On an average yearly basis, renewables represent a small fraction of the total government investments in the energy sector (O&G is Oil & Gas)
Can you write a 2300-word article trashing clean energy subsidies that is so utterly devoid of crucial context for the readers that it
- Ignores the vast, documented benefits of clean energy
- Never discusses the large cost of dirty energy to human health
- Never compares clean energy subsidies to dirty energy ones
- Never compares U.S. clean energy subsidies to those of China, Germany and other countries.
- Ignores climate change (yet again)
- Utterly misunderstands the difference between a loan guarantee and a direct subsidy, among myriad other basic blunders?
You can if you are Eric Lipton and Clifford Krauss of the New York Times. Their Friday piece “A Gold Rush of Subsidies in Clean Energy Search” joins the pantheon of recent one-sided, error-riddled, climate-free NYT pieces attacking clean energy or promoting dirty energy — see The NY Times Abandons the Story of the Century and Joins the Energy and Climate Ignorati.
The story is truly context free. Again, you’d never know that the top U.S. economists (center-right non-environmentalists, just like the NYT editors appear to be) have provided a strong justification for clean energy subsidies — see Economics Stunner: “Oil and Coal-Fired Power Plants Have Air Pollution Damages Larger Than Their Value Added”; Natural Gas Damage Larger Than Its Value Added For Even Low CO2 Prices. So have public health experts (see Life-cycle study : Accounting for total harm from coal would add “close to 17.8¢/kWh of electricity generated”).
NOTE: The lead author of that last study was Dr. Paul Epstein, associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. My old friend Hunter Lovins just tweeted, “Very sad loss: my friend Paul Epstein has died. World’s foremost expert on health impacts of global warming. Damn…. The world needed him.” Paul was a compassionate visionary. The world did need him, since his message about the health impacts of climate change obviously has not reached all the people who need to hear it.
You’d never know that China provides vastly more subsidies for clean energy (see “Solar Trade War?“). Again, in late October, the Times published an article titled, “China Takes a Loss to Get Ahead in the Business of Fresh Water.” But apparently the editors seem to think that only China should invest in emerging industries that are going to be massive job creators in the coming years. For New York Times editors, China’s short-term losses to achieve long-term gains are smart business but America’s are boondoggles.
Other than a couple of brief quotes by clean energy advocates, the only accurate part of the story is the analogy to gold rush. Clean energy is indeed gold.
Every NY Times reporter and editor should have this excerpt from the recent International Energy Agency report on their desk:
“… we are on an even more dangerous track to an increase of 6°C [11°F]…. Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.”
Where on Earth can you get a return on investment like that? Ideally we would have a price on global warming pollution, but failing that it’s obvious that our problem isn’t that subsidies for clean energy are too high, but that they are far, far too low.
As for debunking the myriad errors in this piece, NRG Energy, the major victim of the Times’ egregious reporting, has taken the unusual step of issuing a major rebuttal, which I repost below: