Fox News repeatedly claimed that Massachusetts-based Evergreen Solar, which recently filed for bankruptcy and moved production to China, received federal stimulus funds. In fact, the company did not, and analysts say the solar industry in China has boomed largely because of massive government subsidies and a more comprehensive and stable policy framework.
Fox News Falsely Reports That Evergreen Received Federal Stimulus Dollars
Fox News Falsely Reported Evergreen Received "$43 Million In Federal Money." From a report on Evergreen Solar on the August 16 edition of Fox News' America Live:
ELIZABETH MACDONALD: This calls into question the White House's $90 billion stimulus plan to create more clean energy in the United States. And as you noted, Evergreen basically was a company that is in Massachusetts -- laid off 800 workers, took at least $43 million in federal money to help create their solar panels. [Fox News, America Live, 8/16/11]
Fox Falsely Claimed Federal Stimulus Funds “Went To This Company A Few Years Ago.” From the August 16 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
GRETCHEN CARLSON: Evergreen. Ok. Here's what might make you more angry about this whole thing is that stimulus money backed this company in Massachusetts originally and now, 800 people are going to lose their jobs and that company is hightailing it over to China.
CLAYTON MORRIS: Yeah, 800 workers will be laid off as a result of it and because this partnership, this joint venture now between this company and with China, they say they can make these solar panels over there for more affordable, they don't have to worry about the regulation. The state of Massachusetts received about $43 million in stimulus money. Some of that money went to this company a few years ago and look, that's the bottom line here. We've seen a number of these stories and the number of companies who have received stimulus money in this economy and it still wasn't enough to stave off unemployment.
Fox also aired the following on-screen graphic:
[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/16/11]
Fox Falsely Claimed Evergreen Received "$5 Million From Obama Stimulus Dollars." From the August 16 edition of Fox News' The Five:
ANDREA TANTAROS: Another hit for President Obama's economic policy as one more company that accepted millions of taxpayer dollars during the stimulus goes down with absolutely nothing to show for their bailout.
All right, so Greg, Evergreen Solar in Massachusetts took $50 million in subsidiaries and tax breaks from the state of Massachusetts and got at least $5 million from Obama stimulus dollars. Now they're belly up. They had to, I mean, cut 800 jobs. Isn't this just throwing good money after bad? [Fox News, The Five, 8/16/11]
In Fact, Evergreen Solar Received No Federal Money
NY Times: “Evergreen Has Received No Federal Money.” The New York Times reported in January that Evergreen received state assistance from Massachusetts but not federal funds:
Ian A. Bowles, the former energy and environment chief for Gov. Deval L. Patrick, a Democrat who pushed for the solar panel factory to be located in Massachusetts, said the federal government had not helped the American industry enough or done enough to challenge Chinese government subsidies for its industry. Evergreen has received no federal money.
“The federal government has brought a knife to a gun fight,” Mr. Bowles said. “Its support is completely out of proportion to the support displayed by China -- and even to that in Europe.”
Evergreen did not try to go through the long, costly process of obtaining a federal loan because of what it described last summer as signals from the department that its technology was too far along and not in need of research and development assistance. The Energy Department has a policy of not commenting on companies that do not apply. [New York Times, 1/14/11]
Evergreen Received No Recovery Act Funds. A search of recipients of stimulus funds from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides no results for Evergreen Solar. [Recovery.gov, accessed 8/17/11]
China Heavily Subsidizes Its Solar Manufacturers
Evergreen Cited Government Support Of Solar In China In Bankruptcy Filing. The Wall Street Journal reported:
In its Chapter 11 filing, Evergreen cited the difficulty in competing against Chinese solar companies that “receive considerable government and financial support.”
It also blamed reductions in European subsidies for solar installations and what it called the U.S.'s failure to adopt supportive policies.
But while low-cost Chinese competition may have accelerated the collapse of the company's balance sheet, Evergreen also bet on the wrong technology.
