Natural gas prices seem to make the news every few months. You will hear about it during hurricane season, and you saw how Hurricane Katrina affected natural gas prices. You will also read about natural gas when temperature spikes. Whether it’s because of soaring hot temperatures, which means electric companies need to buy more natural gas to generate electricity, or it may be because of a cold snap so consumers are using more natural gas to keep warm.

When these events take place, you will see natural gas prices move quite a bit. An investor or speculator might want to trade this market. There are several ways to trade natural gas. One way would be to trade natural gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Natural gas futures trading can be very risky. You only have to put up 5% margin in order to trade it. This gives you tremendous leverage, but remember, leverage cuts both ways. If you put up 5% margin and the price of natural gas increases 5%, you’ve doubled your money. On the other hand, if prices decrease 5%, you’ve just been wiped out. Natural gas futures trading can be profitable, but it will take nerves of steel and dedication to following this market.

Another way to trade natural gas would be buying stock in individual natural gas companies. In this case you may be putting all of your money in one basket if you select just 1 or 2 stocks. This will take plenty or research on your part to find the right companies to invest in. Do you want to invest in natural gas exploration and drillers, or do you want to invest in natural gas pipeline owners? Do you only want to invest in natural gas stocks that pay a dividend? These are choices you have to make before investing.

This brings us to natural gas ETFs. ETF stands for exchange traded fund. ETFs have become very popular over the last several years. Not only can you trade a natural gas ETF, but you can find ETFs for other physical commodities too.

You can find a natural gas ETF like the United States Natural Gas Fund, LP, ticker symbol UNG which only trades natural gas futures (more on that later). The UNG fund is very focused and specific on what is in the fund. An example of a fund that will have many stocks and component to it is the SPDR S&P Oil& Gas Exploration & Production Fund, ticker symbol XOP. This energy ETF will invest in the index of stocks of companies that are involved in the production and exploration of natural gas.

Now you may ask yourself why not just invest in a natural gas mutual fund? You certainly can, and there are good ones out there, but you will need to consider a few things before investing.

With mutual funds, you will need to know what stocks are in that fund. Is that mutual fund focused on a specific sector of natural gas, or is it a catch all for anything natural gas related?

What about the expense ratio of a natural gas mutual fund? This is something most investors overlook when buying into a fund. There are some funds that charge over 1% to be in their funds. That can be an enormous drag on your performance. Is there a minimum time to hold that mutual fund? Some mutual fund companies will place restrictions on how often you can move in and out of the fund, while other will charge you a fee if you redeem it in 30 or 60 after first buying into it. They do this to stop investors from day trading the mutual fund, but what if you need to get your money out for an emergency? What about trying to sell your shares during the day? With a mutual fund, you can only buy and sell at the closing net asset value of the stock each night.

ETFs can look like a mutual fund by investing in several different companies in a sector. Where an ETF differ from a mutual fund is in the way you can trade it. No matter which natural gas ETF you invest in, you can trade it like a regular listed stock. You can buy and sell it throughout the day, unlike mutual funds where you can only get one price. ETFs can become a vehicle for day traders. Another advantage of a gas ETF is that you can place stop limit orders on it. If there is news that will adversely affect the price of your ETF, you can place a sell stop order that will immediately liquidate your position when it hits your price. If you invested in a mutual fund, you couldn’t get out until the end of the day. There would be nothing you can do as you watch the value of your natural gas mutual fund erodes.

The United States Natural Gas Fund, LP (UNG)

This is by far the most popular natural gas ETF. This fund invests solely in the front month natural gas futures contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The natural gas futures on NYMEX are the mostly widely traded and liquid market for Nat gas futures. This fund will attempt to match the daily price returns of the underlying futures contract. You are essentially trading natural gas future but with a twist. The fund DOES NOT use leverage when investing in futures. This will help protect the fund from wild swings due to leverage. As the month ends, the fund will then start to “roll” out of the front month futures contract before it expires and will “roll” in to the next month futures contract. This is a long only fund. So if you are bullish on natural gas prices, this may be a fund you should look into.

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The winter of 2010-2011 saw fuel prices spike. Lead by crude oil prices, heating oil prices and propane prices where at their highest levels in years. This has prompted complains by consumer in Vermont about high propane prices and what to do about them.

