After its well-publicized failure to report the truth about the attack on our Benghazi consulate, one would expect that CBS, particularly its 60 Minutes crew, would be careful to assure accuracy in future reports.
Yet, this past Sunday, just 10 weeks after its Benghazi debacle, 60 Minutes failed again.
In attempting to uncover government waste on the part of the Obama administration’s clean energy loan program, Leslie Stahl displayed her apparent bias and ignorance of the subject. Under the label “clean tech,” she conflated high-tech companies with clean energy companies. (Not every clean energy alternative is high tech.) She also conflated the failure of venture capital-backed start-ups with the failure of companies receiving federally-backed loans. In doing so, she implied that a majority of loans to clean energy companies were lost. She also implied that clean energy is a fool’s errand.
Further, Stahl failed to provide real context for her story.
She failed to report that when a federally-backed company fails it doesn’t always default on the loans. That’s because the loans are often recovered through the sale of assests. She failed to report the failure rate of federally-backed loans which, according to congressional testimony by the former head of the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program, is less than 3 percent. She failed to report that the loans to Solyndra began during the Bush administration. She failed to report that even companies that fail often create products and technologies that eventually benefit us all. She failed to report that, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, 2013 was a huge success. She failed to mention that nine states now get 10 percent or more of their electricity from wind and solar; that wind is now the dominant energy source in Spain; that solar and wind compete head-to-head with coal in places like South Africa.
Stahl also failed to report that approximately three-quarters of all venture capital-backed businesses fail. That’s across all industries. Not just in the clean energy sector. She didn’t recognize the ecological consequences of making fuel from trees (one of the “clean tech” start-ups she covered in her story). She failed to report the ecological consequences of basing our future on oil, most especially tar sands oil. More important, she failed to report the staggering amount of money that the federal government gives to the carbon-based energy sector with no expectation of repayment (estimates range from $14 billion to $52 billion annually).
Stahl suggests that taxpayers should expect more from our government than failures such as Solyndra (which was a superior technology that failed primarily because of our long-standing trade policies with China).
I’d suggest that we should expect better…much better…from Leslie Stahl and 60 Minutes.