Never has there been a better time for deal-making, acquisitions and starting an E&P company than this year. The underlying fundamentals are the best we have seen in 20 years. National and global demand for oil and gas keeps rising. North American production is flat at best, even as individual companies report replaced production. When was the last time commodity prices remained this high for this many months at a time? I sense that E&P companies, investment bankers and investors are starting to believe in them, finally, which means a break in the logjam is imminent for mergers and public debt and equity offerings. "It's a matter of supply and demand [for energy investments]," Allen Lassiter of Raymond James & Associates said last month, while attending the oil and gas investment symposium in New York, sponsored by the Independent Petroleum Association of America. A similar upbeat attitude was seen at the recent Howard Weil investment conference. We have entered a new era of "lumpy" supply or supply constraints-I won't say shortages-that, when combined with rising demand, will keep commodity prices high for several years to come. It is easy to read between the lines to find out what CEOs think when you see the premium prices being offered for Tom Brown Inc. and Westport Resources, two gas-rich independents to be acquired by larger companies that need to replace reserves and beef up their drilling inventory. At the same time, there is more private equity flowing into this sector than at any time since the old days of public drilling and income partnerships sold by insurance companies to lay investors in the 1980s. The influx of capital then led to a raft of rapidly growing E&P companies that drew on the acquire-and-exploit business model. Today, institutional investors buy the story and they want in. Meanwhile, there are acquisitions, private-equity deals and management buyouts in the publishing world, too. "First-quarter acquisition activity for magazine publishers was up modestly in terms of number of deals versus the first quarter of 2003," reports publishing M&A advisory firm Whitestone Communications. "Helping push trade magazine acquisition totals higher was the sale by VS&A Communication Partners II of Hart Publications." That's right. On March 31, we closed on a management-led buyout of the Hart Publications business of Chemical Week Associates and have named the new company Hart Energy Publishing, LP. For the first time since 1991, when we were sold by founder Donald Hart, we are independent again, and we are quite excited by the prospects we see before us. Hart Energy Publishing was formed by a group led by CEO and president Richard A. Eichler and Wiegers Capital Management, to include prominent investors in Denver and New York. George Wiegers is vice chairman of the new board. Joining him is Bob Israel, a partner in Compass Advisers LLP, which advised on the transaction and took an equity position. Our new board includes executives from the E&P and energy finance worlds who understand the oil and gas business and who are prepared for investment to grow the company. Hart, which moved to Houston from Denver 10 years ago, will still be based in Houston. Although the company's name and board are new, no change in editorial staff, advertising sales or management is contemplated. We now employ about 50 people in Houston, and some 35 others in Washington, Denver, London, Singapore and Brussels. Hart will go forward with the same suite of products and the same mission of information excellence. Our integrated portfolio of products serves the energy-finance, exploration and production, pipeline and transportation, power-generation, refining, processing and fuels sectors. Hart publishes five magazines, nine newsletters, several directories and custom products; hosts conferences; and runs the International Fuel Quality Center. The lattermost is Hart's downstream consulting and research arm, based in Potomac, Maryland, that works with refiners, auto-makers and governments worldwide to disseminate the latest information on fuel regulations, public policy and technology. This part of the company regularly engages with top management around the world. One matter this magazine always has focused on is the role of the start-up E&P company. In the past two years many new E&P and midstream companies have been established, backed by the surge of private equity into this sector. In almost all cases, the natural gas story in North America has been a keen motivator. But investors point also to the broader commodity story. It's a story we've been telling for nearly 25 years, and we look forward to many more years of putting producers in touch with sources of capital.