Top 5 Energy Stocks for an Expanding Global Middle Class

"By 2022, those living in poverty will be a minority for the first time, as the global middle class -- particularly from BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) nations -- surges."
-- Christa Case Bryant, Christian Science Monitor

It doesn't take much of a mental leap to see that things are going to be changing wildly in the coming decade. Billions of people who once lived a life that required minimal energy -- sometimes only what the sun provided -- will now be attached to the grid.

Whether this is a good thing for the Earth is a question worth pondering, but it's not for this article. Instead, I'm looking toward our Rising Stars to point out which companies will benefit from this undeniable trend.

After reading about each of these five stocks, you can add them to your watchlist. By doing so, you'll be staying on top of all the latest news coming out of this sector. And I'll offer you the opportunity to check out a special free report on our rising gas prices.

Without further adieu, our five picks...

National Oilwell Varco (NYS: NOV)
Back on Aug. 10, Rising Star Jordan DiPietro tagged National Oilwell for his portfolio. Just one week later, Rex Moore followed suit. Both analysts see a company that has become the one-stop shop for companies looking to extract oil; and with the surging global needs for energy on the horizon, Jordan thinks National Oilwell is "arguably best positioned to take advantage of a future surge in drilling."

Taking it a step further, Rex points out that, "Morningstar estimates [National Oilwell] has a 60% share in the rig equipment market and that 90% of all rigs carry at least some of its equipment."

But the stock has been beaten down lately, and that presents an opportunity. How big of an opportunity? Jordan says "the company could be worth as much as $97, providing a truly remarkable 82% upside."

Gulfmark Offshore (NYS: GLF)
Rising Star Jason Moser made a bold call on this small-cap energy stock. What exactly does Gulfmark do? According to Jason, "[The company] helps oil and gas companies not only find and extract new supplies, but also stay safe in the process."

Quite simply, Gulfmark isn't in the business of actually extracting oil from under the ocean floor. Instead, it focuses on "jobs such as transporting materials, supplies, and personnel, as well as positioning drilling structures," he says.

The stock is down 28% since hitting its high back on July 25, so it's definitely worth a look.

El Paso (NYS: EP)
El Paso, added to the Rising Star collection by Jordan DiPietro, is a two-headed beast. "El Paso is an exploration and production company second, and a pipeline operator first," he says.

This means that while exploration and production are subject to the vagaries of changing oil prices, the pipelines can act as a steady stream of reliable income.

So far, the company's objective of building out its pipelines has been coming up aces: "[El Paso] has three pipeline projects that are on schedule and expected to come in about 25% under budget. With an $8 billion backlog of pipeline projects coming into fruition in the next few years, the company has multiple opportunities to boost earnings."

Schlumberger (NYS: SLB)
This company has been a pick of both Jordan DiPietro and Bryan White. And both analysts have pointed to the company's opportunity for oil exploration abroad -- which is where much of the demand will soon be coming from as well.

Bryan points out that three-fourths of the company's revenue comes from abroad, with "Brazil, the Middle East, and Africa [as] key regions where activity is expected to be robust and growing."

Jordan adds that, "[Schlumberger] has an important presence in high-growth regions of the world such as Iraq, Mexico, and Russia and has the competitive advantage to be able to offer full services, from managing entire oil fields to drilling wells."

Transocean (NYS: RIG)
Finally, a list of energy stocks wouldn't be complete without a pure-play rig maker. Though the company took some hits for its role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, that didn't stop Jim Mueller and Michael Olsen from adding Transocean to their portfolios.

Jim picked the stock back in November of 2010 because he thought the market's expectations for the stock were simply messed up. Using a discounted cash flow model, Jim said the stock's price "implies the company can grow [free cash flow] by just 0.7% for each of the next five years, then by 0.4% for the following five years, followed by no more growth forever."

A quick look at history showed him what a silly assumption this was: "Over the past five years, Transocean has grown free cash flow by an average of 41.7% per year."

Shares are 19% cheaper than they were when Jim made his original recommendation, which means expectations must be downright outrageous by now.

But which three are the most valuable?
Clearly, there are companies out there that could disrupt the current pecking order in energy. Solazyme (NAS: SZYM) has created a technology to make oil from microalgae, but the technology is likely a long way off from mainstream adoption.

And with solar companies like LDK Solar (NYS: LDK) having bottomed out recently, some are wondering when the technology will make its comeback.

All five of the stocks our analysts have picked, though, are in stable and mature industries.

But of these five stocks, only three were able to survive the vetting process The Motley Fool goes through to produce its special free reports. You can get your hands on the report, "3 Stocks for $100 Oil," to find out in much greater detail which three truly deserve your consideration.

Don't waste time; the report is available right now, absolutely free!

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributor Brian Stoffel owns shares of National Oilwell Varco. You can follow him on Twitter at @TMFStoffel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Transocean, El Paso, National Oilwell Varco, Gulfmark Offshore, Solazyme, and Schlumberger. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of National Oilwell Varco. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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