Soros's friend in the Oval Office does him a favor

The Wall Street Journal has an opinion column noting that Barack Obama has done an about face and now seems to be boosting the prospects of natural gas (especially that derived from shale gas fields). The White House has released a report that notes the important role that shale gas has played in helping to spark job and industrial growth. The White House mentions the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania as playing an especially important role:

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time the White House has favorably mentioned the Marcellus Shale, the natural gas reservoir below Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other Northeastern states. And now he's taking credit for this soaring production.

As the White House report puts it: "Of the major fossil fuels, natural gas is the cleanest and least carbon‐intensive for electric power generation. By keeping domestic energy costs relatively low, this resource also supports energy intensive manufacturing in the United States. In fact, companies like Dow Chemical and Westlake Chemical have announced intentions to make major investments in new facilities over the next several years."

And that's not all: "In addition, firms that provide equipment for shale gas production have announced major investments in the U.S., including Vallourec's $650 million plant for steel pipes in Ohio.

This would come as a great surprise to many observers. For three years, the administration has put roadblock after roadblock in the way of companies eager to tap America's natural wealth. Why the change in tone-if not substance?

The Journal takes a cynical view of Obama's conversion to being an apostle for shale gas. Both Pennsylvania and Ohio will play pivotal roles in November, being rich not just in shale gas but also in electoral votes. Both states are battleground states. In Ohio, the Senatorial  Republican candidate and current Secretary of State, Josh Mandel, has made the administration's resistance to developing Ohio's Utica Shale field a campaign wedge issue against in incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown (see Mandel's Wall Street Journal op-ed, "Washington Targets Ohio's Shale Gas").  Releasing a report that showers praise on shale gas can help boost prospects for Obama in those states. The Journal continues:

It's certainly smart politics for Mr. Obama to distance himself from the anti-fossil fuels obsessives, and no doubt his political advisers are hoping it helps this fall in the likes of Ohio and Pennsylvania. On the other hand, this could be a one-year wonder, and if he wins Mr. Obama might revert to form in 2013.

Never underestimate the degree of cynicism when it comes to President Obama and his campaign. There is one other reason that Obama may have shifted gears-at least regarding the optics-on shale natural gas.

George Soros -- a major donor to Obama, a major backer of so-called 527 groups, and the sugar daddy of the Democratic Party -- has recently made a major investment in a company that would be enriched if natural gas takes off as a fuel source for cars, trucks and buses.

From Capital Confidential at Big Government.Com:

According to the website GuruFocus, which tracks the investment habits and portfolio trends of some of the world's richest people, George Soros has made some intriguing investments into alternative fuel companies of late, specifically those at the forefront of natural gas. This would not be so troubling except that, as GuruFocus points out, Soros has accurately predicted both economic bubbles and quickly growing industries. As a result, Soros's funds have turned out a 30% return on investments since their inception.

One of the stocks Soros invested in recently is Westport Innovations (WPST), a global supplier of "solutions" that allow vehicles to operate on clean-burning fuels, such as natural gas. In fact, they are the world's leading engineer of natural gas engines. Westport is currently working with Caterpillar to develop a natural-gas powered engine that would work in a number of utility vehicles, all of which would be eligible for the subsidies Congress is now considering. Soros's investment funds have pumped about $122 million into WPST [note: the correct symbol is WRPT - ed.], and he's added to his control as recently as December and March, when he picked up over a million shares, bringing his total to 5.5 million shares.

No other major investor shares his rosy outlook for natural gas engines, and the stock has barely crept up during the time Soros has held it, leading many to suspect Soros knows of a major future development.

Perhaps Soros has some insider information he does not care to share with the hoi polloi. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that he has been stepping up his investment in a somewhat speculative company. Or perhaps Soros has a friend in the White House who can help goose the stock price of Westport Innovations by suddenly promoting the prospects of natural gas.

After all, it was George Soros who admitted in a 2004 New Yorker profile that there are "symbiotic moments between political and business interests."  This might just be one of those "symbiotic" (alternative definition: I donate to your campaign and you help my hedge fund) moments.

