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Joe Romm Rebuts Wired Story Attacking Cleantech

2 min. read

There's a new story at Wired Magazine, dramatically - but misleadingly - entitled "Why the Clean Tech Boom Went Bust."  In addition to the misleading title, the article also comes with not-particularly-subtle images of a wind turbine and a container of biodiesel on fire and spewing smoke. As for the article itself, the tone is most definitely not optimistic:

Anyone who has heard the name Solyndra knows how this all panned out. Due to a confluence of factors—including fluctuating silicon prices, newly cheap natural gas, the 2008 financial crisis, China’s ascendant solar industry, and certain technological realities—the clean-tech bubble has burst, leaving us with a traditional energy infrastructure still overwhelmingly reliant on fossil fuels. The fallout has hit almost every niche in the clean-tech sector—wind, biofuels, electric cars, and fuel cells—but none more dramatically than solar.

In fact, about the most enthusiasm this article can manage to summon up for clean energy is that it "is far from dead" -- not exactly a ringing endorsement. Even worse, the article spends much of its time talking about one specific company with its own specific business model and its own specific reason for going bankrupt. That company is Solyndra, and despite reams of ink being spilled covering its demise, there's still no indication that it's indicative of some sort of systemic problem in solar, or in cleantech, generally. Yet the Wired article uses Solyndra as its prime example to prove its point, that (supposedly) "the clean-tech bubble has burst."

There's only one problem with this argument, and with the article in general. It's not true. As Joe Romm of  Climate Progress explains, in a detailed, point-by-point rebuttal, "The story simply doesn’t justify the headline." Instead, Romm believes, "the magazine itself clearly wanted a sensationalistic headline — and even more sensationalistic photo — to get eyeballs in this highly competitive media environment." Romm proceeds to - as he puts it - "debunk [the] absurd hit-job on solar and wind power."  Here's an excerpt:

You’d never know from the Wired piece that in 2010, America was a net exporter of $1.9 billion in solar products.   You’d never know that the U.S. solar industry grew 100% in 2010 and another 100% in 2011, making  it perhaps the “fastest growing” industry in America.

How does Wired make the case that the solar industry is a bust when there are ”over 100,000 Americans are working in the solar Industry.”

We recommend that you read the entire piece by Joe Romm. We''d also mention that the U.S. Energy Information Admninistration (EIA), yesterday, put out its latest long-term energy outlook for the United States, and the forecast for solar and wind were about as far from the Wired article as can be.

For instance, according to EIA, "Non-hydro renewable sources more than double between 2010 and 2035," with "Renewables and natural gas fuel [making up] a growing share of electric power generation" during that period.  Far from being the sign of an industry in its death throes, the EIA forecast indicates that cleantech will be thriving for decades to come, long after sensationalistic articles about its supposed demise have been completely forgotten.