In recent weeks, Fox News has admitted that electric carmaker Tesla Motors is a "success story" -- but now the network suddenly has amnesia about the federal assistance that helped it succeed.
On Friday, Fox News anchor Jon Scott hosted Wall Street Journal automotive industry reporter Joseph White to discuss Fisker, an electric carmaker beset by financial troubles after receiving support from the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. Scott suggested Fisker is representative of the DOE's loan guarantee program, adding: "Meantime, there's another company, Tesla, smaller company, did not get a government loan as far as I'm aware ... Tesla seems to be making a go of it so far."
White quickly corrected Scott, pointing out that Tesla actually received the same type of government loan guarantee that Fisker did. Indeed, Fox News previously used government assistance for Tesla as an example of supposedly "Failed Green Energy Policies," a characterization then-presidential nominee Mitt Romney later echoed.
However, recent events have forced even Fox News to admit that Tesla is a "success story." Tesla's Model S electric sedan was named car of the year by both Automobile and Motor Trend and is en route to exceeding corporate sales goals. The company has also announced that it turned a profit in the first quarter of 2013 and plans on paying back its DOE loan five years early.
UPDATE (4/26/13): When covering a negative review of Tesla's car, however, Jon Scott did remember that Tesla was government-funded, stating in February 2013, "we are all sort of co-owners of Tesla -- that company got hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars as part of the president's, you know, green energy thing":
Fox News is using the struggles of electric automaker Fisker to smear the stimulus, even though the company received its loan from a completely separate Bush-era program, and both have created jobs.
On Thursday's Fox & Friends, Fox Business correspondent Charles Gasparino incorrectly claimed that Fisker received stimulus money, adding "when you use stimulus money, you're supposed to create jobs":
However, the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program is separate from the 2009 stimulus package signed into law by President Obama. Rather, it was enacted with broad bipartisan support in 2007 to award loans encouraging "meaningful improvements in fuel economy performance." More than half of that money went to improve the technology of conventional gasoline-fueled vehicles, but some went to support pioneering hybrid and electric cars. Since then, some of the latter, like the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf, have been successful.
While the primary focus of ATVM was different than that of the stimulus, the program has still supported more than 35,000 jobs.
A Bloomberg article on troubled electric automaker Fisker reports that the company's co-founder was first encouraged by the Department of Energy to pursue its federal loan guarantee, but never clarifies that those overtures, as well as the loan program itself, began during the Bush administration.
However, Bloomberg failed to note Fisker's statement that he was approached about the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program during the Bush administration, even as it quoted a Republican congressman suggesting the Obama administration had chosen the company inexplicably. From Fisker's testimony:
In January 2008, Fisker Automotive showed the concept car for the Kanna at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Soon after, I was approached at a sustainability conference in California by Mr. John Mizroch, the then-Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. We discussed the technology that Fisker Automotive was developing and he encouraged the company to apply for a loan from the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program (ATVM). Fisker continued its conversations with the Department and the company applied for a loan at the end of 2008. At that time, we already had significant financial backing from private investors.
The Associated Press is making an unsupported claim that the Obama administration knew electric automaker Fisker was missing milestones required for its loan guarantee well before it froze the loan in mid-2011 by taking newly obtained documents out of context.
The AP article, published the day of a House hearing on the loan guarantee granted to the troubled company, appears to be based on what a Department of Energy official characterized in an email to Media Matters as "selectively released" documents from Republican politicians leading that hearing.
The article's lede claims that the documents "show that the Obama administration was warned as early as 2010 that electric car maker Fisker Automotive Inc. was not meeting milestones set up for a half-billion dollar government loan, nearly a year before U.S. officials froze the loan." However, neither of the documents it cites substantiates that claim.
The first document was an internal email speculating that Fisker could miss a milestone that it met five days later, as AP noted six paragraphs in:
Aoife McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department, said the June 2010 email was taken out of context.
