Fox News continues to reverse the success of the federal clean energy loan program by cherry-picking from a small minority of failures, magnifying the trend of mainstream media distorting the program's success.
In an April 11 segment titled "Who's Ruining the Economy?" Fox & Friends denounced the Department of Energy's (DOE) low carbon vehicle program despite its success. Fox Business host Stuart Varney pointed to a few companies that received government assistance and later filed for bankruptcy, saying "they thought they could pick winners. They picked losers." He went on to decry the announcement that the DOE will revamp their advanced technology vehicles manufacturing (ATVM) program, saying "they're not reversing course at the sight of failure, they're actually speeding up down the same road":
Fox News' myopic view of the loan program is a lie by omission -- 98 percent of the funds in DOE's clean energy loan programs have been successful. Of the 31 ventures awarded DOE loans, only four have been discontinued -- a far greater success rate than that of venture capital investments, which typically consider three in ten successes to be a successful portfolio.
The Department of Energy's clean energy loan program helped fuel the achievements of electric car company Tesla Motors, yet the major broadcast, cable and print media only mentioned the loan in 20 percent of their coverage of Tesla in 2013 (and in only 7 percent of coverage of Nissan's best-selling electric car, the Leaf). Meanwhile, 84 percent of coverage of Fisker, an electric car company that declared bankruptcy, mentioned its federal loan. This skewed coverage may have misinformed the public about the overwhelmingly positive success rate of the program.
From an April 1 Capitol Hill Hearing recorded on C-SPAN2:
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Fox News' Eric Bolling falsely claimed that the success of Tesla was an anomaly among Energy Department loans and that most loans were a failure.
Bolling appeared on the April 1 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor to debate host Bill O'Reilly's claim that Tesla and other electric cars would be beneficial to the environment and American economy. During the segment, Bolling attacked the Department of Energy program that provided a loan to Tesla, claiming that, although Tesla repaid the money, most loans given out by the program were failures, invoking the solar energy company Solyndra as an example:
While Bolling and other members of the right-wing media have repeatedly claimed that the DOE's Loan Guarantee Program is a failure, the truth is exactly the opposite. In congressional testimony, Jonathan Silver, the former executive director of the DOE's loan program, explained the success of the program:
While not every investment will succeed, the portfolio is in good shape. The funds represented by investments that have failed represent less than 3% of the total portfolio. This is a record the private sector would consider remarkable, but is particularly impressive for a portfolio of technologically innovative projects being built at a commercial scale for the first time anywhere.
A recent article from the National Journal quoted Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz discussing the successes of the loan guarantee program, noting that the overall loan portfolio is performing well and "has been a major success" at advancing technology:
He noted that in the main, the $30 billion loan portfolio--which includes a number of green power-generation projects and loans to automakers for green-car development--is performing well.
"Any rational view of that portfolio is that it has been a major success in doing exactly what it ... is designed to do in terms of first-movers of technologies at commercial scale," Moniz said.
Fox News dishonestly attacked the solar industry, implying that Yuma, Arizona's unemployment rate is higher than that of Midland, Texas due to the presence of a solar power plant and lack of natural gas or petroleum exploration. However, Yuma and Midland have completely different economic bases, and the Yuma solar plant has been lauded as a success.
An editorial from The Wall Street Journal is blaming environmentalists for slowing down a controversial process to export natural gas, overlooking the fact that members of the gas industry have condemned the procedure.
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board has been calling for the the U.S. to export more natural gas, which would need to be condensed, liquefied, and shipped out of specialized liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. On March 24, the seventh LNG export facility, to be constructed in Oregon's Jordan Cove, was approved by the Department of Energy (DOE), a move widely criticized by environmental groups. The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board dismissed the approval as well, but only because these export terminals aren't coming fast enough, with 24 projects still waiting for approval. The Board blamed "President Obama's green donors" for the "slow-roll process."
