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How to Heat Your Home for Free (or Profit)

If these individual stocks are too pricey for your budget, you may want to seek out mutual funds that include some of these top companies among their heavily weighted holdings.

Supply disruptions overseas -- even in the short term -- increase demand for alternative sources, which is good news for companies focused on drilling and exploration. Anadarko, for example, has oilfields in several U.S. States and, further North, Canada's vast oil sands could be a continued boon for Suncor Energy (SU).

North Dakota and Montana are home to "The Bakken," a formation of shale covering about 200,000 square miles that is estimated by the U.S. Geological Survey to have as much as 4.3 billion barrels of potentially recoverable crude. Among the companies working to extract that oil are Continental Resourcess (CLR), Hess (HES), Oasis Petroleum (OAS), Kodiak Oil & Gas (KOG), Northern Oil & Gas (NOG), MDU Resources Group (HEW), EOG Resources (EOG), Whiting Petroleum (WLL) and Marathon Oil.

Pipeline owners such a Constellation Energy (CEG) may also their stock price rise in concert with oil prices, as could Schlumberger (SLB), the world's largest oilfield services company.

Oil refineries feel the pinch of rising costs per barrel as their costs to buy oil go up even as demand for their finished product drops. Offshore drilling companies such as Transocean (RIG) (despite the Deepwater Horizon disaster) and SeaDrill Limited (SDRL) are key players in that arena.

The simplest way to hedge against oil inflation for most Main Street investors is to consider ETFs designed with that very goal in mind.

In its prospectus, United States Heating Oil Fund (UHN) is described as "a way for investors and hedgers to manage their exposure to energy" and an ETF "designed to track in percentage terms the movements of heating oil prices." Year to date, the fund is up 5.6%, and it saw a return of 15.64% for a one-year period.

The United States Oil Fund (USO) is designed to track the price movements of light, sweet crude oil. Unfortunately its returns have been far from stellar, down approximately 21% so far this year and at -54.5% since its inception in 2006.

Other funds worth investigating are the iPath S&P GSCI Crude Oil TR Index ETN (OIL), SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF (XOP) (which has a three-year return of over 22%), SPDR Oil & Gas Equipment & Services Fund (XES) and the PowerShares DB Crude Oil Long ETN (OLO) (up a slight 0.14% for the year).

--Written by Joe Mont in Boston.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Joe Mont.


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