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Cheap natural gas makes renewable energy even less competitive than it was before.

Anecdotes are no substitute for hard data. But when they start to reach a critical mass and they all tell the same story, you know something big is going on.

A longtime car salesman relocates to south Texas to capitalize on the soaring demand for truckers to haul sand to hydraulic fracturing sites across the Eagle Ford shale formation. Nearby, the Corpus Christie School District can’t find bus drivers, who are getting paid a lot more to cart sand.

Workers pour into Williston, N.D., drawn by offers of six-figure salaries for jobs connected with the Bakken shale formation. Even though housing development is sky- rocketing, the Wal-Mart parking lot looks like an RV park, packed with campers providing temporary living quarters until housing construction catches up with demand.

There is no oil-and-gas drilling in Idaho, but Fleetwood Homes has been ramping up production and hiring workers to build pre-fab homes for shipment to the Bakken oil field in North Dakota, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Energy independence, the Holy Grail for every U.S. president since Jimmy Carter, is within reach, oil-industry executives and analysts tell NPR. Within the next 10 years, the United States will no longer have to import crude oil and will be able to export natural gas, energy economist Philip Verleger says. PFC Energy Chief Executive Officer Robin West compares the impact of the “shale gale” to the fall of the Berlin Wall. […]

If the price trends continue, the focus may shift from concern about higher gas prices killing the economy (the glass is half-empty) to the realization that cheap natural gas can act as a tailwind (the glass is half-full).

Not everyone will be happy, of course, including President Barack Obama. Cheap natural gas makes renewable energy even less competitive than it was before.

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