But members of the natural gas industry are critical of the controversial export terminals. America's Energy Advantage (AEA), a trade coalition of businesses and organizations that support the natural gas industry, released a statement denouncing the approval of the new export terminal. The group, which includes Dow Chemical and Alcoa Inc., wrote that the DOE's approval of the Jordan Cove facility is "a grievous error" that will "harm U.S. consumers and economy." From the AEA statement:
This is a grievous error that puts billions of dollars of investment and millions of jobs at risk. Stable and affordable natural gas is powering an American manufacturing comeback. According to IHS Chemical, more than $125 billion of new manufacturing investments are planned. This latest export approval will raise domestic natural gas, electricity, home-heating and propane prices for every American, undermine our manufacturing competiveness and cost the nation good-paying jobs. America's Energy Advantage renews its call for the Administration to take an immediate 'time out' from further LNG export approvals until a new, comprehensive review of current market conditions is completed."
Other studies and energy experts have warned of the economic dangers that may result from approving too many LNG export terminals, pointing out that it could lead to immense oversupply. As reported by Bloomberg, a Rice University analysis found that with "plans for dozens of the multibillion-dollar export terminals in North America alone, the industry is headed toward an overbuild that may depress Asian prices for a decade."
Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) cited a 2012 study from the DOE itself, saying it found that a "high export scenario" of LNG could increase domestic gas prices by more than 50 percent. According to Markey, approval of the Jordan Cove facility would cause the nation's LNG exports to cross the threshold for that very scenario. Energy analyst Chris Nelder wrote in an email to Media Matters that export terminals might not even be able to fulfill their contracts if natural gas prices don't remain as low as they are today.
Fox Business personalities seized on reports of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to push for approval of Keystone XL, ignoring the fact that the pipeline could lead to increased risk of spills near the Gulf Coast.
On March 23, Reuters reported that cleanup crews had quarantined a portion of the heavily trafficked Houston Ship Channel in response to a significant oil spill. The spill, estimated to be roughly 4,000 barrels (or 168,000 gallons), began after a tanker vessel carrying heavy fuel oil collided with a cargo ship in Galveston Bay, an estuary connected to the Gulf of Mexico.
On the March 24 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., guest host Charles Payne and contributor Tracy Byrnes discussed the impact that the oil spill would have as "an impediment to growing out our fossil fuel industry" by providing ammunition for environmentalists. Byrnes then pivoted, claiming that the Galveston Bay oil spill was an example of why the Keystone XL oil pipeline project should be approved.
PAYNE: Anytime we hear these kind of things, it feels like another impediment to growing out our fossil fuel industry, another thing for environmentalists to rally around, although we know accidents are bound to happen.
BYRNES: You and Sandra [Smith] said it last hour, just do the Keystone Pipeline already, create all these jobs. Enough of the nonsense, these are all distractions, that's all they are.
Neither personality addressed the fact that the Keystone XL pipeline is specifically designed to transport heavy crude to refineries and export-bound oil tankers on the Gulf Coast, precisely the scenario that could lead to more spills like the one unfolding in Galveston Bay. The problem of increased water traffic is not unknown for oil sands pipelines. In December 2013, the Associated Press reported that a planned pipeline transporting Alberta oil sands to Vancouver, British Columbia would increase local tanker traffic "nearly sevenfold."
Furthermore, Payne and Byrnes' argument in favor of building the pipeline relied on debunked claims of job creation stemming from the Keystone XL project.
Fox News has shown before that it will use any and all opportunities to promote its fossil fuel agenda and the Keystone XL proposal. The network's latest advocacy for fossil fuels comes on the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the most environmentally devastating oil tanker spill in American history.
National Journal's coverage of an upcoming Senate hearing on the Keystone XL pipeline failed to disclose that Gen. Jim Jones is currently working for the fossil fuel industry.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday to discuss whether or not the Keystone XL pipeline is in the country's national interest. In covering the hearing, National Journal referred to Jones by his former role as a national security adviser to President Barack Obama and called him "one of several former Obama administration officials who favor the project," but did not mention his current employer.