Evergreen developed a technology that uses less polysilicon --a material housing small silicon crystals--than its competitors. When the cost of this raw material reached $400 per kilogram in 2008, Evergreen's solar panels were competitive. Evergreen's share price closed at a split-adjusted $108 in January 2008, its highest level in more than seven years. [Wall Street Journal, 8/17/11]
NY Times: China Provides “Heavily Subsidized Land And Loans” For Solar Companies. From a September 2010 New York Times article:
[M]uch of China's clean energy success lies in aggressive government policies that help this crucial export industry in ways most other governments do not. These measures risk breaking international rules to which China and almost all other nations subscribe, according to some trade experts interviewed by The New York Times.
A visit to one of Changsha's newest success stories offers an example of the government's methods. Hunan Sunzone Optoelectronics, a two-year-old company, makes solar panels and ships close to 95 percent of them to Europe. Now it is opening sales offices in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles in preparation for a push into the American market next February.
To help Sunzone, the municipal government transferred to the company 22 acres of valuable urban land close to downtown at a bargain-basement price. That reduced the company's costs and greatly increased its worth and attractiveness to investors.
Meanwhile, a state bank is preparing to lend to the company at a low interest rate, and the provincial government is sweetening the deal by reimbursing the company for most of the interest payments, to help Sunzone double its production capacity.
Heavily subsidized land and loans for an exporter like Sunzone are the rule, not the exception, for clean energy businesses in Changsha and across China, Chinese executives said in interviews over the last three months.
Chinese wind and solar power manufacturers further benefit from the government's imposition of sharp reductions this summer in exports of raw materials, known as rare earths, that are crucial for solar panels and wind turbines. China mines almost all of the world's rare earths. W.T.O. rules ban most export restrictions.
Of course, China's success in clean energy also stems from assets enjoyed by many of the nation's industries: low labor costs, expanding universities that groom lots of engineering talent, inexpensive construction and ever-improving transportation and telecommunications networks.
For example, engineers with freshly issued bachelor's degrees can be found here in Hunan Province for a salary of only about $2,640 a year -- not significantly more than blue-collar workers with vocational school degrees can make. But the fuel propelling clean energy companies in China lies in advantages provided by the government, executives say.
Other countries also try to help their clean energy industries, too, but not to the extent that China does -- and not, so far at least, to the point of potentially running afoul of W.T.O. rules. [New York Times, 9/8/10]
Trade Expert: China Uses “Every Measure You Could Possibly Think Of To Promote Renewables.” From a March 2010 Christian Science Monitor article:
The Chinese government is encouraging domestic companies to learn from, copy, and ultimately supplant foreign producers of 'green tech' renewable-energy technology as it presses forward with its campaign to shift rapidly to noncarbon sources of energy, says a new report commissioned by the Washington-based National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC).
The report finds, too, that China is ordering its large state-owned enterprises to favor Chinese manufacturers in their purchases of energy-related equipment - a policy that if substantiated would violate commitments China made when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
“All countries want to produce green jobs, the US included,” says Alan Wolff, a lead author of the report and a former US trade official. But “what we found in China is phenomenal [government] involvement in solar and wind in particular. They have used every measure you could possibly think of,” he adds, “to promote renewables.” [Christian Science Monitor, 3/15/10]
Report: U.S. Policies Are Not Encouraging Clean Energy Investment. From a recent report by Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisors:
Countries with more 'TLC' - transparency, longevity and certainty - in their climate policy frameworks will attract more investment and will build new, clean industries, technologies and jobs faster than their policy lagging counterparts. This is particularly evident in countries such as Germany and China, who have emerged as global leaders in low carbon technologies and investment in recent years. In stark contrast, a politically divided US Congress and vast budget deficit has resulted in very little significant regulation at the Federal level, with substantial implications for emerging clean technology industries in the US. This climate policy inertia has existed for some time in the US now, with activity on this front largely taking place at the state level. We have long argued that the states must continue to press ahead with climate legislation, but a negative effect of this trend is a patchwork of inconsistent state policies. The net effect is that while Congress stumbles, the US stands to fall behind. [Deutsche Bank, 7/25/11]
China Has Attracted Far More Clean Energy Investment Than The U.S. From a Brookings Institution report:
China now leads the world in clean economy deployment. By the end of 2010 its 103 gigawatts of installed renewable energy generation capacity was more than double that of U.S. installations.
