Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Any jackass can kick down the barn

Just like I grew out of My Weekly Reader in fourth grade, I grew out of CBS news in 1982.  Television is a damn inefficient way to get news anyway and after a couple of years of the Reagan administration, I had come to the conclusion that I could do without the cheap sensationalism, the sloppy reporting, and the historical illiteracy of the so-called Tiffany Network's "news" department.  So I am not especially surprised to learn that even by the degraded standards of CBS, they are breaking new records for bullshit "journalism."

I wouldn't even bother to comment on their latest efforts except that Sunday night, they decided to trash the subject of clean / green tech.  Regular readers of this blog know this subject is near and dear to my heart—mostly because I absolutely believe that we simply cannot solve the big problems like climate change and the end of the Petroleum Age without $trillions of investment in new and improved infrastructure.  Fixing these problems will require massive amounts of hard work, inventive genius, and a tight embrace of the Instinct of Workmanship.  Even then, solving such massive problems will be a close thing.

What we absolutely do NOT need is a bunch of cheap sensationalistic mouth-breathers telling us that because this will be hard and there will be setbacks, we should not even try.  Even worse, we just saw a major "news" organization claim that the very methods this country used to industrialize in the first place should no longer be tried because industrial capitalism is not politically respectable in today's world of Leisure Class uselessness.  Industrialization made us rich in the first place but according to CBS, this sort of wealth through hard work is no longer respectable.  Garbage thinking from garbage people!

‘60 Minutes’ Does It Again

Zoë Carpenter on January 6, 2014

“I’m exhausted,” claimed 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl on Sunday, as she ticked off a list of clean energy companies that have failed in recent years.

What’s really getting exhausting is the amount of shoddy reporting that has aired on CBS’s 60 Minutes in recent weeks, from a retracted account of the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi to segments on the National Security Agency and Amazon’s drones that were more infomercial than news.

The latest hack job is “Cleantech Crash,” a report on the green technology sector. Stahl claims that cleantech has become “a dirty word,” and highlights a handful of failed companies to suggest that private and public investment in renewables has led to “ a string of expensive tax-funded flops.” The report is anecdotal, and ignores key evidence in favor of handwringing about wasted taxpayer dollars.

First, some background. In 2009 the Department of Energy created a loan guarantee program to jumpstart the renewable energy industry. Part of the stimulus package, the program consisted of a $32.4 billion portfolio that included solar, wind, geothermal and other projects in twenty states.

Part of the problem with the 60 Minutes report is that it conflated this federal investment in green energy with venture capital. These stories are linked, but ultimately separate. It’s true that venture capitalists have suffered big losses in cleantech. The government’s record, however, is far better than 60 Minutes portrayed.

In fact, the loan guarantee program has been roughly 98 percent successful, while failed companies like the one that Stahl focused on represent approximately 2 percent of the total loan portfolio, according to a DOE official who spoke to The Nation on background. Several independent reviews have concluded that the gains of the loan guarantee program far outweigh the cost to taxpayers. But Stahl gave virtually no consideration to the program’s successes other than a mention of Tesla, the electric car company. Tesla is exceptional because it has paid back the government in full; most of the loans were designed to be long-term, and the fact that they have not been repayed is expected.

60 Minutes also failed to consider that when it comes to the loan program, success depends on more than the fate of individual companies. As Joe Romm points out at ThinkProgress, the program wasn’t designed as a profit-making enterprise for the government. In fact, Congress anticipated losses, and appropriated $10 billion to cover them. The cost so far is estimated to be far less that lawmakers planned, at only $3 billion.

What the loans were meant to do was spur further investment in the cleantech sector, to make renewables more competitive and diversify the energy supply, and to stimulate the economy. On those grounds, the program seems to have been a success. Some $13 billion was invested in solar projects alone last year, ten times the level of investment in 2007. Solar panels are 75 percent cheaper than they were in 2008, and the number of installations is up tenfold. In 2012, renewables accounted for half of all new electricity generation capacity; wind installations alone generated more capacity than oil and natural gas.

60 Minutes reported that the program failed to create jobs. “Everything I’ve read there were not that many jobs created,” said Stahl. Actually, the DOE estimates that the program is responsible for 55,000 direct jobs to date, and tens of thousands of indirect positions. For comparison, the State Department estimates that 3,900 temporary jobs would be created by greenlighting the Keystone XL pipeline, and only thirty-five permanent positions. The domestic renewable sector as a whole contributed 110,000 jobs in 2012, according to the American Council on Renewable Energy.

