A Look Back At The Clean Energy Companies Fox Declared “Failed”

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.

Congress created the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program in 2007 and the 1705 loan guarantee program in 2009 to help clean energy companies avoid the “Commercialization Valley of Death,” wherein companies with promising but risky new technologies find it impossible to find financing for large-scale projects. Not every company was expected to succeed, which is why Congress set aside money to cover any losses. Those budgeted losses are higher than current losses in the 1705 program and far higher than the amount that may be lost if Fisker, an electric carmaker currently experiencing troubles, files for bankruptcy and taxpayers do not recover any of its assets.

Media Matters Graph: Losses Below What Congress Anticipated