This year saw clean energy technologies become cost-competitive with fossil fuels and gain prominence worldwide. The fossil fuel industry, desperate to stymie clean energy's continuing expansion, enlisted conservative media to do their bidding and attack clean technologies in every shape and form. From stoking fears about public transit being a form of “government control,” to providing one-sided stories falsely predicting clean energy's downfall, here are the media's six most absurd attacks on clean energy this year.
1. 60 Minutes Produces “Poor Piece Of Journalism” To Attack Clean Energy
In January, CBS' 60 Minutes aired a report titled, “The Cleantech Crash,” which attempted to label clean energy a “dirty word.” The report was widely criticized by reporters, government officials, and clean energy advocates alike for offering a one-sided look at renewable energy and narrowly focusing on a few failures while ignoring the majority of clean energy's success. Two of the guests interviewed in the report later criticized it for selectively airing their comments to provide an overly negative portrait of the industy and for “fail[ing] to do the most elementary fact checking and source qualification.”
Further, the report made no mention of climate change, which as energy reporter Dana Hull pointed out is “the whole point of cleantech, after all: using the promise of technology and innovation to try to wean our economy off of fossil fuels.”
2. Fox News Warns That DOE's Clean Energy Program Picks “Losers,” Threatens Taxpayers
Fox News flipped the success of the Department of Energy's (DOE) clean energy loan guarantee program, despite its impressive track record of funding successful clean energy ventures, to warn that it picks “losers.” Responding to the news that the DOE was going to re-vamp its clean energy loan program for clean vehicle technology, Fox's Stuart Varney warned, “they're not reversing course at the sight of failure, they're actually speeding up down the same road.”
While the clean energy program is overwhelmingly successful, with a higher success rate than most venture capitalists, it is overwhelmingly discussed in the context of its very few failures. Fox News took its scandal-mongering one step further, warning that the car companies that have received the DOE's loan pose a “risk” to taxpayers' wallets - even though the loan program has actually turned a profit.
3. Limbaugh: Government Uses Mass Transit To “Totally Control The Movement Of The Population.” On the March 18 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, Rush Limbaugh derided the expansion of a commuter train in California and promoted the conspiracy theory that public transportation is just another way for government to attain “total control” of the population. Rush stated: “Mass transit is total control. It is the way the government can totally control the movement of the population.”
4. Fox Pushes False Analogy In Dishonest Attack On Solar Industry. In an attempt to depict solar energy as bad for the economy, Fox News co-host Steve Doocy made a false analogy between Yuma, Arizona -- home to the country's largest solar power plant -- and Midland, North Dakota, which is seeing a boom in hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, or “fracking.” Doocy contrasted their employment rates to imply that the Arizona city's decision to pursue solar was at the root of its economic troubles.
But the two cities have completely different economic bases and industries. The Texas town's recent economic successwas largely attributed to the “West Texas oil boom,” while the state of Arizona has “only minor crude oil production from less than two dozen wells” and “fewer than half a dozen producing wells” tapping reserves of natural gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Yuma's economy is largely seasonal -- dependent on agriculture and tourism -- so its seemingly high unemployment rates are “artificially increase[d]” almost two times over. And Yuma's solar facility is widely seen as an “overall success.”
5. Fox Hypocritically Attacks Apple's Sustainability Efforts. Despite Fox News' staunch praise of the free market as a solution for climate change, the network attacked Apple CEO Tim Cook for maintaining the company's sustainability initiatives. When Cook defended Apple's efforts to power “all Apple corporate offices, retail stores, and data centers entirely with energy from renewable sources” at a shareholder meeting, figures on both Fox News and Fox Businessberated it as putting "ideology ahead of the shareholders" and "politics before profits." Fox host Sean Hannity subsequently announced he would be selling his stock in the company.
Yet these hosts were at odds with their own parent company, 21st Century Fox, which has touted its Global Energy Initiative and its milestone of “becom[ing] carbon neutral” across all of its global operations. The company has often highlighted its sustainability efforts with Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, among other companies.
6. Breitbart.com Twists Google's Words To Label Renewable Energy “A Total Fail.” When Google engineers decided to drop a renewable energy project, conservative media jumped on the opportunity to bash renewables as a whole. The company's RE<C initiative aimed to make existing renewable technologies cost-competitive with fossil fuels, but decided to retire the project to focus on supporting renewable energy in other ways. But Breitbart twisted the decision to claim that renewable energy is a “total fail” in an article headlined: “Renewable energy: so useless, even greenie Google gave up on it,” though it now appears the original article has been taken down. Breitbart's James Delingpole asserted that Google's research department “reached the same conclusion” that renewable energy is “an alternative to energy that actually works.”
In a long essay at IEEE Spectrum, two Google engineers on the project -- Ross Koningstein and David Fork -- explain the thinking behind the closure. It's not that Google has given up on renewable energy. (The company still spends many millions of dollars buying wind energy for its servers.) Partly it's that they simply weren't on track to achieve their specific goals.
But, more interestingly, the project also made the engineers realize that their original clean-energy goal wasn't nearly ambitious enough.
The engineers concluded that “truly disruptive technologies are what our planet needs.”