Last month, 60 Minutes aired a segment where one of the program’s anchors, Lesley Stahl, tried to make the case that clean technology and renewable energy were “dead.” In her report, Stahl makes a number of claims about the energy industry and the future of renewables that have been proven false by a number of other news organizations.
To begin with, demand for renewable energy is at an all-time high, and continues to grow year in and year out. As RenewableEnergyWorld.com notes, renewables, including California solar power, provided 19 percent of global energy consumption in 2011, the latest year for which such data is currently available.
In addition, it should be made clear that solar energy in particular, which was a special target in the 60 Minutes segment, has been thriving over the last decade and continues to grow at an exponential pace. The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that 2013 was a record breaking year for solar installation in the United States and 2014 promises to be even better.
Additionally, California added more solar energy in 2013 than it had in the previous 30 years combined. None of these facts sound like symptoms of an industry that is dying.
Furthermore, the 60 Minutes report gets a number of smaller facts wrong, including its description of Vinod Khosla, a venture capitalist featured heavily in the segment. Khosla is held up as an example of an investor who lost faith in renewable energy after having plowed over a $1 billion into the industry and seeing no returns.
However, Khosla himself has published an open letter to CBS claiming that the network got the facts completely wrong: Not only has he invested nowhere near $1 billion, he has seen a solid return from his interests and will continue supporting the renewable energy sector.
It’s not known why 60 Minutes and Stahl got so many facts wrong, nor why they pushed an agenda that is firmly against the expansion of renewables. However, it’s indicative of the continued struggle that the solar industry faces to demonstrate its importance for achieving renewable energy goals.
It’s important for clean technology advocates to enumerate the benefits of solar power, which include lower pollution levels, job creation and improved finances for both households and businesses.