What explains China's success in rapid clean economy build out?
A huge part of the answer has to do with China's ability to channel vast sums of affordable capital into innovative large-scale deployment projects--something that the U.S. continues to struggle with. The numbers speak for themselves. In 2010, China put into place a staggering $54.4 billion in clean energy investments. Of this, asset financing--funding for hard assets like wind farms and solar arrays--accounted for more than $47 billion of the total. By contrast, U.S. private investment in clean energy totaled $34 billion, with just $21 billion or so in asset finance. Now the gap is widening further, with Chinese asset finance investment in Q1 2011 clocking in $10.9 billion as compared to just $2 billion in the United States.
What is China's secret in ensuring deployment finance? China has been inordinately successful in mobilizing large volumes of low-cost capital through its state-owned banks and other financial institutions. Clean energy projects have received preferential access to bank loans at interest rates far below what is available in other countries. Moreover, state-owned enterprises, especially the “Big Five” power companies, have been major investors across a broad range of energy conservation, pollution control, and renewable energy projects. For instance, China Guodian Corporation--one of the Big Five--recently announced a plan to invest $3 billion over the next five years in a variety of clean energy projects, including thermal, wind, natural gas, and biomass power stations in southwest China.
But that is only part of the story. Critical to China's success is its articulation of a comprehensive and long-term state clean energy build out policy that sends clear signals to investors. Through its 12th Five Year Plan, China has identified “new energy” as one among seven “strategic emerging industries” and will invest $760 billion over the next 10 years in this sector alone. A range of complementary policies will guide these investment decisions, including the Renewable Energy Law, national demand-side management regulations, and pilot carbon taxes, among others. China has swiftly made itself a clean energy power, in large part by ensuring the availability of copious, affordable capital at a time it has been short in the United States.
The report also included the following chart:
[The Brookings Institution, 2011]
Fox Concludes Solar Energy “Doesn't Work” And Green Tech Incentives Are A Waste
Fox News: Solar “Doesn't Work.” From Fox News' The Five:
GREG GUTFELD: Here's the thing, every sensible person knows that solar is about as effective as energy as I am at reaching things from a high shelf. It doesn't work. We have known that, and it's this complete fantasy to think at some point we'll harness the power of the sun and all of our problems will go away. It's not going to happen.
ERIC BOLLING, FOX NEWS HOST: Jeffrey Immelt, remember when they sold this stuff to us and said you have to invest in your green technology otherwise the Chinese are going to eat our lunch. So we do. Look what happens. The Chinese eat our lunch anyway. You're right, Andrea, it's a $50 million waste of money, taxpayer money down the tubes, another $5 million. [Fox News, The Five, 8/16/11]
Solar Industry Is Fastest-Growing Energy Sector In U.S. From USA Today:
The U.S. solar power market grew a record 67% last year, making it the fastest-growing energy sector, the industry reports Thursday.
Its market share jumped from $3.6 billion in 2009 to $6 billion in 2010, helped by federal tax credits and declining technology costs, according to a report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research.
Enough solar power was installed last year to power about 200,000 homes, the report says, noting that more than 65,000 homes and businesses added solar water or pool heating systems. In particular, the photovoltaics or solar panel part of the market soared most, more than doubling from 2009.
The solar market diversified last year as 16 states installed more than 10 megawatts of photovoltaics (PV) each last year, up from four states that did so in 2007. The top 10 states for PV installation in 2010 were: California; New Jersey; Nevada; Arizona; Colorado; Pennsylvania; New Mexico; Florida; North Carolina; Texas.
The report says the annual cost of these PV systems fell 8% in the residential market and 11% in the commercial one. [USA Today, 3/10/11]