There are plenty of other strange elements to the report, such as the absence of any mention of climate change, and Stahl’s statement, “There’s something that just doesn’t feel right about a Chinese company coming in and scooping it all up after the taxpayers put so much money into it.” Another omission is the vast disparity between the subsidies doled out to fossil fuel and green tech corporations: between 2002 and 2007, companies that generate electricity from fossil fuels received four times as much federal money as green utilities.

“Simply put, 60 Minutes is flat wrong on the facts,” DOE spokesman Bill Gibbons said in a statement. “The clean energy economy in America is real and we are increasingly competitive in this rapidly-expanding global industry. This is a race we can, must, and will win.” more
Thank goodness, genius and hard work has been remarkably successful, no matter what Leslie Stahl says.

60 Minutes Show On Cleantech Looks Like Its Going To Be “Dumb & Dumber Part 3″ (+13 Charts)

Note: if you do nothing else, be sure to jump down to the bottom and take a look at the 13 cleantech charts 60 Minutes seems to have missed.

Granted, I haven’t watched the show yet (it hasn’t aired yet), but I just watched the horrible preview, and the title is “The Cleantech Crash.” Oy, someone hasn’t been reading CleanTechnica, or keeping up to date at all with what is actually happening in the world of cleantech.

I’ll start with some information that a representative of ACORE — who just informed me about the 60 minutes show — sent along (which actually happens to reference one of my articles):

60 Minutes thinks Clean Tech is dead. Here’s why they’re dead wrong:

#1: The government’s investment in clean tech was a success.

FACT: The Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program actually has a 97% success rate.

Solyndra, Abound Solar and others represent just 3% of DOE’s entire portfolio. (Source: Department of Energy)

FACT: This past year, an estimated $13 billion was invested in solar projects in the US, a tenfold increase since 2007.

Solar stocks are up too – SolarCity is currently valued at approximately $4.9 billion. (Source: New York Times)

#2: America’s “Green Collar” jobs are thriving.

Fact: The DOE Loan Guarantee Program created over 55,000 direct jobs in everything from wind energy to biofuels to electric vehicles.

The Ivanpah solar thermal energy project alone created over 1000 jobs. (Source: Department of Energy)

Fact: In Q3 of 2013, 80 new clean energy and clean transportation projects were announced, creating more than 15,000 jobs.
Renewable power generation was among the top sectors for job creation in Q3 of 2013. (Source: CleanEnergyWorks4Us)

#3: The U.S. is moving toward a clean energy future at record pace.

Fact: Renewables were the largest source of new US electricity capacity in 2012, providing over 49% of all new generation capacity.

Wind energy installations alone proved to be the largest single new generation technology in the U.S. in 2012, outpacing even natural gas. (Source: FERC)

Fact: From January to October of 2013, all-electric vehicle sales were up 448% year-on-year.

For 100% electric vehicles, 2013 saw 33,617 sales from Jan.-Oct. vs 6,135 during the same period in 2012. (Source: EVObsession)


Thanks to ACORE for the great pre-emptive, and for using one of my articles for that! (That would be the last article, on EV sales growth.)

Really, you have to be completely out of touch with what is happening in US and global cleantech markets in order to focus on the industry in the way 60 Minutes is doing so. Frankly, it’s depressing and makes me feel ashamed of American mass media. (Even more so than before.) more including excellent charts


  1. The President of CBS News is David Rhodes. He was hired in February 2011. He was formerly the Vice President of News at Fox "News".

    1. Thanks for the heads-up.

      Before I posted this, I called a friend who once worked for the owned and operated CBS station in Minneapolis. He gave me the lowdown on Rhodes. Sounds like a real meathead. It actually requires some twisted talents to make CBS worse than it got during the Reagan years by apparently, this Rhodes has actually managed to pull it off.

      To get to a green society, we are actually going to need some of the more enlightened forms of industrial capitalism. What kills me about this greentech bashing is that folks who were jumping up and down with excitement during the dotcom days, cannot wrap their heads around the idea that getting rid of fire will provide enormous opportunities to get rich. So what we are seeing here is pure Leisure Class mindlessness—folks who actually invested in cannot see the potential value in graphene-based supercapacitors.