Buzzfeed, by contrast, explained that Jones is now a paid adviser to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and to the American Petroleum Institute (API), the top lobbying group for the oil and gas industry:
Jim Jones, a retired Marine Corps commandant, served as Obama's first national security adviser. He left the administration shortly before the 2010 midterm elections. Now he's a top lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with a focus on Keystone.
Since taking the lobbying job, Jones has said that the pipeline project is good for national security.
Both API and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been lobbying hard for the Keystone XL pipeline, alongside TransCanada, pushing statewide resolutions in support of the project, according to PR Watch. The American Petroleum Institute, which openly supports the Keystone pipeline, previously created a front group called "Oil Sands Fact Check" in support of the pipeline and other tar sands developments.
National Journal previously quoted Michael McKenna often while failing to disclose that he is a Republican energy lobbyist, before reversing its mistake in 2012.
When the State Department released its final Environmental Impact Statement, nearly all the headlines read the same: "Report Opens Way to Approval for Keystone Pipeline" and "State Dept. Keystone XL Would Have Little Impact On Climate Change." Yet after Reuters broke the news last week that the State Department was wrong in its predictions of greatly expanded rail capacity, undermining its claim of no climate impact, no major media outlet amplified the report.
In a report released late on Friday, January 31, the State Department concluded that Keystone XL was "unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands areas" based on the assumption that if the pipeline were not built, the equivalent amount of tar sands would instead be transported by rail. It was this finding that the media trumpeted, largely ignoring that buried in the analysis, the State Department for the first time acknowledged that under some studied scenarios, the project could have the equivalent climate impact of adding 5.7 million new cars to the road. The idea that the Keystone XL would not harm the climate led many to declare that President Barack Obama should approve the pipeline, even spurring MSNBC host Ed Schultz to call for approval (before later reversing his stance) and liberal commentator James Carville to predict that the pipeline would be built.
On March 5, Reuters added to skepticism that locking in infrastructure enabling tar sands extraction would have no climate impact, reporting that the State Department's draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) had significantly overestimated the amount of tar sands that would move by rail from Canada to the Gulf Coast. The draft EIS projected that about 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) would be moved along this route by rail before the end of 2013. However, a Reuters analysis found that "even in December, when deliveries were near their highest for the year, that tally did not top 40,000 bpd" -- less than a quarter of the State Department's prediction. The final EIS removed any specific projections of movement by rail.
Not a single major media outlet has reported on Reuters' finding, according to a Media Matters search.* In fact, some continued to repeat the State Department's claim that Keystone XL could be replaced by rail without mentioning the report.
Much of the initial coverage of the State Department's final EIS left out that an investigation at the time was looking into whether the contractor that wrote the report for the State Department had a conflict of interest in part because it was a member of the pro-pipeline American Petroleum Institute (API). The investigation later concluded that it did not, but environmentalists still contended it was based on too low of a bar. In fact, API told reporters prior to the final EIS release that it received news from inside the State Department about the timing and conclusions of the report, allowing it to spin the findings to reporters beforehand.
The Heritage Foundation recently published a faulty report on the economic effects of the EPA's forthcoming carbon pollution regulations, and its findings have been repeated uncritically in conservative media despite the foundation's fossil fuel funding and the report's "deeply problematic" analysis.
The Heritage Foundation released their new report, titled "EPA's Climate Regulations Will Harm American Manufacturing," just as House Republicans have been ramping up their latest effort to overturn the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) carbon pollution regulations. On March 6, the House passed a bill that would heavily weaken the Clean Air Act and would "seriously cripple the Obama Administration's ongoing drive to curb dangerous carbon pollution," according to Dan Lashof of the NRDC (the bill is not expected to pass the Senate). This is part of the GOP's effort to curb what they call President Obama's "war on coal," a slogan the Heritage Foundation repeats in their report.
