NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - 2011 is going to be the year for natural gas. Stories keep crossing the wires, subtly pointing to the inevitable fact that natural gas is our guaranteed energy future, whether or not the industry or even Washington is ready for it.

Natural Gas

The only thing left for a savvy investor to do is get on board this train before it leaves the station and builds up too much speed.

Another avalanche of reports appeared this week, all pointing to the same theme: Natural gas is ready to explode. Check out these recent stories: TNK-BP, the third largest energy company in Russia sees a demand explosion coming and announced that it will look to double their output of natural gas by 2020, to 30 billion cubic meters.

6 Natural Gas Stocks for 2011

Back in the United States, Newfield Resources ( NFX), normally more engaged in the Anadarko basin in Oklahoma, spent $405 million to double their exposure in the Marcellus shale region of Pennsylvania.

Freeport-LNG, an independent liquid natural gas terminal operator, which is 50% owned by Conoco-Phillips ( COP) has just teamed with Australian bank McQuarie to build out their terminal as an export plant -- a $2 billion dollar endeavor.

Someone is clearly convinced of the United States' upcoming role as a viable exporter of natural gas, something we have heard about for years, but now is becoming a real watershed moment because capital is finally being committed to the idea.

The first station for refueling natural gas fired cars is being built in Albany by the local utility National Grid, ostensibly to support its own growing fleet of cars and trucks, but also in preparation for consumer vehicles.

In the Pennsylvania State Congress, talk is turning from a severance tax on shale extraction -- a measure endorsed by outgoing Gov. Ed Rendell but had little support from Republican State representatives -- to talk of locally exacted "impact fees" to replace them.

The significance of the change is not just superficial. Severance taxes were a major hurdle to increasing development of Marcellus shale plays, because of both their universal application, but also because any talk of fresh "taxes" of any kind was gaining difficult traction among Republicans and Tea-Party advocates.

Impact fees are more easily passed, still give local governments reasonable recourse to companies for environmental and safety concerns and avoids some of the complications of dealing with the state government.

The point is clear. This is just a sampling from the last week of news stories that are becoming more frequent as the natural gas train picks up steam.

It's so obvious that it hardly bears repeating: Compared to crude oil-based fuels, natural gas is cheaper, greener and entirely domestic. These unbelievable advantages ensure that natural gas will continue to gain traction in replacing oil and be the inevitable fuel to take us from reliance on fossil fuels to the renewable and sustainable energy sources that we all wish would be available tomorrow, but still have decades of development ahead of them.

2011 looks like it will be the turning point. Already, natural gas is trading well over $4/mMbtu, on its way, I believe, to $7 sometime in the next year. If you could only invest in one sector in energy for 2011, I believe natural gas shows the greatest potential for profit.

I still like Devon ( DVN) , with its great leadership and nimbleness in switching from dry to liquids and the previously mentioned Newfield Resources.

I also like EOG Resources ( EOG). Despite its movement to concentrate more upon crude oil in the short term, it can move back to natural gas at a moment's notice as soon as market conditions improve, and it recently raised another $1.5 billion through a flawless debt offering to continue expansion.

I'm going to add two other recommendations: Southwestern Energy ( SWN), because of its "best-of-class" exposure into the Fayetteville shale play and Cheniere Energy ( CQP) as a valuable dedicated liquid natural gas play.

But no matter how you decide to play it, the time is finally right: After two years of awful margins and restricted markets, natural gas is ready to make 2011 its year. Time to get on the train.
At the time of publication, Dicker was long Devon and EOG Resources. This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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