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Times' Nat Gas Slam Affects Market

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- A recent New York Times article has questioned the claims of the natural gas industry, its projections on reserves and the economic viability of shale gas.

The article called the hype surrounding the shale gas revolution a "Ponzi scheme," citing various emails from inside the industry and between departments of the Energy Information Administration.

The New York Times story is wrong. Despite its contrarian argument, natural gas is cheap, plentiful, domestic, green and inevitable. We now have to consider whether this series of hit pieces from The New York Times has set up some counter-indicative opportunities in the space. Having seen the action in the natural gas sector over the past two days, I'm thinking it likely has.

There are two main arguments in Ian Urbina's article. One, that estimated shale gas reserves have been largely unproved and two, that those reserves cannot be economically extracted at the flat $4 price at which natural gas has been loitering.

Both are pretty weak arguments, and even after he rifled through thousands of emails, Urbina found scant industry support for his theses. The New York Times apparently forgot that gas prices can go up as they have virtually every two years since 2001, while admittedly staying flat since 2008.

Still, the article has had a measurable impact on the sector. On Monday and Tuesday, the major stock indices recorded fairly substantial gains, led to a great degree by other energy names.

However natural gas stocks were relatively flat, and some were even down on the day. Chesapeake Energy (CHK - Get Report) serves as a possible counter-indicative stock, especially because it was the prime target of the article and because Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon fired back quickly at the media through a "public" memo to employees on Monday.

Chesapeake was one of my least favorite natural gas stocks, mostly because of the mercurial nature of its CEO and his frequent E&P acquisition binges. Those would inevitably be followed by a huge weighing down of the balance sheet and quick diet fixes of joint ventures and asset sales.
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