“60 Minutes” Airs Its Second Debacle in Under Two Months (updated)


    Cross posted from Scaling Green 

    This evening, "60 Minutes" is scheduled to run a segment on the cleantech and renewable energy industries that appears, from the preview, to present extremely outdated, misleading, even blatantly false information. In advance of this possible hit piece on clean energy, the American Council on Renewable Energy's (ACORE) Energy Fact Check program has put together a prebuttal fact sheet on the true state of these industries, demonstrating their strength and the speed at which they're growing. A few key points from ACORE:

    • Despite a ginned-up "controversy" over the unique case of Solyndra, the Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program actually has had a 97% success rate.
    • The DOE Loan Guarantee Program has created over 55,000 direct jobs, in everything from electric vehicles to renewable energy (e.g., the Ivanpah solar thermal power project alone has created over 1,000 jobs).
    • This past year alone saw an estimated $13 billion invested in U.S. solar power projects, a tenfold increase since 2007.
    • From January to October of 2013, all-electric vehicle sales were up 448% year-on-year.
    • In Q3 of 2013, 80 new clean energy and clean transportation projects were announced, creating more than 15,000 jobs.
    Broadly speaking, there's voluminous evidence that the marketplace has embraced cleantech and renewables, and that government investment has been overwhelmingly successful. For example, one can point to Tesla's 9-year-early loan repayment, the latest industry figures, the highly successful 2013 clean tech investing landscape, and stories from the DOE Loan Programs Office websiteitself. To cite a few specific industry success stories:

    Need more evidence for cleantech's success? Check out this piece by Clean Technica, which provides "13 cleantech charts 60 Minutes seems to have missed." Those charts demonstrate that U.S. (and world) solar power capacity and generation are growing exponentially, that wind power capacity is ramping up fast as well, and that solar power prices have fallen by more than 99% since 1977.  Yet, somehow, "60 Minutes" manages to spin all this great, exciting news into the bizarre, 100% false conclusion that "[d]espite billions in taxpayer dollars invested by the U.S. government in so-called 'Cleantech' energy alternatives to fossil fuels, Washington and Silicon Valley have little to show for it."
    It's mind boggling, but remember that tonight's apparent hit piece on cleantech comes in the aftermath of the "6o Minutes" debacle over a story it did in late November 2013 on Benghazi. Perhaps, given all its own internal problems"60 Minutes" should be more concerned about figuring out how its once high standards of journalism have "crashed," instead of slandering one of America's most successful sectors? 

    UPDATE Monday 7:27 am:  OK, I just watched the entire segment, and it’s as bad as it was billed, IMHO. Skewed. Ignorant (of economics, of cleantech, etc.). Totally ignores the fact that fossil fuels have received hundreds of billions of dollars in federal subsidies since 1950 (and a lot more in indirect subsidies of all kinds, such as allowing them to pollute without paying, the U.S. military defending the oil sea lanes, etc.). Selective quotes, framing, everything to make it seem like there’s some big “failure” or even “scandal” here (with the added “bonus” of some serious xenophobia and cluelessness about capitalism thrown in).

    The segment also fails to mention the fact that billions of dollars from the “stimulus” went into “unsexy” things like: a) an expanded credit to homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient; b) moderninzing the nationa’s power grid/smart grid; c) making federal buildings more energy efficient; d) weatherizing modest-income homes; e) energy efficiency and conservation block grants; f) aid to states to help them invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy; etc, etc.

    But why focus on all those success stories when you can say the word SOLYNDRA and talk, completely out of context, about how a few projects (out of many!) didn’t quite live up to their billing, or even failed completely. Also no mention of booming solar and wind production in the U.S. and worldwide, of plummeting prices for clean energy, and of a gazillion positive things happening in the world of cleantech. Utterly pathetic.

    UPDATE #2: Also see 60 Minutes Hit Job On Clean Energy Ignores The Facts by former Energy Department official Joe Romm (now of Climate Progress), who writes, “Clean technology is booming by every key indicator – but you would never know that from Sunday’s absurd 60 Minutes piece touting an imaginary ‘Cleantech Crash.'” Romm notes that “It’s as if 60 Minutes did a profile of the venture firm Kleiner-Perkins and focused primarily on its failed investments with only passing mention of AOL – and no mention at all of Amazon.com, Genentech, Sun Microsystems or Google!” And he adds: “Every major independent review, including one by John McCain’s former National Finance Chairman, found the loan guarantee program was cost-effective for taxpayers. A review by Brookings found DOE’s loan guarantee program will likely result in minimal costs and large gains for taxpayers.'”

    UPDATE #3: Also note a few words missing from the “60 Minutes” hit piece – “global warming,” “climate change,” “greenhouse gas emissions,” “the #1 reason we’re trying to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.” #FAIL


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