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Tickers in this Article: URA, IGE, KOL, WLT, YZC, PKOL, IXC, GAZ, FCG
Given the scope of the problems currently facing Japan, investors have once again flown to quality in response to the catastrophe. With the world's third-largest economy facing a triple threat of not only an earthquake and tsunami, but a nuclear crisis, it's no wonder that many so commodities have sold off at a feverish pace. However, crisis often breeds opportunities. Japan's resiliency to rebuild, along with new global public perceptions about power sources, has created some great long-term energy buys in the face of selling pressures. TUTORIAL: Industry Handbook

New Energy Trends
Since the 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit Japan's Northern region, the energy, agricultural and metals markets have all taken a massive haircut. Almost everything - from coal and steel to soybeans and copper - has seen a drop in price. Corn has lost nearly 10% since the start of the turmoil and oil prices have fallen 5% since March 10th. Even the safe haven precious metals such as platinum and gold have fallen 4% and 1%, respectively. (To learn more, see A Beginner's Guide To Precious Metals.) With so much of the commodity complex down, bargains are starting to emerge. And in spite of the troubles, both Japan and the rest of the world still need power.

While the Global X Uranium ETF (NYSE:URA) and the rest of the nuclear complex may be "dead money" for a prolonged period of time as the world grapples with its atomic power plans, several other energy commodities seemed poised for a breakout. The right combination of both short- and long-term fundamentals make natural gas, oil and coal interesting buys given their depressed states.

After the quake and tsunami, nearly 25% of Japan's nuclear capacity was shut down. According to analysts from energy reporting agency Argus, Japan will need an additional 300,000 barrels per day of crude oil in order to help make up for lost nuclear output. This will continue to put pressure on the already high prices for crude. In addition, Japan is the world's largest importer of thermal coal. As the country begins the steps necessary to rebuild its infrastructure, its coal-fired plants will carry more of the load. As Japan rebuilds, the country is more likely to replace nuclear capacity with other types of generating facilities, namely coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG). As other nations focus inward and look at their own growing energy needs, many analysts are now predicting similar trends toward natural gas and coal.

Playing the Shift
As Japan looks for ways to power itself for its rebuilding efforts and the world contemplates its energy future, investors may want to take a bet on the three traditional energy forms ready to step up. Investors seeking a catch-all play can use the iShares S&P North America Natural Resources ETF (NYSE:IGE). This fund provides exposure to all three major traditional energy commodities as well as some small exposure to forestry products.

For investors who want targeted exposure, Japan's need for more coal will add pressure to the already rising long-term demand from nations like China and India. The Market Vectors Coal ETF (NYSE:KOL) tracks 40 different global producers of coal such as Walter Energy (NYSE:WLT) and Yanzhou Coal (NYSE:YZC). The fund has steadily gained over the last few days as investors have embraced coal. Both it and PowerShares Global Coal (Nasdaq:PKOL) could see continued gains in the future.

For investors looking to play the increased gains in oil and natural gas, broad-based iShares S&P Global Energy (NYSE:IXC) represents a global mix of the largest oil and natural gas companies. Japan also relies heavily on liquid natural gas imports for electricity generation. While the U.S. the natural gas market is somewhat disconnected from the international market, as it builds out its vast shale network and export capacity, it will be a major player. Both the First Trust ISE-Revere Natural Gas (NYSE:FCG) and iPath DJ-UBS Natural Gas ETN (NYSE:GAZ) are great ways to play that future growth.

The Bottom Line
Investors have once again taken flight toward safer assets in the face of Japan's problems, and many assets within the commodity space have fallen. In those falling prices, long-term investors can find opportunities. Japan's rebuilding efforts, along with the various governments' new perspectives on energy, will boost not only oil and natural gas but coal as well. Investors can use the recent dips to stock up on these three traditional energy sectors. (To learn about other ways of investing in energy, see Fueling Futures In The Energy Market)

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