Many Vermont users of propane cited these as the main problems with using propane gas. Minimum usage fees, termination fees and refunds are not sent on a timely basis.

Another major problem is that Vermonters cannot own their own propane tank. In many other states the consumer has a choice to buy their tank instead of renting it. When you one you own take, you are free to buy propane from any dealer. This gives you the opportunity for the tank owners to shop around for the lowest propane prices. When you rent the tank, you can only buy propane from the dealer you rent the tank from. This prevents you from shopping and comparing prices.

The Vermont legislature is now looking in to this situation. The Vermont Fuel Dealers Association feels that safety is a major concern, so that the tanks should remain under the ownership of a dealer to insure the safe use of the tank.

On the other side, consumer groups are calling for the homeowner to have a choice whether to own or rent a tank.

You can read more here on this story by WCAX.

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As you know by reading this review of the Cuisinart Griddler, that it is a great little appliance to have in your home. Here is a quick reference guide to using the Griddler.

Before the first use

Remove all of the packing materials. Carefully check the grill for additional labels or stickers. Check all the parts against the parts list that is in the manual.

Before using, take a damp cloth and wipe the base, cover and controls of the Griddler. Also be sure to clean the drip tray, cook plates and scraping/cleaning tool. Those items are dishwasher safe.

Setup of your new Cuisinart Grill

Place your new Griddler on a clean flat surface where you plan on cooking with it.

How to set the drip tray: Follow the instructions on the drip tray and carefully slide it into the base.

How to insert the cooking plates: To adjust to the flat position, you will need to left the hinge release lever. Next, slide the plate underneath the metal brackets and push down on the front end of the cooking plate. If you are only going to use one plate for cooking, Cuisinart recommends using the bottom plate for best results.

Plug the Griddler into an outlet.

Turn the Selector knob for the function you wish to use. Griddle or Grill/Panini. The power is on when the red indicator light is illuminated.

Using the temperature dials: To set it at your desired temperature, turn the corresponding temperature dial. Preheat the Griddler in the closed position for best results.
When the Griddler reaches the preset temperature, the green light will then go on. You are now ready to begin cooking. Do not touch the plates or cover at this point since they will now be hot. Safety note: Each temperature dial will control the top and bottom plates at the same time. Both plates will cook at the same temperature.

Cooking options

There are five different ways to cook on the Cuisinart Griddler, that’s what makes this grill so versatile!

Contact Grill You can cook hamburgers, vegetables and boneless meats by resting the top cover on top of the food until it has reached the desired temperature for cooking.

Panini Press (my favorite use of the Griddler) To grill quesadillas, sandwiches and breads, you simply rest the top cover on top of the food. You may press it down to heat it up to your personal liking.

Full Grill You can open up the Griddler so both plate are flat. Use this to cook burgers, poultry, steaks and vegetables.

Full Griddle This is for you morning people. Put the Griddler in the flat open position to cook eggs, pancakes, hash browns and other breakfast meats.

Half Grill/ Half Griddle When you want to cook bacon and eggs or steak and potatoes at the same time, use the griddle plate on one side and the grill plate on the other in the flat open position.

Cleaning and care of your Cuisinart Griddler

Before cleaning your Griddler, allow it about 30 minutes for it to cool down completely.

Turn the Selector Dials to the off position and remover the plug from the outlet.

Use the cleaning/scraping tool that came with your unit to remove food from the cooking plates. Do not use knives or forks or any metal objects to clean the plates. Also do not use a scouring pad either.

Once the drip tray has cooled, dispose of the grease trapped in it.

Removing the Cooking Plates: When the unit is in the flat position, press the plate release button that is on the right side of the housing and slide the plate out from under the metal brackets.

For your convenience, the drip tray, cooking plates and the cleaning/scraping tool can be placed in the dishwasher for cleaning. You may also do it by hand too.

After it has cooled down and you are done using it, you may wipe the housing, cover and controls with a soft dry cloth.

There you have the quick start guide to using your new Cuisinart 5 in 1 Griddler. More detailed instructions can be found in the free instruction booklet that comes with your unit.