"The document shows that one person at a meeting discussed the possibility that Fisker might not meet a financial commitment" required by the Energy Department, McCarthy said in an email late Tuesday. DOE received the needed certification five days later and subsequently made the loan payment, she said.
The second document is from April 2010 -- before the loan agreement had even been officially closed -- and thus before milestones had kicked in, as a DOE official explained in an email to Media Matters (emphasis added):
Nearly three years ago, as reporters shifted their focus away from the Gulf oil spill, they managed to overlook a pipeline spill that happened just 10 days after the BP well was capped. Their oversight was a boon to a non-profit with only seven full-time employees, which recently beat leading national newspapers in the race for the national reporting Pulitzer Prize for its investigative reporting on that spill.
The non-profit InsideClimate's award-winning report on the oil spill in Michigan's Kalamazoo River, titled "The Dilbit Disaster: Inside The Biggest Oil Spill You've Never Heard Of," noted that the national press was uninterested in the spill:
Despite the scope of the damage, the Enbridge spill hasn't attracted much national attention, perhaps because it occurred just 10 days after oil stopped spewing from BP's Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, which had ruptured three months earlier. Early reports about the Enbridge spill also downplayed its seriousness. Just about everybody, including the EPA officials who rushed to Marshall, expected the mess to be cleaned up in a couple of months.
The pipeline that leaked in Michigan was carrying bitumen extracted from tar sands and diluted with liquid chemicals, including the known human carcinogen benzene. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would carry the same type of crude. InsideClimate reported that officials initially were not aware that the pipeline was carrying diluted bitumen, or dilbit, and the characteristics of this heavy crude -- namely that it sunk to the river floor rather than floating like conventional light crude -- compounded challenges for the clean-up crew. Officials had to learn how to clean it up as they went along, helping make it the most costly pipeline spill on record.
Just last month, another pipeline carrying dilbit spilled in Arkansas, and this Saturday will mark the 3rd anniversary of the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which led to the largest offshore oil spill in history. A Media Matters study found that even after the recent Arkansas spill, media have continued to overlook the risk that the Keystone XL pipeline could spill dilbit into the large aquifer or the sensitive ecosystem it will cross. Pew Research found that less than a month after the BP oil well was capped, only 3 percent of news coverage focused on the spill, even though 44 percent of Americans said that they were still following the story more closely than any other issue.
These repeated plunges in coverage belie the impacts of oil spills, which are ongoing. Three years later, the BP spill is still harming many species critical to the Gulf's food chain. And as a The New York Times editorial stated, "The toll on the gulf and its marine life may not be known for years. The herring population of Alaska's Prince William Sound did not crash until three years after the Exxon Valdez spill."
The dearth of long-term investigative reporting on oil spills also obscures the need for policy reform, which reports like InsideClimate's have exposed:
A Media Matters analysis of news coverage of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline since the 2012 election shows that the media continue to largely ignore the risk of an oil spill, while promoting the economic benefits of the project. Meanwhile, Fox News and the Wall Street Journal have dismissed Keystone XL's climate impacts, instead serving as a platform for the pipeline's champions.
Republican Representative Joe Barton denied manmade climate change by citing the biblical story of Noah's flood, yet no major news outlet except for the online publication Buzzfeed has noted his comments.
Rep. Barton stated in a hearing on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that climate change could be natural because the biblical story of the Great Flood, wherein God told Noah to build an ark to prepare for the flood, occurred prior to the Industrial Revolution:
I would point out, though, that people like me that support hydrocarbon development don't deny that the climate is changing. I think you can have an honest difference of opinion on what's causing that change without automatically being either all in, it's all because of mankind, or it's all just natural. I think there's a divergence of evidence. I would point out that if you're a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change. And that certainly wasn't because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy. So, in any event -- I would ask the gentleman from the Canadian government if you agree with the professor at the other end of the table that if we don't do Keystone, that these projects won't be developed to get the oil to the West Coast of Canada and on to Japan and China?
