Nat Gas Act from consideration within the span of a few days, saying there wasn't the legislative will to get it done at the time (though one would have thought that Reid might have done some congressional math before introducing and pulling the Act in a span of time that's not even as long as a cricket game). Natural gas market and natural gas vehicle stock analysts criticized Reid's 2010 Nat Gas Act stunt as nothing more than a PR maneuver. In any event, Reid's 2010 intentions don't matter today.

Yet a few Reid and T. Boone Pickens-related questions do remain essential to the Nat Gas Act's fortunes.

Will T. Boone Pickens be correct this time around and the Nat Gas Act will be sitting on the President's desk by July 4th, 2011? Or, in keeping with the failures in the history of the Nat Gas Act, and in keeping with T. Boone's predilection for national holiday-inspired "calling of his shots," will T. Boone be predicting before long that Groundhogs Day 2012 will be the V-Day for the Nat Gas Act?

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