Many of the criticisms of the EPA's carbon pollution rules are misleading, but perhaps none are more so than those from the Heritage Foundation, an organization whose studies have previously been criticized by even the conservative American Enterprise Institute and libertarian Cato Institute. This time the organization released a report on the EPA with findings even more dire than its prematurely released data: that carbon regulations will reduce income, kill nearly 600,000 jobs including 336,000 manufacturing jobs in 2023 alone, cut a family of four's income by $1,200 a year, and cost the U.S. economy a total of $2.23 trillion. Their claims were repeated uncritically in the Daily Caller, FoxNews.com, and Politico's Morning Energy. But the entire report is "radically problematic" and has a "tenuous connection with reality," according to policy expert Michael Livermore in a phone call with Media Matters -- and here's why:
The benefits of clean air standards have been shown time and time again to significantly outweigh the costs. In fact, the Clean Air Act has already saved $22 trillion in healthcare costs, according to a cost-benefit analysis from the EPA.
And health experts agree. According to a press release from the American Lung Association (ALA), the carbon regulations would help prevent "more than 16,000 premature deaths by 2030," due to lower levels of the particulate-forming pollution that comes from burning coal:
"Roughly half of the population in the United States currently lives in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution that is linked to serious illnesses, including asthma attacks, lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes and even death. Children are particularly susceptible to the health effects of air pollution because their lungs are still developing. Carbon pollution that fuels climate change will make it harder to achieve healthy air for all.
"Researchers have estimated that safeguards enacted now to reduce greenhouse gases - including carbon pollution from all sources in the U.S. - would prevent more than 16,000 premature deaths by 2030. The lives would be saved as a result of reductions in the ozone, and particulate-forming pollution that is also reduced as carbon is reduced. Cleaning up carbon pollution from power plants is essential to saving those lives.
It seems the Heritage Foundation does not believe there will be any benefits to clean air, as they do not include any benefits in their analysis of the carbon pollution regulations.
Michael Livermore, Senior Advisor at New York University's Institute for Policy Integrity, explained in a phone call that "even as a cost prediction, [the report is] very inaccurate because it doesn't paint a complete picture about how the economy is going to respond." He expanded (edited lightly for clarity):
One reason it overstates the cost is because it doesn't account for productivity gains that are associated with clean air benefits [...] They're only looking at ways in which productivity might be reduced because of energy prices but they're not looking at ways in which productivity can be increased because people are healthier and live longer.
In addition to that, they're not accounting for -- as far as I can tell -- the various ways that in a dynamic economy, labor markets and technology will adapt to the agency's greenhouse gas regulations.
They assume that any transitions that occur within the energy sector will propagate out to other sectors of the economy and basically act like a shock that's going to reduce employment everywhere. And again, that's not really accurate, that's not how labor markets work, they're holding things constant like macroeconomic policy and the business cycle, all of which are other compounds that are going to affect the employment rate. So their model has a very tenuous connection to reality in terms of anything that's going to happen that they're predicting, with any degree of accuracy in terms of employment.
And in fact, other models which are more empirically grounded find that when you impose regulatory requirements on firms they're just as likely to hire more workers as they are to lay workers off -- and these are in the most highly regulated industries -- because you have to hire workers to comply with environmental statutes. So for example, yes, it might be the case that some coal miners might need to be laid off and need to transition to other forms of employment, but there's also going to be work building new gas fired power plants and energy efficiency retrofits.
So those two countervailing effects, for the most part, most serious economists will argue that our best estimate of the net effect is zero. That any of the employment effects are going to wash out. Because we don't know if there's going to be negative employment effects, but if there are, they're usually going to be associated with countervailing employment effects that are positive. And there's macroeconomic policy like interest rates, like government spending, like taxation, like trade, all of which are going to affect the employment rate far, far more than anything that's going to happen at the regulatory level.
In January 2014, Resources for the Future (RFF), a nonprofit that conducts independent research on environment and energy issues, published a report on the costs of carbon regulations under the EPA's Clean Air Act. They found, contrary to the Heritage Foundation, that the carbon standards will result in "very small changes in average electricity prices" as a likely outcome, and predicted "positive and large" net benefits in every scenario.
