Oil has a bigger impact on our economy than any other commodity. And given that the price of oil has been increasing significantly since 2003, it has come to the forefront of our economic concerns. In 2003, oil was trading at approximately $25 a barrel. Five years later, it reached a high of about $147. Today, the price of oil has settled around $100 a barrel. Given that most industries are significantly hindered by high oil prices due to the fact that oil is both a direct and indirect cost in the production of various products and goods, the rise in prices has been a painful trend for consumers, investors and businesses.
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However, there are some ways you, as an investor, can benefit from the increase in oil prices. The key is finding the industries whose business models are centered on finding ways to satisfy customer and business needs when oil is too expensive for many companies and consumers. It is these industries that offer great investment opportunities in times of oil shortages caused by issues such as the recent turmoil in Libya. Here are six prominent industries that can benefit from increases in the price of oil. (How a company accounts for its expenses affects how its net income and cash flow numbers are reported. Check out Accounting For Differences In Oil And Gas Accounting.)
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1. Oil Substitutes and Alternative Energy
Companies that provide goods that are substitutes for oil do very well when oil prices are high. As customers become dissatisfied with the price of oil, they often turn to coals, biofuels, natural gas and ethanol products for their energy needs. Peabody (NYSE:BTU) and Cloud Peak (NYSE:CLD) are two coal companies that often do well when oil prices increase.
Companies that provide green energy services are also likely to increase in value as the profitability of wind farms, hydrogen production facilities, and solar and fuel cells rises along with the price of oil. First Solar (Nasdaq:FSLR), Nordic WindPower, and Altergy Freedom Power are good examples of such green energy companies.
Lastly, chemical companies that produce chemicals to be used in biofuels and other green technology will also benefit. For example, as demand for biofuels increases, companies that produce fertilizer, insecticides, and lithium can see increases in their quarterly sales. Vizien is a company that produces green chemicals and tends to do well when the price of oil increases.
2. Insulation Companies
When oil increases, consumers are always looking for ways to save energy at home and reduce their costs of heating. As a result, demand increases for products that are used to insulate homes, such as fiberglass and polyurethane products. In particular, sales of these products typically increase in areas that experience severe winters due to the higher dependence on heating. General Insulation Company has been providing industrial and consumer insulation for over 80 years and does very well when oil prices increase.
3. Hybrid Vehicles
There is a direct correlation between the price of oil and gasoline, which makes owning a vehicle more expensive when gas prices rise. Thus, automobile manufacturers that diversify or specialize in producing hybrid vehicles stand to profit from increases in the price of oil. When oil prices increase high enough, customers are more likely to make the shift towards purchasing hybrid vehicles that generally have higher upfront sticker prices. Toyota, Ford and GM have all added lines of hybrid vehicles to their companies to offset losses from increases in oil prices. Companies such as Tesla (Nasdaq:TSLA) that specialize solely in producing or servicing hybrid or electric vehicles are in an even better position.
4. Industrial Gas Vendors
When oil prices increase, demand increases for oil deposits which are otherwise difficult to harvest. Obtaining denser or more stubborn oils typically requires the use of hydrogen. As a result, industrial gas vendors such as Praxair (NYSE:PX) and Air Products & Chemicals (NYSE:APD) that produce the desired chemical compounds usually gain as a result of supply shortages of oil.
5. Recycling Companies
Oil is extremely important in the manufacture of polymers. When the price of oil increases, there is a very direct correlation with the increase in the price of plastics. At this point, it becomes more cost-effective to recycle existing plastics than to produce new ones. Thus, national recycling companies like Vikoz will benefit from an increase in business.
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6. Waste Management Companies
On a similar note, many waste management companies will harvest landfills looking for discarded plastic materials due to the higher demand for recycled plastic. These companies will in turn sell these plastics to recycling companies at higher prices and therefore benefit from increased profits. Waste Management (NYSE:WM) is one such company that performs this service.
Not Everyone Suffers From High Oil Prices
The price of oil clearly has a strong impact on the economy. Most industries are negatively impacted by increases in oil prices because they have to contend with higher operating expenses or less demand for their product. However, there are a handful of industries that have the opportunity to profit when oil prices increase. These companies usually offer some form of oil substitute or find ways to reduce consumer dependence on oil. If investors can identify these industries and companies, they too can benefit from oil price increases. (For additional reading, see Canadian Oil Companies Set To Outperform.)