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.
From the April 4 edition of Fox Business' Imus in the Morning:
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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.
Fox Business host John Stossel is dismissing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed ban on plastic foam containers by claiming the containers are "not so bad" for the environment. But the non-recyclable containers pose health and environmental risks and impose significant costs on the city.
On Thursday's edition of Fox and Friends, Stossel said that we need not worry about waste from the plastic foam containers colloquially called "Styrofoam" because "we're not running out of landfills":
But shifting from products that end up in landfills to products that can be recycled can save the city money, and the health and environmental risks of Styrofoam are indeed "bad."
Using recyclable products rather than Styrofoam saves the city money. Even if there is room for more landfills, as Stossel claims, it will be cheaper for the city if recyclable products replace Styrofoam containers. The Associated Press reported:
It costs the city an average of $86 per ton to landfill some 2 million tons of garbage a year; by contrast, the city nets a payment of at least $10 a ton for recycling paper and about $14 a ton for recycling glass and plastic, [New York City's head of recycling, Ron] Gonen said.
Reuters added that Styrofoam imposes costs on the city's recycling program:
An estimated 20,000 tons of Styrofoam enter the city's waste stream each year, and it can add an estimated $20 per ton to the cost of recycling because it needs to be removed from the recycling stream, the city said.
The largest single source of trash, or municipal solid waste (MSW), is containers and packaging, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
As around 70 percent of paper and steel containers, and over a third of aluminum and glass containers are recycled, replacing Styrofoam containers with these alternatives could save the city significant amounts of money.
Styrofoam can leach chemicals that are likely cancerous. The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) has listed styrene as a likely human carcinogen. Polystyrene, the technical name of Styrofoam, can leach this chemical into foods, according to the NIH:
From the March 26 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight:
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A Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report released Tuesday finds that green jobs grew four times faster in 2011* than jobs in other sectors, continuing a trend of rapid growth in the U.S. But Fox News is still pushing the narrative that investing in clean energy is a "boondoggle."
The U.S. added more than 150,000 green jobs in 2011, including more than 100,000 construction jobs and 14,000 manufacturing jobs. In total, the green sector now employs more than 3.4 million workers in the U.S. The following chart shows that green jobs in the private sector increased in nearly every category in 2011:
This is not a new trend: the Brookings Institution previously found that the clean economy added half a million jobs between 2003 and 2010, and that clean tech jobs grew "more than twice as fast as the rest of the economy" during that period.
As the Los Angeles Times noted, the recent growth in green jobs "parallels a surge in public and private money" invested in clean energy in 2011.
Nevertheless, Fox News continues to distort the facts in an effort to portray government investments in clean energy as a waste of money. Fox News' Brit Hume claimed in 2011 that the Obama administration's green investments have "utterly failed to produce meaningful jobs." Last month, the Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes claimed on Fox News that "we haven't seen many gains" from these investments. Just this week, Neil Cavuto said on his Fox Business show that Obama's green initiatives have "not had the big tangible jobs bang for the buck that you would think."
Faced with clear evidence that clean energy investments are paying off, will Fox change its tune?
*2011 is the most recent year for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics has collected data.
Media figures have repeatedly forwarded the notion that the United States is currently facing a debt crisis. However, leaders of both parties agree there is no immediate crisis, and by focusing attention too heavily on deficit and debt reduction, the media distract from the more imminent problem of growth and jobs.
Throughout news coverage of recent budget negotiations, media figures have consistently framed discussions around the notion that the country faces a debt crisis, an assertion that is often presented uncritically and accepted as an indisputable fact. Since discussions are predicated on the assumption that a debt crisis exists, ensuing analysis of budget proposals is often solely focused on how far they go in reducing short term deficits and debt.
While media are convinced that a debt crisis exists, leaders of both parties have made explicit statements to the contrary. In a March 12 interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, President Obama claimed that "we don't have an immediate crisis in terms of debt," a statement that was immediately criticized by conservative media. When asked if he agreed with Obama's statement regarding debt on the March 17 edition of ABC's This Week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) conceded that there is no immediate crisis. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) made a similar admission on CBS' Face the Nation, saying "we do not have a debt crisis right now."
Furthermore, the media's focus on a "debt crisis" has necessarily steered the debate about budgets toward how the parties will sufficiently address short term deficits. Economists, meanwhile, have repeatedly argued that undue focus on deficits and debt distracts from the more pressing need for economic growth and reduced unemployment.
The bipartisan admission that there is no immediate debt crisis provides media with an opportunity to reframe their budget negotiations coverage around economic growth.
Video by Alan Pyke.
