This week Fox & Friends displayed a graphic purportedly showing the Obama administration's “failed” clean energy investments. But most of the companies they listed have not actually failed. Among the handful that have declared bankruptcy, most of the projects supported by federal funding are still up and running. In addition, several companies on the list have sold the government-backed projects to other firms, and one didn't actually receive federal funds.
Fox even included the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a government-owned research center that expanded with Obama's stimulus funds and is now reducing its workforce due to budget cuts of the sort that Republicans favor.
In an effort to portray clean energy investments as wasteful, Fox is predictably hiding the denominator. By our calculation, there have been 1,460 awards under the grant, tax credit, and loan guarantee programs that assisted the projects on Fox's list. That makes these 16 just 1% of those investments. (That's not even including Evergreen Solar -- under which you would have to count any green energy company that has received state-level assistance.)
What Fox and others consistently fail to mention is that 87% of the clean energy loan guarantee portfolio is low-risk. In fact, Fox included several projects that have almost no risk of default. The Nevada Geothermal Project and the projects formerly owned by SunPower and First Solar are all electricity generation projects that are unlikely to cost taxpayers money because the Department of Energy required them to secure a buyer before receiving a loan guarantee.
Fox is cherry-picking companies that have had any type of financial struggle - hardly surprising given this economic environment and the market failures that hinder clean energy deployment. But the ultimate question is not whether every investment will succeed, but whether clean energy is worth investing in. Until recently, lawmakers across the political spectrum agreed the benefits of these investments are worth the risk that not every project would succeed. That's why Congress created and funded these programs.
Clean energy investments are all the more important given the current spike in gasoline prices. Fox has been covering gas prices incessantly for the past couple of months, but they're missing the root of the problem: Price spikes hurt us because we consume too much oil. You don't have to take it from us:
In the long run, the solution is to reduce demand for oil by promoting alternative energy technologies. My administration has worked with Congress to invest in gas-saving technologies like advanced batteries and hydrogen fuel cells. We've mandated a large expansion in the use of alternative fuels. We've raised fuel efficiency standards to ambitious new levels. With all these steps, we are bringing America closer to the day when we can end our addiction to oil, which will allow us to become better stewards of the environment. -President George W. Bush, June 18, 2008
Jill Fitzsimmons contributed to this post.