Gas sucks investment from renewable energy in North America.

Bloomberg: “U.S. President Barack Obama says natural gas can be a bridge from coal to a cleaner energy future. Investors are showing it’s more likely a bridge to nowhere.”
“The country’s embrace of natural gas means less love for wind and solar. New investments in renewable energy sources declined 5 percent in North America last year to $56 billion, the lowest since 2010, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. By comparison, North American oil and gas companies spent $168.2 billion on exploration and production last year, more than double 2009, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
….Renewables, which are getting cheaper, have lost support even as the United Nations warns that time is running out to stem climate change and China forges ahead with sustainable power.
….The shale revolution has brought the country closer to energy self-sufficiency than at any time in the last three decades, according to the EIA. It’s also changed the way Americans invest, said James McDermott, managing director of the U.S. Renewables Group. He said his Los Angeles-based investment firm, which manages more than $750 million, is currently raising money only overseas.
Hydraulic fracturing, the technical name for fracking, has helped open the money tap for gas and oil. Since 2012, investors added more than $2.3 billion to the Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund, which tracks oil and gas companies. In the same period, investors withdrew $32.5 million from the Powershares Wilderhill Clean Energy Portfolio, the biggest exchange-traded fund tied to renewable-energy equities, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“There’s absolutely no question that investors’ dollars have moved from one to the other,” said Bruce Jenkyn-Jones, a managing director at London-based Impax Asset Management Group Plc, which oversees about $4.2 billion.
Even as investors have embraced fracking, more Americans tell pollsters they oppose the practice than support it, according to a September survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center. It’s true that windmills as tall as 40-story buildings are still sprouting in the Great Plains, and more solarpanels are appearing on Americans’ roofs, including at the White House. The U.S. is generating more power from these sources than ever before.
Yet the pace is slowing. Combined capacity for solar and wind power expanded 9 percent to 76,326 megawatts in 2013, down from a 30 percent increase in 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
And the use of fossil fuels still dwarfs that of renewables. Half of new power-plant capacity in the U.S. last year was natural gas — 6,861 megawatts, according to the Energy Department. That’s enough to provide electricity to the state of Massachusetts. It’s also 25 percent more than the combined capacity additions for solar, wind, biomass and water power.
In China, it’s a different story. Though the country burns more coal than any other, darkening the sky over its biggest cities, wind capacity expanded 21 percent to 91,412.9 megawatts in 2013, on top of 21 percent growth the year before, according to the Global Wind Energy Council. The country’s solarcapacity more than doubled in each of the past five years, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Its capacity overtook the U.S. in 2013 and is now second in the world only to Germany, data show.
….(US) oil and gas output are rebounding after decades of decline. Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling helped the U.S. overtake Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s biggest combined producer of oil and gas last year, according to the Energy Department.
….And even as the gap narrows, wind and solar are still more expensive than natural gas. A megawatt-hour of solar power cost $139.25 last quarter, compared with $84.81 for wind energy and $84.21 for gas, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Cheap gas blunted the appeal of renewable energy, yet shale resources haven’t stayed as inexpensive as they were. Natural gas fell to a 10-year low in 2012 because drillers looking for oil came up with gas, too, and created a glut. Since then, gas futures have risen 140 percent to $4.588 per million British thermal units; traders anticipate even higher prices next winter. In January, frigid weather and a temporary shortage caused spot prices in New York to spike as high as $99.66 per million British thermal units, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
Fracking is more expensive than traditional extraction methods. Shale gas costs between $3 and $10 per million British thermal units to get out of the ground, compared with as little as 20 cents to extract some conventional supplies outside the U.S., according to the International Energy Agency. One shale well, which bores horizontally through rock, can cost as much as $13 million, compared with as little as $1.5 million for traditional vertical drilling, according to data from Goodrich Petroleum Corp. and Hart Energy LLC.
Shale production also declines faster than conventional supplies. When new drilling stops, gas output drops by about 50 percent in about three years, according to the IEA. That means production only grows by constantly drilling new wells.”