Bloomberg published a 650-word plus article about the hearing, but ignored Barton's comments. Buzzfeed noted his comments but did not note that they run counter to 97 percent of actively-publishing climate scientists, who agree that recent climate change is mostly manmade.
The press' failure to call out distortions of science does a disservice to the public, many of whom are under the mistaken impression that global warming either isn't happening or is mostly natural:
Rep. Barton has repeatedly suggested that climate change is entirely natural and misled on climate science, including commissioning a reportedly plagiarized report casting doubt on climate change. He has also received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from oil and gas companies.
UPDATE (4/11/13): The Huffington Post, MSNBC's First Look, and ABCNews.com have covered Barton's remarks. ABCNews.com stated that a "group of extreme athletes, however, disagree" with Barton, but did not note that the vast majority of scientists also disagree with him.
An Orange County Register editorial used the struggles of the electric car company Fisker to claim that all green energy technology is a poor investment for the government.
In the editorial (behind paywall), the paper cites several green energy companies that have not produced desired returns to support its argument that government should stop investing in green energy technology:
Either way, Fisker provides a business-school-worthy case study in how not to invest in start-up companies in nascent industries.
Indeed, in a presentation this past fall at MIT's annual EmTech conference, Bill Banholzer, chief technology officer for Dow Chemical, cautioned investors that it was mistake to throw money at green energy start-ups, which promise to bring disruptive technologies to market.
Mr. Banholzer's PowerPoint included a slide with a dozen green energy companies, including the aforementioned Solyndra, A123 Systems, which was to supply state-of-the-art lithium batteries to Fisker and other electric car manufacturers, and other much-hyped start-ups.
Congress should explicitly forbid the Obama administration from making any further "investments" in green energy companies, the failures of which should not come at the expense of taxpayers.
While the PowerPoint presentation by Banzholzer -- whose Dow Chemical just lost a suit over the $1 billion in tax deductions the company tried to put into tax shelters forcing it to pay a 20 percent penalty -- highlighted the failures of several green energy companies, this anecdotal evidence obscures key facts about the green energy industry as a whole. Due to increases in federal investment, the U.S. clean tech industry has grown rapidly. The cost of solar panels has dropped significantly over the last several years and is on track to be as cheap as our current electricity by 2020. Wind turbine manufacturing and installed wind capacity have also grown significantly. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, "US wind turbine manufacturing has grown 12-fold" since 2005 while "costs have been reduced by 90% since 1980."
Bill O'Reilly labeled electric carmaker Tesla Motors a failure, claiming it had net losses. But Tesla has actually turned a profit, leading Fox News to label it a "success story" just last week.
O'Reilly stated that Tesla, which received a $465 million Department of Energy loan guarantee, had "$523 million in losses." But Tesla actually made a profit in the first quarter of 2013, and has arranged to repay its loan five years early. O'Reilly's figure is from a 2011 Investor's Business Daily editorial, as Raw Story first noted. In 2011, Tesla had annual net losses of $254 million, adding to previous losses, but CEO Elon Musk always saw Tesla turning a profit in 2013 once its car production ramped up.
In fact, Fox News itself labeled Tesla a "success story," and Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs reluctantly acknowledged that it was one of the "winners" of the Obama administration's clean energy programs.
Fox News reported that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found 679 renewable energy initiatives to be overlapping -- but the GAO only stated that 679 was the number of such initiatives that existed in 2010; further, the GAO explicitly stated that it could not evaluate whether the programs overlapped.
In the GAO's 2013 annual report, which seeks to identify wasteful and overlapping federal government programs, the office determined that "23 agencies and their 130 subagencies implemented 679 renewable energy initiatives in fiscal year 2010."