The Clean Air Task Force -- a public health and environment advocacy group comprised of engineers, scientists, and specialists -- similarly found in a February 2014 study conducted by The NorthBridge Group that a "highly cost-effective approach" to carbon regulations under the Clean Air Act is feasible:
Simply by setting performance standards that result in displacing electricity generated by high emission rate coal-fired power plants with generation from existing currently underutilized, efficient natural-gas power plants, the U.S. can realize significant, near- term reductions in carbon pollution at a minimal cost.
The analysis predicts that the CATF proposal will:
- Decrease by 2020 of 27%, or 636 million metric tons of CO2, from 2005 levels;
- Avoid 2,000 premature deaths and 15,000 asthma attacks annually as a result of the annual reductions of over 400,000 tons in sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions in 2020;
- Result in monetized health and climate benefits of $34 billion, which is over three times the cost of compliance;
- increase in average nationwide retail electric rates by only 2% in 2020 which, based on Energy Information Administration forecasts, should result in no net increase in monthly electric bills.
Finally, the Natural Resources Defense Council crafted a proposal to support the EPA's goal of reducing carbon emissions, resulting in net benefits that outweigh the costs "as much as 15 times."
MSNBC host Chris Hayes blasted the myth that expanding unconventional energy sources in the U.S. will weaken Russia, an "absurd" claim that has been perpetuated by conservative media to pin the security crisis in Ukraine on President Barack Obama.
Conservative media are manipulating the Ukraine crisis to push a "drill, baby, drill" agenda, claiming that approving the Keystone XL pipeline and expanding the use of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") will somehow weaken Russian President Vladimir Putin's influence in Ukraine. They are calling for expanding development of natural gas in the U.S. (including by the environmentally-contentious use of fracking) to ease the concern that Putin may cut off the natural gas supply to Ukraine and subsequently affect natural gas prices in Europe and around the globe.
Liquefying, exporting, and re-gassifying natural gas is more carbon intensive than domestically consuming it, and would likely drive up the price of natural gas in the U.S., so some oppose permitting further LNG export terminals -- at least until fugitive methane emissions are reigned in. Despite concerns, the Obama administration has permitted several LNG export terminals and is expected to permit more. Republicans and the oil and gas industry complain that it's still not fast enough. However, as LNG is very expensive, reports have suggested that even if they were approved, many LNG export terminals probably won't even be used, or at least not for years -- far too late to address the Ukraine crisis. MSNBC's Chris Hayes and his guest Dan Dicker, CEO of wealth management group MercBloc, explained on the March 5 edition of All In with Chris Hayes:
DICKER: The Russians do have a major control, major influence, on most of eastern Europe through natural gas. But we have to distinguish between natural gas -- which is a gas -- and crude oil which is a liquid. If you want to move a liquid from one place to another, you put in the a dixie cup and you can move it any way you like. Natural gas has two ways of being transported, one is through pipelines. Now, the United States can do nothing in terms of creating a pipeline to all of these eastern European nations.
The only other way you can get it across, and what they're talking about is permitting, is through what we call LNG, which is liquid natural gas. It needs to be cooled, natural gas, to be transported as LNG needs to be cooled to a minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit then put in very, very carefully into very select containers that you can now transport overseas. This costs a lot of money. This is why permitting -- you could permit all of the natural gas export plants you want, there are very few energy companies who are going to undertake building these things, they cost $2 billion to convert an import plant into an export plant.
Fox News is using the crisis in Ukraine to push for the Keystone XL pipeline, an argument that an energy expert called "patently absurd."
