If 2012 was the year of Solyndra, then 2013 was the year of Tesla, whose initial success has encapsulated the potential of clean energy. The electric automaker received a loan from the same overarching program as Solyndra, the bankrupt solar company that became the target of political attacks, but it turned a profit and became the poster child for clean energy subsidies. This confounded conservative media, who alternated between praising Tesla while denying or ignoring its federal loan, and putting it down just days later.
In addition to the more traditional targets -- electric cars like Tesla's, solar (allegedly “tanking the economy”) and wind energy (supposedly causing “devastating” health effects) -- this year conservative media reached so far right as to go after energy efficiency and bike-share programs. We collected some of the worst attacks from conservative media against clean energy technology during 2013.
1. Fox Business Reporter: Germany's Solar Industry Better Than U.S.'s Because “They've Got A Lot More Sun Than We Do.” In February, Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson pushed the claim that the solar industry's future in the United States “looks dim.” Fox Business reporter Shibani Joshi then compared the state of the U.S. solar industry to that of Germany, saying that Germans enjoy more success because “they've got a lot more sun than we do.” Joshi added that “In California, it's a great solution, but here on the East Coast it's just not going to work.” After her comments were widely derided since the U.S. actually has much greater solar potential than Germany even on the East Coast, Joshi was forced to issue an online correction. The U.S. solar industry is on track to outpace Germany's solar industry this year for the “first time in more than fifteen years,” according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
2. After Electric Automaker Tesla Becomes A Success, Fox Forgets Its Federal Loan. Fox News and Fox Business hosts and pundits alike attacked Tesla Motors after the green technology company received federal loans to begin to produce electric automobiles. Once Tesla turned a profit, however, these conservative media figures developed amnesia about the company's federal loan, even trying to use the company to dismiss the need for clean energy subsidies.
3. Bill O'Reilly Smears Tesla, Falsely Claims It Had Net Losses. Fox News aired mixed messages about Tesla, offering the company praise and then disparaging it, all within the same week. Host Bill O'Reilly called the company a failure and claimed that it posted net losses. O'Reilly's statement, however, was untrue. In fact, just days earlier, Fox News had heralded Tesla as a "success story" after the company turned a profit.
4. WSJ Editorial Board Member: New York City's Bike Share Program Part Of “Totalitarian” Plot. With a straight face, Wall Street Journal Editorial Board member Dorothy Rabinowitz said that bicyclists were the “most important danger” facing New York City, and raged against bike share programs that are pursued by the “all powerful” “bike lobby” emboldened by “totalitarians.” She emphasizes that “the city is helpless” before the driven ambitions of its “autocratic” mayor. Rabinowitz's overly hyped attack of a bike-share program attracted criticism, notably from Comedy Central's The Daily Show. However, Rabinowitz stuck by her attack, saying the bike racks are "instruments of aesthetic torture" and told a bicyclist who asked her a question to instead ask "the therapist we hope this biker is consulting."
5. Fox News: Wind Turbines May Cause “Devastating” Health Effects. Fox News did not shy away from reporting on easily debunked allegations as if they were true, namely that clean energy was responsible for causing the dubiously named Wind Turbine Syndrome among a handful of residents in a small Massachusetts town. In February, Fox News hyped the “devastating” effects of wind turbines on a few residents in Falmouth, Mass. For all of Fox's reporting on the horrors of Wind Turbine Syndrome, the outlet failed to note that no evidence supports that this condition even exists, and multiple studies have suggested that the array of health effects may simply be an effect of hypochondria. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection even concluded in 2012 that “There is no evidence for a set of health effects from exposure to wind turbines.”
6. Right-Wing Media Falsely Claim Energy Efficiency Responsible For Super Bowl Blackout. When the lights went out inside the Super Bowl, fans and television personalities alike were initially baffled. The Drudge Report and conservative media figures on Fox News were quick to spin their own narrative about why the blackout occurred, blaming the energy efficient LED lighting outside of the stadium, despite the fact that the LED lights outside the stadium never went out.
7. Fox News: Solar Power “Might Be Tanking Our Economy.” In February Fox News hosts used the misfortune of one solar company to admonish the entire solar industry, going so far as to say that this sector is “tanking our economy,” despite the fact that solar actually has helped to grow the U.S. economy. After California-based solar panel company, SoloPower, laid off employees and had trouble meetings requirements for its federal loan guarantee, Fox News hosts surmised that the solar industry and the nation's entire economy was in peril as a result. However, solar industry jobs have grown in recent years, and dropping prices are driving record installations.
8. When Fox Couldn't Point To Actual Facts To Smear Tesla, They Made Some Up. In May, Fox Business reporter Elizabeth MacDonald was thinking on her feet when making disparaging comments about Tesla Motors. She claimed that the Tesla Model S “conks out after about 16 miles,” when in fact the car's battery boasts a battery range of 265 miles, making it the longest-range electric automobile battery on the market at the time. The next day she said that she “gave incomplete information,” suggesting she was referring to the range if you charged the car for only half an hour using a mobile connector.