A trio of Fox Business commentators attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-MA) advocacy for an increased federal minimum wage by wildly mischaracterizing comments she made during a Senate committee hearing. In addition to incorrectly implying that Warren is advocating for a $22 per hour minimum wage, the panelists dismissed the need for any increase in the minimum at all by relying on misinformation and distorted arguments.
At a March 14 hearing on the ties between economic growth and the federal minimum wage, Warren said that if minimum wage had been pegged to productivity as it had increased from 1960 until now, "the minimum wage today would be about $22 an hour."
On the March 19 edition of Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney and two guests, Fox Business contributor Charles Payne and Fox Business reporter Sandra Smith, mischaracterized Warren's statement to claim she was advocating for raising the minimum wage to $22 per hour. For instance, Smith claimed that Warren is "fighting for you to make $22 an hour."
Payne also misleadingly suggested Warren's numbers were incorrect by comparing the $22 figure -- which is tied to worker productivity -- to the unrelated metric of inflation.
In fact, as the Huffington Post noted, Warren was not making the case for raising the minimum wage to $22, but was in fact referring to a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) that supports her position that an increase in the minimum wage is overdue. According to the CEPR study, "Between the end of World War II and 1968, the minimum wage tracked average productivity growth fairly closely. Since 1968, however, productivity growth has far outpaced the minimum wage. If the minimum wage had continued to move with average productivity after 1968, it would have reached $21.72 per hour in 2012 - a rate well above the average production worker wage."
Payne also claimed that the minimum wage is not meant to support a family and is usually earned by teenagers, saying: "This is a stepping stone. This is not something that -- it was never designed for people to live on, per say." But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just over half of all workers receiving the federal minimum wage in 2011 were aged 25 and above For her part, Smith also repeated the myth that raising the minimum wage will kill jobs, but numerous studies show that's not true.
Lou Dobbs promoted the GOP attack that the Senate Democrats' proposed federal budget raises taxes by $1.5 trillion, a claim based on "a willful misreading" of the budget.
In the "chalk talk" segment of his Fox Business show, Dobbs claimed the Senate Democrats' budget demonstrated that "they want us to be a debtor nation in perpetuity." Dobbs argued that in addition to the $975 billion of revenue Democrats include in their budget, they would need to add $500 billion in additional revenue to pay for the cost of the sequestration." Dobbs added the two to claim that the Democrats' budget actually calls for $1.5 trillion in new taxes:
But, as Talking Points Memo noted, the claim -- which has been touted by Senate Republicans -- is based on an "attempt to turn sequestration's spending cuts into a permanently lower spending baseline, and thus a willful misreading of the Democratic budget itself." TPM's Brian Beutler explained that a portion of the $975 billion in revenue is already earmarked to cover sequestration, meaning the additional $500 billion of alleged new taxes that Dobbs and Senate Republicans are adding to the revenue estimates doesn't exist:
Republicans have decided to torture the numbers. First, they assume a baseline Democrats aren't actually using -- one where sequestration-level spending is permanent. Not a tricky move by itself. The tricky part comes next.
They reason that if Democrats are actually proposing to reduce deficits by $1.85 trillion, then the nearly $500 billion in tax revenues they dedicate to paying down sequestration (and another $100 billion in spending they dedicate to financing a new jobs proposal) would have to come on top of the $975 billion of tax increases the budget explicitly calls for.
In other words, Democrats want to raise $975 billion in new tax revenue and use some of it to turn off sequestration. Instead of accepting this, Republicans are claiming -- falsely -- that the revenue for paying down sequestration is in addition to the $975 billion. It is not.
Fox News is promoting a Wall Street Journal column by Bjorn Lomborg to claim that electric vehicles are "even worse" for the environment than conventional gasoline cars. But experts say Lomborg's assumptions are out of step with reality and that the environmental benefits of electric vehicles will only grow in the near-future.
Lomborg, a prominent critic of environmentalists, claimed that because producing an electric car is more carbon-intensive, it could produce more carbon dioxide over its lifetime than a conventional car, citing a study published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology:
If a typical electric car is driven 50,000 miles over its lifetime, the huge initial emissions from its manufacture means the car will actually have put more carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere than a similar-size gasoline-powered car driven the same number of miles.
Fox News hosted Lomborg on Wednesday to expose what it called the "dirty little secret" of electric vehicles. Seizing on Lomborg's figures, Fox Business' Stuart Varney claimed that "the battery powered cars are just as bad for the environment as your average sedan -- even worse!" And Fox Business host Gerri Willis suggested electric cars are not "contributing less to global warming" than conventional cars:
But Lomborg's assumption of a 50,000 mile lifetime "seems too low," according to University of California at Los Angeles' Dr. Deepak Rajagopal, an environmental economist who focuses on life cycle assessments. Indeed, the study Lomborg cites "assumes almost twice that lifetime," according to co-author Guillaume Majeau-Bettez. It estimates a 20-24 percent reduction in emissions from electric vehicles driven 90,000 miles and powered by average European electricity. The Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf, the two most popular electric cars in the U.S., both have 100,000 mile battery warranties.