In response to Russia's occupation of Ukrainian territory in the Crimean peninsula, Fox News personalities have been pushing for the Keystone XL pipeline to be built on an accelerated timetable, claiming that it would "weaken" Russia. But their argument has no basis in reality, as the pipeline could not realistically be built in a timetable sufficient to respond to the imminent crisis, and the tar sands oil it would deliver would not dent the global market enough to impact Russia. Energy analyst Chris Nelder explained in an email to Media Matters:
Keystone XL proponents will seize on any shred of justification for the project, no matter how tenuous. The suggestion that a very long-term project like Keystone XL, which will take a year or more to construct on any timetable, and which will deliver refined products like gasoline and diesel to a global market -- not just markets around Russia -- would somehow address the immediate situation in Crimea, is patently absurd. Further, delivering 830,000 barrels per day once it reaches full capacity will not meaningfully undercut Russia specifically in a global market that consumes 92 million barrels per day.
Yet at least six Fox News hosts and contributors have used the crisis in Crimea to push a pro-tar sands agenda:
O'Reilly: Build Keystone Pipeline To Weaken Russia. Fox News host Bill O'Reilly said that "the Keystone pipeline must be approved. Why? Because Russia is blackmailing Europe over energy ... the more oil and natural gas the U.S.A. and Canada can produce and distribute, the weaker Russia becomes on the world stage. I fervently hope President Obama understands that."
KT McFarland: Obama Should Tell Putin: "I Will Allow Keystone Pipeline To Go Ahead": In an opinion piece for FoxNews.com, Fox News foreign policy contributor KT McFarland wrote a mock conversation on what she hopes Obama told Putin during their March 1 phone call:
I will allow the Keystone Pipeline to go ahead, again on an accelerated basis. That will not only give a boost to the American and Canadian economies, it will start driving down the price of oil.
McFarland made a similar argument on-air when she suggested "go[ing] after the economic weapon: Build the Keystone pipeline."
Fox News hosts are attacking Apple for defending its green energy measures against right-wing activists. However, Apple is simply the latest business to realize the strategic value of sustainability -- a list that includes Fox's own parent company.
On Friday, the right-wing National Center for Public Policy Research urged Apple CEO Tim Cook at a shareholder meeting to pledge to end all environmental initiatives that didn't lead to a return on investment (ROI), complaining that Apple was concerned with the "chimera" of "so-called climate change." Cook responded that Apple's environmental efforts make economic sense, and that those who want Apple to blindly pursue profit regardless of societal impact should "[g]et out of this stock." Cook added, "When we work on making our devices accessibleby the blind, I don't consider the bloody ROI."
Cook's righteous indignation didn't sit well with Fox News and its sister network Fox Business, which accused him of putting "politics before profits" and "ideology ahead of the shareholders." Fox News host Sean Hannity even announced that he's going to drop his stock after Cook's announcement.
Hannity's bizarro version of the fossil fuel divestment movement would have to extend to Fox News' parent company 21st Century Fox as well. Chairman Rupert Murdoch has trumpeted FOX's efforts to "become carbon neutral" and the corporation touts sustainability efforts at Fox News and Fox Business.
Sustainability is not only smart public relations, but also key in long-term planning for businesses according to business leaders such as McKinsey and Co. A recent report by the investor group Ceres found that clean energy investments must reach $1 trillion a year (a "Clean Trillion") in order to have an 80 percent chance of avoiding global warming of more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) -- a measure deemed necessary by international governments at the Copenhagen climate conference to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. However, without greater commitments to addressing climate change, we face the potential of 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) warming, which would severely disrupt global supply chains including food stocks. That is one reason why companies such as Apple are recognizing the risks climate change poses to their businesses and turning toward cleaner sources of energy.
This is not the first time Fox News has politicized voluntary corporate social responsibility measures. Earlier this month, Fox News criticized CVS for announcing it would stop selling cigarettes, asking if it was potentially illegal for the pharmacy chain to do so.
In response to a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation on sulfur in gasoline, Fox News misinformed viewers about the health benefits of reducing sulfur, which contributes to smog, and overstated even the claims of the oil industry about the costs of the rule.
Conservative media are latching on to the climate change denial of Patrick Moore, who has masqueraded as a co-founder of Greenpeace. But Moore has been a spokesman for nuclear power and fossil fuel-intensive industries for more than 20 years, and his denial of climate change -- without any expertise in the matter -- is nothing new.