The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage. By Kevin McElroy NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Today I'm going to talk about some very compelling natural gas investments. My colleague Tyler Laundon has asked me to mention an excellent new research report that he wrote on small, growth-oriented American natural gas companies. You can read about this report by clicking here. Oil might be hugely important to world energy needs, but it's not the only game in town. If oil is the NFL (huge, popular, unstoppable and pervasive and vital in the United States) then natural gas is soccer (small, underutilized, unloved, but pervasive and vital in Europe). And say what you will about hydraulic fracking and other natural gas drilling techniques and how they may or may not poison the water table or cause a rash of flipper babies or cancer or whatever else the environmentalists may have you believe. The fact is, new nat-gas drilling techniques are bringing a literal ocean of new energy resource to the markets. You've probably heard about massive supplies of gas in places like the Marcellus shale of Pennsylvania and New York. Or the Barnett shale in Texas. The Haynesville shale of Louisiana. The Bakken shale. The Gammon shale. The Green River shale. The Williston, Anadarko and Michigan basins. The United States now sits on more readily available, cheap natural gas supply than any other country besides Russia. And it's all thanks to American natural gas drilling techniques. At the same time America is watching its oil production dwindle and shrivel, natural gas production is booming. The Marcellus shale in particular is so vast, that journalists are starting to call my home state of Pennsylvania "the Saudi Arabia of natural gas." And if you're looking for a way to invest in this monstrous supply of gas, I've recommended picking up shares of the Radnor, Pa.-(about 20 minutes from my hometown of Ridley Park) based natural gas Limited Partnership: Penn Virginia Resource Partners ( PVR). The company currently pays a 6.7% annual dividend yield -- which isn't too shabby these days as an income play. If you're looking for growth, then there's something very exciting that's just starting to happen in Europe, Asia and Africa. American natural gas exploration and drilling firms are starting to export their ingenuity and know-how to tap into potentially monstrous reserves on those continents.
As you may know, Europe currently marches to the tune of Russian natural gas. Russian gas giant Gazprom has a stranglehold on the European natural gas market. And much of Eastern Europe, especially, relies heavily on Russian natural gas pipelines to heat their homes, run factories and even fuel their natural-gas vehicles. With natural gas currently selling below $5 per thousand cubic feet (MCF) here in the United States, it's tough for American companies to make huge profits. But natural gas currently sells for nearly $10 per MCF in European markets, so there's huge incentive for American companies to bring European natural gas reserves to market there. Right now, my colleague Tyler Laundon is recommending a handful of American companies with access to European, Asian and African natural gas reserves. These are small companies with market caps well under $1 billion. If you're interested in the natural gas story, I think you'll find Tyler's research on this subject and these small companies extremely interesting and potentially very profitable. You can read the full write up on these small American natural gas firms by clicking here.