You would think CBS’s 60 Minutes would have learned from its recent Bengazi debacle, but apparently not - evidenced by this Sunday’s extremely poor and inaccurate report, this time on the Cleantech Industry.
After being pleasantly surprised that 60 Minutes would begin 2014 with a segment on Cleantech, it immediately became clear that the only purpose of the “Cleantech Crash” was to bash the industry.
With a tone that was negative from the start, reporter Leslie Stahl (who often seems to have a superficial understanding of the topics) quickly listed all the company failures of the now infamous Department of Energy (DOE) loan program.
Yes, out of nowhere, she brought Solyndra back from the grave! Then she ticked off the dozen or so other companies that met similar fates, such as A123 Systems, Fisker Automotive, Ener1, and Ecotality. ”I’m exhausted,” she said, after finishing her list!
Her main point: taxpayers have little to show for cleantech investments and there really isn’t much to the industry at all.
Wrong, wrong, wrong! This shockingly inaccurate portrayal couldn’t be farther from the truth, but that’s what 60 Minutes apparently wants Americans to believe.
Just as we’re not experts on what happened in Bengazi, most people aren’t aware of how cleantech is progressing – other than what they hear in the media.
Fact: DOE’s $34.4 billion portfolio of loan guarantees has been extremely successful in ramping up the US renewable energy and electric vehicle industries. The FACT is only 3% of loan guarantee recipients failed, said Jonathan Silver, who headed DOE’s program, in a testimony to Congress.
“The vast majority of companies are expected to pay the loans back in full, on time and with about $8 billion in interest – while supporting 60,000 American jobs and helping us compete in a rapidly growing global industry,” DOE Secretary Chu said at the time of a White House-ordered review of the program.
And how about highlighting the program’s successes? Stahl mentioned Tesla, but what about the enormous utility-scale solar plants that are now producing energy in West? They received loans much bigger than Solyndra.
“Pundits in search of stories focus on repeating a few well-publicized, politicized and probably predictable failures, like Solyndra and A123,” says venture capital leader Vinod Khosla, who was interviewed in the segment. Somehow Stahl managed to make Khosla look bad too with constant provocations about his ‘silly’ investments.
But most importantly, there’s a lot more to the cleantech industry than this one DOE program!
“In addition to the strong performance of many companies, such as SolarCity and Tesla, recent acquisitions and the breadth of private companies generating material revenue is impressive,” noted Sheeraz Haji, Cleantech Group CEO, this past summer.
It’s curious that 60 Minutes chose to resurrect the Bengazi and Solyndra stories, both of which Republicans have relied on to make the Obama administration appear incompetent. 60 Minutes is challenging Americans to believe the Republican line that Obama’s “green agenda is an affront to the economy.”
After decades of superbly objective reporting and holding the trust of Americans as no other news program has, it appears that 60 Minutes is also giving in to sensationalist reports that have little relationship to the facts.