The Wall Street Journal has an opinion column noting that Barack Obama has done an about face and now seems to be boosting the prospects of natural gas (especially that derived from shale gas fields). The White House has released a report that notes the important role that shale gas has played in helping to spark job and industrial growth. The White House mentions the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania as playing an especially important role:

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time the White House has favorably mentioned the Marcellus Shale, the natural gas reservoir below Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other Northeastern states. And now he's taking credit for this soaring production.

As the White House report puts it: "Of the major fossil fuels, natural gas is the cleanest and least carbon‐intensive for electric power generation. By keeping domestic energy costs relatively low, this resource also supports energy intensive manufacturing in the United States. In fact, companies like Dow Chemical and Westlake Chemical have announced intentions to make major investments in new facilities over the next several years."

And that's not all: "In addition, firms that provide equipment for shale gas production have announced major investments in the U.S., including Vallourec's $650 million plant for steel pipes in Ohio.

This would come as a great surprise to many observers. For three years, the administration has put roadblock after roadblock in the way of companies eager to tap America's natural wealth. Why the change in tone-if not substance?

The Journal takes a cynical view of Obama's conversion to being an apostle for shale gas. Both Pennsylvania and Ohio will play pivotal roles in November, being rich not just in shale gas but also in electoral votes. Both states are battleground states. In Ohio, the Senatorial  Republican candidate and current Secretary of State, Josh Mandel, has made the administration's resistance to developing Ohio's Utica Shale field a campaign wedge issue against in incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown (see Mandel's Wall Street Journal op-ed, "Washington Targets Ohio's Shale Gas").  Releasing a report that showers praise on shale gas can help boost prospects for Obama in those states. The Journal continues:

It's certainly smart politics for Mr. Obama to distance himself from the anti-fossil fuels obsessives, and no doubt his political advisers are hoping it helps this fall in the likes of Ohio and Pennsylvania. On the other hand, this could be a one-year wonder, and if he wins Mr. Obama might revert to form in 2013.

Never underestimate the degree of cynicism when it comes to President Obama and his campaign. There is one other reason that Obama may have shifted gears-at least regarding the optics-on shale natural gas.

George Soros -- a major donor to Obama, a major backer of so-called 527 groups, and the sugar daddy of the Democratic Party -- has recently made a major investment in a company that would be enriched if natural gas takes off as a fuel source for cars, trucks and buses.

From Capital Confidential at Big Government.Com:

According to the website GuruFocus, which tracks the investment habits and portfolio trends of some of the world's richest people, George Soros has made some intriguing investments into alternative fuel companies of late, specifically those at the forefront of natural gas. This would not be so troubling except that, as GuruFocus points out, Soros has accurately predicted both economic bubbles and quickly growing industries. As a result, Soros's funds have turned out a 30% return on investments since their inception.

One of the stocks Soros invested in recently is Westport Innovations (WPST), a global supplier of "solutions" that allow vehicles to operate on clean-burning fuels, such as natural gas. In fact, they are the world's leading engineer of natural gas engines. Westport is currently working with Caterpillar to develop a natural-gas powered engine that would work in a number of utility vehicles, all of which would be eligible for the subsidies Congress is now considering. Soros's investment funds have pumped about $122 million into WPST [note: the correct symbol is WRPT - ed.], and he's added to his control as recently as December and March, when he picked up over a million shares, bringing his total to 5.5 million shares.

No other major investor shares his rosy outlook for natural gas engines, and the stock has barely crept up during the time Soros has held it, leading many to suspect Soros knows of a major future development.

Perhaps Soros has some insider information he does not care to share with the hoi polloi. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that he has been stepping up his investment in a somewhat speculative company. Or perhaps Soros has a friend in the White House who can help goose the stock price of Westport Innovations by suddenly promoting the prospects of natural gas.

After all, it was George Soros who admitted in a 2004 New Yorker profile that there are "symbiotic moments between political and business interests."  This might just be one of those "symbiotic" (alternative definition: I donate to your campaign and you help my hedge fund) moments.

RECENT VIDEOS