Fox's Special Report, however, claimed that all 679 of these programs were duplicative and wasteful. Host Bret Baier reported: "Fox has obtained the results of a new GAO report finding 162 areas of duplication or wasteful spending, adding almost $100 billion a year on top of a larger amount from two previous reports. Renewable energy programs topped them all with 679 overlapping programs."
This characterization is actually contradicted by the report itself. While the report found that a handful of wind initiatives may have "provided duplicative support," the GAO specifically stated that the office "could not comprehensively assess the potential for overlap or duplication" among the renewable energy initiatives:
Although GAO examined characteristics, such as energy source and recipient type, for the nearly 700 renewable energy initiatives identified in its February 2012 report, GAO could not comprehensively assess the potential for overlap or duplication among the initiatives because existing agency information was not sufficiently complete to allow for such an assessment.
Fox's falsehood echoes a release from Republican Senator Tom Coburn that also claims 679 renewable energy initiatives were found to be duplicative.
Fox News is now acknowledging that Tesla Motors is a "success story," but only a year ago the network declared the company "failed." This distortion played into its attempts to boost then-presidential nominee Mitt Romney's claim that President Barack Obama only "pick[s] the losers."
Discussing the Obama administration's investments in green technology, Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett recently stated that Tesla is a "success story," and Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs acknowledged on Monday night that it is one of the "winners." Tesla recently announced that it made a profit in the first quarter of 2013 after exceeding sales goals for its electric sedan, and the company plans on paying back its Department of Energy loan guarantee five years early.
But an oft-aired Fox News graphic previously listed Tesla as "failed," a claim that Romney later echoed. In fact, several of the companies that Fox News declared "failed" are still successfully operating (circled in green), and contributing to technological advances that could help us transition to a clean energy economy, as can be seen in this interactive graphic created with ThingLink:
The companies circled in yellow did not actually receive any funds from the loan guarantee programs, instead receiving either grants, tax credits, or no federal funds at all. Nevada Geothermal Power's project, at far left and not circled in the graphic above, is still operating and part of the 87 percent of loan guarantee funds under the 1705 program awarded to projects that experts say pose almost no risk to the taxpayer. By lumping all of these programs together from the more than 1,460 companies that have received such awards, Fox News was able to paint a distorted picture of the Obama administration's energy policies.
Fox News is using the struggles of Fisker, an electric carmaker that received federal loans, to claim that the government only picks "losers." But just one week prior, the network declared Tesla, which received loans from the same program, a "success story."
On Monday's edition of Fox News' America Live, Lou Dobbs treated the struggles of Fisker, which has reportedly hired a law firm to prepare for a possible bankruptcy filing and cut staff, as a reason that "we have got to get this government, and this administration, out of picking winners and losers, because all they pick are losers." In 2009, the company received a $529 million conditional loan guarantee through the Department of Energy's (DOE) Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program, of which it received $192 million before DOE froze the loan. Later in the segment, Dobbs added: "I've looked at the winners and the losers. I cannot find the winners."
Dobbs might have started by watching Fox News, which reported the previous week on Happening Now that Tesla, another hybrid electric automaker that received ATVM funds, was a "success story":
Indeed, Tesla recently announced that it turned a profit in the first quarter of 2013 and plans on paying back its DOE loan five years early. The company has seen sales of its Model S electric sedan, which was named 2013's car of the year by both Automobile and Motor Trend, exceed goals set by the company.
In agitating for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, CNBC host Jim Cramer falsely claimed that the transnational oil pipeline could create 60,000 jobs in four weeks and further erroneously claimed that pipelines "have been the largest producer of jobs in the past four years" in the United States. In fact, evidence from the State Department and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate Cramer has vastly overestimated both Keystone XL's job creation potential as well as the impact of the pipeline industry as a whole in adding jobs to the economy.
Cramer's erroneous comments about Keystone XL came during the April 7 edition of Meet the Press on NBC:
Contrary to Cramer's assertion, a State Department report on Keystone XL released on March 1 found that the pipeline would create approximately 42,100 jobs for a one-to two-year period, including 3,900 annual construction jobs during this period. However operation of the pipeline would only create "35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs" meaning that Keystone XL "would have negligible socioeconomic impacts."