And as the Natural Resources Defense Council's Max Baumherner noted, the study used estimates for production emissions that are three times higher than those from Argonne National Laboratory, which perhaps explains why other studies have found greater environmental benefits from electric cars. A life-cycle analysis overseen by Dr. Rajagopal found that battery-electric vehicles (BEV) powered by California's electricity mix produce significantly fewer emissions compared to conventional vehicles (CV):
After downplaying the effects of the government spending cuts known as sequestration, right-wing media are now claiming that President Obama is trying to maximize sequestration pain.
Fox News hosts have been dismissing the effects of the across-the-board government spending cuts known as sequestration, claiming that "nothing is happening" following the cuts taking effect. But the cuts are already having negative economic consequences that will continue unless the cuts are replaced.
Fox's Lou Dobbs hyped the false claim that the Department of Homeland Security bought 2700 light armored vehicles, echoing claims made on fringe conservative blogs. In fact, the order for 2717 new light armored vehicles is coming from the United States Marine Corps -- not the Department of Homeland Security.
On the March 4 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs claimed that DHS is buying "2 billion rounds of ammunition" and, "allegedly," "2700 light armored vehicles." Dobbs then asked his guest, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, "What in the world is going on as the Homeland Department -- the Department of Homeland Security seems to be arming up and the administration is trying to disarm American citizens?"
Dobbs' pairing of those two claims echoed a post on right-wing blog Gateway Pundit, which was also posted to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' Infowars. The post was headlined, "Obama DHS Purchases 2,700 Light-Armored Tanks to Go With Their 1.6 Billion Bullet Stockpile" and cited Modern Survival Blog, a survivalist website, as its source.
But according to a Defense Department press release, it was the United States Marine Corps, not DHS, that purchased 2,717 light armored vehicles.
Last year conservative media decried a Justice Department investigation into Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp. as a politically-motivated "abuse of power." But now the company itself has admitted they were probably in violation of the law.
Sheldon Adelson is the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., a casino and resort operating firm. He reportedly spent nearly $150 million to influence the 2012 election via donations to a super PAC allied to Mitt Romney and other outside groups (including Karl Rove's American Crossroads).
During the campaign, Adelson reportedly alleged that he was making such large donations in part because he had been unfairly targeted by the Justice Department, which was investigating whether Sands operations in China had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), an anti-bribery statute. But in its most recent annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Las Vegas Sands Corp. admitted that the company's own audit committee believes there were "likely violations" of that law:
As part of the annual audit of the Company's financial statements, the Audit Committee advised the Company and its independent accountants that it had reached certain preliminary findings, including that there were likely violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions of the FCPA and that in recent years, the Company has improved its practices with respect to books and records and internal controls.
National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre appeared on Fox Business' Varney & Company to falsely claim that a legislative proposal to require a criminal background check on almost every gun sale would create a national gun owner registry and possibly lead to firearm confiscation.
LAPIERRE: It is a huge waste of money. It's going to be selectively enforced. It's going to be abused. And the worst thing, you're creating a registry of all the law-abiding people in the country that own firearms. I know the politicians say, "Hey, we'll never use that list to confiscate." That's a pretty darn tall order to believe a promise from people in this town right now.
The list that LaPierre referenced does not exist and would not be created under a proposal to strengthen the background check system.
In fact, federal law prohibits the creation of a gun owner registry and the proposal to expand background checks would not subject gun buyers to any record-keeping requirements that do not already exist for transactions conducted at a gun store. As gun advocate Dave Kopel explains on the NRA's website, "the Firearms Owners' Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA) ... prohibited the creation of a registry of gun owners."
The FBI, which administers the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), destroys identifying information about gun owners within 24 hours in order to comply with this law.
Under current law, licensed firearm dealers are required retain a copy of the ATF Form 4473, the form used to complete the background check, as a sales receipt. Under legislation proposed to improve the background check system, a federally licensed firearms dealer would oversee firearms transactions between private individuals by running a background check on the purchaser. The 4473 form used in that transaction would be kept in the dealer's records, just as records are kept for individuals who buy from the licensed dealer directly. The current legislative proposal would exempt transfers between immediate family members and temporary transfers for hunting or self-defense from the background check requirement.