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The Best and Worst Alternative Energy ETFs of 2012

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President Obama's second term will likely see a greater push into alternative energy investing. Who were some of the top performers -- and laggards -- last year?

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Alternative energy had another poor year, as these investments seem to fall by the wayside compared to fossil fuels. Though many agree that we need to shift our current energy consumption, it looks like new technologies are giving way to a natural gas revolution rather than an alternative energy revolution. Luckily for proponents of green technology, Barack Obama secured another four years in the White House, and he has been generally outspoken on his approval of these energy sources.

As the year comes to a close, we look back at the best and worst performing alt energy ETFs to help investors find which areas have outperformed, or lagged behind, the rest.

The Best: Broad Is Better

Though not many alt energy funds had positive years, the broad technologies clearly had a leg up on the competition.
  1. WilderHill Progressive Energy Portfolio (NYSEARCA:PUW): This fund invests in an index of US firms that are heavily involved in transitional energy bridge technologies. Top holdings include names like Hexcel Corporation (NYSE:HXL), Methanex (NASDAQ:MEOH), and Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK). The fund's broad exposure was able to gain nearly 14% this year.
  2. Cleantech Portfolio Fund (NYSEARCA:PZD): The fund's index tracks leading cleantech companies, from a broad range of industry sectors that offer the best investment returns. This strategy, which includes names like SGS (NYSEAMEX:SGS) and Siemens (NYSE:SI), generated returns of 7.9% in 2012.
  3. Market Vectors Global Alternative Energy ETF (NYSEARCA:GEX): This fund invests in alternative energy companies from all around the world and all different sectors. Its diverse exposure was able to return 3.6% this year despite a number of individual alt energy funds losing in 2012.
The Worst: Diversity Disaster

The worst performers on the year tended to be those that focused on a single alt energy type, such as solar or wind.
  1. Market Vectors Solar Energy ETF (NYSEARCA:KWT): This solar ETF suffered losses of more than 30% this year, as it was another tough 12-month stretch for this energy style. Note that its larger competitor, Claymore/MAC Global Solar Index (NYSEARCA:TAN), was not far behind with losses around 28%.
  2. Global Wind Energy Portfolio (NYSEARCA:KWT): Another PowerShares product, PWND focuses on companies that are involved in the wind energy industry. The fund, which has just under $10 million in assets, lost more than 16% in 2012.
  3. WilderHill Clean Energy Portfolio (NYSEARCA:PBW): PBW is by far the most popular alt energy product in the space, with more than $120 million in assets. The fund does have a broad exposure, but it was unable to keep pace with its broader counterparts, losing more than 15% this year.
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Editor's note: This article by Jared Cummans was originally published on Commodity HQ.
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