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Propane grills can be the life of the party.

Weber 1520 Propane Gas Go-Anywhere Grill

Here is the perfect grill for the beach, camping, or a weekend getaway to the lake. This portable grill features Weber’s patented Flavorizer System, which…

Weber 386002 Q 100 Portable Gas Grill

The Weber Q 100 gas grill has push-button ignition for easy reliable lighting, an infinitely adjustable burner valve with a high-quality regulator, sturdy…

Cuisinart CGG-200 All-Foods 12,000-BTU Tabletop Gas Grill

The Cuisinart All Foods Gas Grill is a Versatile cooking system that expertly grills fine foods. Solid grilling performance provided from a 12,000 BTU…

Click here to find the best prices on propane grills and reviews

Portable propane grills can be the life of the party, especially if you are tailgating or camping. These compact grills bring all of the features of their larger counterparts while offering a conveniently portable package that grills up amazing food with fantastic taste. Portable propane grills are also a great choice for apartment owners who may not have much space yet still want to enjoy the flavor of authentically grilled meats and vegetables. Portable grills are available in a wide variety of price ranges and features, so no budget is left wanting.

The Weber 1520 Propane Gas Go-Anywhere Grillis a great entry-level Weber portable grill that will not set you back more than $60.  It offers 160 square inches of cooking surface and features a porcelain-enameled lid that is resistant to rust which is ideal for such a portable device. The push button ignition system is extremely easy to use and the heat distributing Flavorizer is designed to distribute heat evenly so foods are cooked perfectly no matter where they sit on the grill. The unit only weighs about 16 pounds, so it is highly portable and can be taken on just about any adventure where you require the taste of great grilled food.

The Weber 386002 Q 100 Portable Gas Grill is a mid-range grill that will set you back around $139. This outdoor propane grill is slightly larger than its entry-level cousin and provides up to 189 square inches of grilling surface with a cast aluminum frame to help prevent rust and wear and tear. The cooking grates are porcelain-enameled to help distribute heat evenly and this model features a push button ignition system that includes and adjustable burner valve for getting the flame just right. This mid-range model portable propane grill weighs nearly 30 pounds so it is twice as heavy as the previous model, but with a larger cooking surface and better heat distributing features, this grill is perfect for the person who wants more control over their grilling experience.

Standing proud as the king of portable grills is the Cuisinart CGG-200 All-Foods 12,000-BTU Tabletop Gas Grill
, which offers a wide variety of features and is priced at just under $170. This Cuisinart model offers a bold 240 inches of cooking space and 12,000 BTUs of cooking power that is evenly distributed between two large grilling panels as well as a removable veggie panel for perfectly crisp, grilled vegetables every time. The twist start ignition system and precision temperature gauge help you pinpoint the perfect temperature for all your meats and vegetables for the perfect grilling experience. The unit weighs 39 pounds so it is less portable than the previously two mentioned grills, but it is ideal for small apartments and patios who want great grill flavor without purchasing a full featured grill. The stainless steel construction is extremely durable and Cuisinart backs its product with a five-year warranty to ensure you are happy with your grill for a long time.

With these three wonderful portable propane grilling options, you should have no trouble finding the perfect grill to take along on trips, or to enjoy a nice New York strip cooked in the comfort of your patio.

Here are some other propane grills on sale:

Coleman 9949-750 Road Trip Grill LXE

It’s even easier to transport, and quicker and easier to set up at a tailgate party, campsite or any other location where fun, food and friends get together. Like the original RoadTrip Grill, the LXE features authentic open flame grilling, two powerful burners that are fully adjustable, electronic…

Coleman 9940-A55 Roadtrip Party Grill

The PerfectFlow regulator provides consistent cooking performance by producing a steady fuel stream, even in cold weather, high altitudes or when fuel is low.

Char-Broil 08401504 Grill2Go ICE Portable Gas Grill

Perfect for tailgating, for camping, or as your at-home grill, the Char-Broilu00ae Grill 2 Go ICEu00ae is a portable infrared cooking system that also features built-in coolers for go-anywhere fun. A 10,500-BTU burner provides great taste with seared-in flavor, promising to keep your family and…

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