On Sunday, January 5th the venerable TV news magazine 60 Minutes aired a segment called the Cleantech Crash. According to the report, the billions of dollars of government money poured into clean energy has essential come to nothing – or very little at best.
Really? At best the reportage from 60 Minutes was narrow and shallow, misrepresenting the real progress in clean energy development. At worst it represents the sort of biased, agenda-driven pablum that is the hallmark of the likes of Fox News – journalism be damned.
Leslie Stahl appeared intent in focusing on the failures, starting with Solyndra, the poster child of cleantech naysayers, which failed several years ago. That’s just lazy. The fact is that three out of four startups in any sector fail. Stahl gave only a half-hearted effort to point to any successful cleantech ventures with what writer Dana Hull called a “token throw away line about Tesla Motors.”
Stahl apparently didn’t think it important to tell her viewers that the Department of Energy (DOE) Loan Guarantee Program has a 97 percent success rate. Hull reports that Jonathan Silver, who formally directed the DOE loan program, spoke to the segment’s producer for over an hour in preparation for the piece. On Monday, after Cleantech Crash aired, Silver tweeted about his conversation with the producer, saying that “facts did not seem to affect his analysis.”
A U.S. Department of Energy report entitled Revolution Now , published last fall, outlines four “technology revolutions that are here today,” including onshore wind, PV solar, LED lighting and electric vehicles.
In the last five years they have achieved dramatic reductions in cost1 and this has been accompanied by a surge in consumer, industrial and commercial deployment. Although these four technologies still represent a small percentage of their total market (e.g. electricity, cars and lighting), they are growing rapidly.
A big part of the success of these revolutions comes from state and federal incentives.
One can only speculate why 60 Minutes chose to misrepresent the Cleantech sector so egregiously. Clearly they have the resources and expertise to provide sound journalism. Instead they ignored the whole truth in favor of a slanted, misleading report on one of the most promising sectors in the American economy.