Woodside share price smashes benchmark as government demands 'more gas!'

Woodside, Beach Energy and Santos shares all look to be catching tailwinds from the government's future gas plan.

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The Woodside Energy Group Ltd (ASX: WDS) share price is charging ahead today, even as the S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) sinks deep into the red.

In afternoon trade on Thursday, the ASX 200 is down 0.8%.

The Woodside share price, on the other hand, is surging 1.4% at the time of writing to $28.26 a share.

Indeed, it's a good day for all the big ASX 200 oil and gas stocks. Santos Ltd (ASX: STO) shares are up 0.7% to $7.68, while Beach Energy Ltd (ASX: BPT) shares are leaping 2.0% to $1.62 apiece.

While the Brent crude oil price is up 0.5% overnight to US$83.91 per barrel, I suspect much of today's outperformance comes thanks to the federal government's future gas plan.

Woodside share price catching tailwinds

The Woodside share price, along with competitors Santos and Beach Energy, could enjoy sustained tailwinds from the government's long-term views on the need for Australian-produced gas.

This morning, Federal Resources Minister Madeleine King said (quoted by The Australian Financial Review):

We will need affordable gas to support energy reliability for households and businesses as we move to a more renewable grid. We need gas to support Australian manufacturing and Australian industry, and tens of thousands of Australian jobs in the manufacturing sector.

King noted that Australia's gas industry, "creates highly paid and skilled jobs. It pays for roads, hospitals, schools and our security."

Indeed, companies like Woodside, Santos, Beach Energy and the rest of the Aussie gas industry are reported to support more than 80,000 jobs. The industry also provides energy to more than five million homes.

King said Australia's producers supply some 20% of the world's gas. This delivered $72 billion of export income for Australia's economy in 2023-24.

And King highlighted how the government's gas plan can work to help the nation and its trading partners reach their emissions reduction goals.

"We need gas to help us achieve our commitment to net zero. Our trading partners depend on our gas to meet their commitments to net zero."

Investors may also be bidding up the Woodside share price based on the lengthy timelines at stake here.

"Australia will also need gas into the future, to firm renewables and ensure the reliability of the grid," King said. She added that, "Gas is needed out to 2050 and beyond."

She continued:

Australia is committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050, and we will need gas to get there, which means we must manage the emissions from gas. And gas must remain affordable for Australian customers. To achieve this, we will need new sources of gas to meet long-term demand as existing fields deplete.

In a blow to environmental activists – but a nod to reality and a boon for the Woodside share price today – King said, "Turning off gas overnight would do untold damage to our economy, impede efforts to get to net zero, and have a severe impact on our region."

To help Australia reach its emissions reduction goals, she said, "I will release more greenhouse gas acreage for carbon capture, use and storage."

King also addressed the 'use it or lose it' provisions that have concerned the ASX oil and gas companies.

"Australia will need continued investment to develop gas supplies to get us through the energy transition with thriving industries. That will mean a continued commitment to exploration," she said.

"We will assess so-called use it or lose it provisions for retention leases, to get the gas we have already discovered flowing sooner."

Santos CEO responds

Like the Woodside share price, Santos shares could benefit over the longer term from the government's new gas policy.

Santos CEO Kevin Gallagher responded to the new policy, saying (courtesy of The Australian), "I'm pleased that the recognition of the role of gas is beginning to be better understood."

Gallagher noted that around the world he's seeing "a recognition of the importance of gas in the energy mix of the future".

And Santos has long been a supporter of increasing carbon capture and storage to help tackle emissions.

"The future of our industry is abated oil and gas, and the only way you can really abate it effectively and at scale, is through carbon capture and storage," Gallagher said.

As for any pending 'use it or lose it' provisions, he added, "We have just gone through a couple of years where you could 'use it' but get nothing done because we were held up with approval and regulatory roadblocks… We all want to 'use it'."

How has the Woodside share price been tracking?

Despite today's boost, the Woodside share price remains down 10% in 2024.

Santos shares are just about flat.

And the Beach Energy share price is down 1% year to date.

Motley Fool contributor Bernd Struben has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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