Cramer is also wrong that pipelines "have been the largest producer of jobs in the past four years." According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the pipeline industry employs approximately 43,310 individuals annually, with jobs involving the transportation of crude oil accounting for 8,680 of that total. By comparison, the BLS estimates that, in the private sector alone, over 2.5 million individuals are employed in "green goods and services," a designation created by BLS to describe jobs and businesses "that produce goods and provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources."
NPR gave undue credence to wind power opponents who claim turbines are "making them ill" with a variety of symptoms. But there is no demonstrated link between wind turbines and health impacts, and studies suggest that psychological factors are behind these symptoms.
In a post titled, "Could Wind Turbines Be Toxic To The Ear?" NPR gave pediatrician Nina Pierpont a platform to promote "wind turbine syndrome," a term she coined. Although NPR noted that her claims "have been met with heavy skepticism from a host of experts in energy and public health," it nonetheless suggested that a recent scientific review supported her "self-published report."
Pierpont's report consisted of telephone interviews with 23 people who responded to an ad asking for people who claimed to experience "wind turbine syndrome," and their anecdotes about 15 family members.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health of Ontario, Canada stated in a report that "no conclusions on the health impact of wind turbines can be drawn from Pierpont's work due to methodological limitations including small sample size, lack of exposure data, lack of controls and selection bias." Pierpont claimed that her paper was peer-reviewed, but it was actually evaluated by people she selected, including her husband, an anti-wind activist who compares his struggle to the civil rights movement:
Dr. Martin Luther King (see below) didn't use lawyers. Neither did Gandhi, who was a trained lawyer. Wrong strategy. If you think the Big Wind Onslaught is not on the scale of a Gandhi and King, but just a minor issue -- think again.
As Rosa Parks did, when she sparked the Civil Rights movement: you need to refuse to give up your seat to the wind bastard on the bus.
NPR also trumpeted the significance of a new scientific review, saying it "showed that outer hair cells of the cochlea respond to infrasound, which could affect the functioning of the ear." But there is no evidence that the outer hair cell response actually does "affect the functioning of the ear." Previous reviews have also noted that outer hair cells respond to infrasound, but nevertheless concluded "[a]vailable evidence shows that the infrasound levels near wind turbines cannot impact the vestibular system."
Fox Business host John Stossel contradicted himself within just a few paragraphs over whether the "free market" can remedy pollution.
In a FoxNews.com column, Stossel acknowledged that the "free market ... doesn't offer a practical remedy to pollution," but went on tout "capitalism" as the answer to pollution just a few paragraphs later:
Originally, environmental rules were a good thing. I love the free market, but it doesn't offer a practical remedy to pollution. I could sue polluters for violating my property rights, but under our legal system, that's not even close to practical.
So in the '70s, government passed rules that demanded we stop polluting the air and water. Industry put scrubbers in smokestacks. Towns installed sewage treatment. Now the air is quite clean, and I can swim in the rivers around Manhattan.
Throughout the world, most reductions in pollution have been achieved because of capitalism, not government control.
Fracking for natural gas reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Even much-hated coal and oil provide benefits. [emphasis added]
Stossel was right the first time. Experts from across the political spectrum say that when the "free market" does not account for the external costs that fossil fuel production imposes on society, the government must step in to put a price on pollution. As Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman put it:
Externalities like pollution are one of the classic forms of market failure, and Econ 101 says that this failure should be remedied through pollution taxes or tradable emissions permits that get the price right. [...] So if you really believed in the logic of free markets, you'd be all in favor of pollution taxes, right?
Krugman highlighted a 2011 study by centrist economists which found that coal imposes more costs on society than any other industry and may be "underregulated" as its price does not account for these damages.