Fox Pushes False Analogy In Dishonest Attack On Solar Industry

››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

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.

Fox Forwards Comparison Of Unemployment In Yuma And Midland To Attack Solar Industry

Fox's Doocy: Yuma And Midland Are "An Interesting Comparison." On the March 25 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, and Anna Kooiman introduced an interview with Texas Governor Rick Perry by disparaging a major solar electric facility in Yuma, Arizona. Doocy asked viewers to consider Yuma and Midland, Texas as "A Tale of Two Cities," urging his audience to see the relatively large disparity between the municipalities' unemployment rates as indicative of the preeminence of the oil and gas industry:

DOOCY: Imagine an unemployment rate of 2.9 percent, that would be great, right? Well it is great right now for the folks in Midland, Texas. Nearly everybody who wants a job has a job. But if you hop in your car and head west things only get worse. The unemployment rate in Yuma, Arizona is 26.1 percent. Talk about "A Tale of Two Cities."

[...]

Midland, Texas, famous for oil production and shale as well. Yuma, Arizona has got the largest solar plant in America, so that makes it an interesting comparison. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/25/14]

But The Cities Fox Compared Have Different Economic Bases Unrelated To Solar Industry

Midland's Success Largely Due To "Oil Boom." According to a February 1 article in USA Today, Midland, Texas is the fastest-growing economy in the United States in large part thanks to the "West Texas oil boom" witnessed over the last decade:

While not all the metro areas with the fastest-growing [gross metro products] in 2013 share the same traits, many are benefiting from the U.S. energy boom. Midland and Odessa, Texas, benefit directly from energy production in their areas, while Fargo, N.D., and Pascagoula, Miss., are hubs of oilfield and shipping, respectively. [USA Today, 2/1/14]

Texas Ranked First In Oil And Gas Production, Arizona Ranked 30th. According to the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA), Texas far out-paces all other states in terms of crude oil and natural gas production. Arizona's contribution to the U.S. fossil fuel market is thousands of times smaller. [U.S. Energy Information Administration, accessed 3/25/14]

Arizona Has Few Exploitable Reserves Of Oil And Natural Gas. According to a review by the EIA, Arizona has "only minor crude oil production from less than two dozen legacy wells" and "fewer than half a dozen producing wells" tapping reserves of natural gas. [U.S. Energy Information Administration, accessed 3/25/14]

Yuma Struggles With Seasonal Economy Built Around Agriculture, Migrant Labor, And Tourism. A post on The Washington Post's GovBeat blog on August 28, 2013, detailed the nature of Yuma's struggle with high unemployment. According to the blog, Yuma's unusually high unemployment rate is partly a characteristic of being a border community with a large population of uncounted migrant workers. Additionally, Yuma's agricultural and tourism industries are highly seasonal, with unemployment rates spiking in summer months, as shown in the following chart (data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics):

Yuma, Arizona Seasonal Unemployment

[The Washington Post, GovBeat, 8/28/13]

And The Yuma Solar Plant Has Been Called A Success

Renewable Energy World: Yuma Solar Plant Named "Solar Project Of The Year." In 2011, Renewable Energy World, a renewable energy industry magazine, named the Agua Caliente project as "solar project of the year," claiming that the plant's operation represents a major shift in the solar industry:

Once completed, Agua Caliente will be a 290-MW solar park powered by First Solar thin-film panels. More than anything, though, it will come to represent the major shift currently underway in solar energy -- that is, the move toward large-scale solar. With 39 MW online as of December, Agua Caliente already ranks among the biggest solar farms in the country. [Renewable Energy World, 2/17/12]

CleanTechnica: Solar Industry Experts Call Yuma Solar Project An "Overall Success." According to CleanTechnica, an organization dedicated to clean technology news, the Agua Caliente solar electric power plant "is a standout example" of the "overall success" of a federal loan program through the Department of Energy. The plant, which has yet to be completed, is the "largest operating photovoltaic power plant in the world" and has been credited with the creation of about 400 jobs. [CleanTechnica, 9/11/12]

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