Fellow Fool Matt DiLallo recently pointed out that in order for the US to be independent of OPEC oil, our domestic demand for oil needs to decline. Increased domestic oil production obviously helps, but the numbers bear out that we need to do more with less oil to achieve energy independence. Higher mileage cars and natural gas burning vehicles could do wonders for US energy self-sufficiency. Fortunately, there are three companies helping Americans drive straight over OPEC’s wallet and toward energy independence.
Natural gas engines for American natural gas
Westport Innovations Inc. (USA) (NASDAQ:WPRT) designs natural gas burning engines for a variety of vehicles. The actual large scale production is done by the likes of Cummins Inc. (NYSE:CMI) or other collaborators. While Westport Innovations Inc. (USA) (NASDAQ:WPRT) offers natural gas engines for passenger cars, the bulk of its business lays with heavy vehicles such as refuse trucks and buses. In fact, refuse trucks represent one of the fastest growing business segments for Westport Innovations Inc. (USA) (NASDAQ:WPRT). Another growing market is China, where the natural gas infrastructure doubled over the past year and engine sales in 2012 doubled over 2011.
As an investment, Westport Innovations Inc. (USA) (NASDAQ:WPRT)’s stock declined from $47 per share in March 2012 to just under $30 today.
Corporate revenues fluctuate but no profits have materialized. In fact, losses have widened over the previous year. The good news is Westport Innovations Inc. (USA) (NASDAQ:WPRT) carries a low debt load, which allows it to carry on despite losses.
Fueling stations for natural gas vehicles
If natural gas costs less per mile than diesel, why does the US not use it? Perhaps the single biggest reason is the lack of infrastructure. While there are over 180,000 gasoline and diesel fuel stations in the country, there are less than 580 stations offering compressed natural gas and 32 liquefied natural stations. However, the trucking industry looks to expand its use of natural gas.
Helping drive this expansion is the insistence of various companies that their carriers use natural gas. According to a Clean Energy Fuels Corp (NASDAQ:CLNE) spokesman in a personal email, companies such as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT), Whirlpool Corporation (NYSE:WHR) and The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE:PG) are asking their shippers to use natural gas trucks. Trucking companies are honoring the request and placing orders for natural gas engines, that in turn will use Clean Energy Fuels Corp (NASDAQ:CLNE) fueling stations. Clean Energy Fuels Corp (NASDAQ:CLNE) also partners with Flying J to provide natural gas fuel in about 70 truck stops.