2022 looks set to be a year of energy stock and futures volatility

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Never mind the endless ramblings on social media and among sensationalist tabloid journalists in Europe and the United Kingdom regarding what is being held out as a 'cost of living crisis'.

The imagery used to depict the perceived times of woe relating to the cost and supply of fuel for domestic heating and industrial continuity is so out of context that disregarding it and looking at the real picture is likely to serve better.

Whether it is the random photographs of Russia's intrepid president Vladimir Putin on a 1980s telephone or the continuous reminder that politics within the European Union are creating an environment in which some of the larger energy giants can prosper whilst others which foster fair-priced competition go to the wall, is a matter of perspective but one thing's for sure - the propaganda is now at maximum capacity.

Behind the propaganda is the reality, and the reality is that natural gas has become a rare commodity and is in great demand across Europe and the United Kingdom, whilst the United States and all of the industrialized parts of Asia are fine and dandy.

Perhaps this is because the British government, led by overtly green Boris Johnson who spent most of last summer using climate-related buzzwords in addresses to the nation, is intent on creating an environment in which the cost of importing natural gas and then paying the taxes associated with it is out of proportion with its actual value, or because the Eurozone nations rely heavily on Russia's pipeline which in turn means a reliance on the German government.

These factors create a market in which natural gas becomes a highly prized commodity. Prices are now so high that Iran is preparing to boost production and Iran, like Russia, is a nation under sanctions from most of the countries that it would supply, meaning that transactions are neither likely to be simple nor cheap.

With the Chinese construction company CGN out of the picture, a fully nuclear England looks uncertain and consumers look set to brace themselves for another hike in prices.

Yesterday was the first trading day since natural gas prices hit a high point on Christmas Eve, and in line with that direction, another record high was hit during yesterday's US trading session, especially in the futures market.

As with any consumable commodity that suddenly becomes highly valuable, those with futures contracts are the ones who see their investment rise in value.

The January Nymex contract was up 14.8 cents to $3.879/MMBtu at around 8:50 a.m. eastern time yesterday, however that was bettered by the $3.979 high point which was reached outside trading hours over the weekend.

In the United States, where fracking is still in full swing and coal fired power stations still operate without much hindrance, opinions vary on the reason for the highs compared to the opinions coming from Europe.

American analysis centers around weather conditions, whereas European analysis is all about supply chain.

There is no fracking in the United Kingdom, and the government had sold off 70% of gas storage over recent years, creating a void which now relies on imported gas which the government has shown its disdain for when being very vocal about its green ideology.

Only 5% of British gas comes from Russia, whereas Europe is a huge customer for Russian gas suppliers, and there are concerns that Chancellor Angela Merkel's close relationship with the Russian government (many Russian energy companies are state owned) could cause a reliance on Germany to broker deals that would supply European households and businesses.

This in itself is a political bottleneck, and could cause price volatility.

For certain, natural gas is in huge demand, and is not going to be replaced imminently by any form of alternative energy, but its supply is more constrained than ever in Europe and the UK. Thus, if 2021 was a year of oil volatility, 2022 could be a year of gas volatility.

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